December electoral roundup, part 2

Romania

Romania’s political crisis is over, at least for the time being. The previous government, a coalition between the centre-right PNL and the centrist-reformist USR, fell two months ago on a vote of no confidence after the USR withdrew its support. USR leader Dacian Cioloș was then nominated as prime minister, but he was also rejected by parliament.

President Klaus Iohannis, who is aligned with the PNL, then nominated PNL defence minister Nicolae Ciucă. He gave up the attempt to form a minority government at the beginning of last month. A period of negotiations followed, which ended with an agreement between the PNL and the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, providing for a unity government with the prime ministership to rotate between them.

Ciucă was then reappointed, and with the support of the Social Democrats plus the Hungarian minority party, UDMR, he won confirmation in a joint sitting of parliament by a large majority, 318 to 126. A group of MPs loyal to former prime minister Ludovic Orban broke away from the PNL to vote against the new government.

The plan is that Ciucă will give way to a Social Democrat prime minister in the middle of 2023, but a lot could happen before then.

Sweden

A resolution also in Sweden, where Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson, after a false start last month, has been confirmed as the country’s first female prime minister.

Andersson took over the coalition with the Greens from her predecessor as party leader, Stefan Löfven. But when parliament rejected the government’s budget in favor of the one presented by the centre-right opposition, the Greens pulled out, leading Andersson to resign before she had even been sworn in.

The underlying parliamentary arithmetic, however, hadn’t changed. Four parties – Social Democrats, Greens, Left and Centre – have a narrow majority between them. They have some major differences, and every now and then one of them rebels (as Centre did over the budget, and as Left did earlier in the year over rent control). But ultimately they have a common interest in sticking together.

So when Andersson reconstituted the government just with ministers from her own party, she succeeded in winning parliamentary approval. Needing 175 votes to veto her appointment, the opposition could only muster 173. Now the government can focus on rebuilding its standing in advance of the election scheduled for next September.

Honduras

Honduras held its presidential and congressional elections two weeks ago (see earlier report here). It was a very slow count, and the official results still only show 98.9% counted, but the result was not in doubt. The left’s Xiomara Castro has 50.7%, almost 480,000 votes clear of the right’s Nasry Asfura on 36.5%.

That’s not quite as big as the margin from early in the count, when she led by nearly twenty points, and at one stage last week she dipped below 50%. But that doesn’t matter: only a plurality is required, and Asfura conceded defeat two days after the poll. Centrist Yani Rosenthal took third place with 10.0%, while the remaining twelve candidates could manage only 2.9% between them.

Counting for the legislature seems to be still incomplete, but projections at Wikipedia give the left 50 of the 128 seats, as against 43 right, 23 centre, ten populists and two others.

Gambia

Gambia (also “The Gambia”), a very small country in west Africa, came into the news five years ago when its long-serving authoritarian president, Yahya Jammeh, unexpectedly lost an election. After initially conceding defeat, he then changed his mind and tried to hang on, but he eventually fled into exile (where he remains) after neighboring countries marshalled troops to intervene.

The man who beat him, Adama Barrow, was up for re-election on 4 December. During his term in office, the diverse coalition opposed to Jammeh has split, and Barrow has aligned with an anti-Jammeh faction of the old ruling party. But voters didn’t seem to mind, electing him for a second term with 53.2% of the vote against 27.7% for his main opponent, Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party. Another four candidates shared the remaining 19.1%.

The opposition claimed foul play, but international observers reported no major problems. Literacy is not high in Gambia, so people vote by placing marbles in urns – a very secure system, and a nice throwback to the origins of democracy in ancient Greece, where pebbles (“psephos”, hence psephology) were used for the purpose.

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