As world politics is getting back into gear, our first monthly roundup of 2022 brings previews of two elections this week, and news of two governments taking office.
In a nice sequel to yesterday’s post about an Australian republic, the world’s newest republic, the West Indian nation of Barbados, goes to the polls tomorrow (Thursday morning in Australia) to elect a new parliament. Like Australia, Barbados kept the British monarchy when it became independent, but last November it painlessly transitioned to a parliamentary republic.
Whether or not that’s a good move, we can surely all agree that Barbados’s electoral system – also left to it by the British – is genuinely awful. Its House of Assembly consists of 30 members, elected from small single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting. At the last election, in 2018, the same party won all of them.
Traditionally the two major parties are the Barbados Labour Party, led by prime minister Mia Mottley, and the Democratic Labour Party, which won 21.8% of the vote last time despite failing to win a seat. Both are broadly centre-left, but the BLP is regarded as slightly more conservative. A third party, the Alliance Party for Progress, currently holds one seat, since one MP left the BLP to take up the otherwise-vacant job of leader of the opposition.
This week’s other parliamentary election is in Northern Cyprus, the Turkish-occupied portion of the island of Cyprus. In its presidential election, held a bit over a year ago, nationalist prime minister Ersin Tatar succeeded in transferring to the presidency, defeating the more moderate Mustafa Akıncı and reuniting what had previously been divided government.
Tatar’s colleague Ersan Saner took over as prime minister, but he lasted less than a year, being forced to resign last October after a sex scandal. He was replaced by Faiz Sucuoğlu, also from the National Unity Party (UBP), who is now seeking a mandate in his own right.
At the previous election, in 2018, the UBP won 35.6% of the vote and 21 of the 50 seats. The centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP) had 20.9% and 12 seats, while the centrist People’s Party had 17.1% and nine seats. The UBP has managed to survive as a minority government with the support of the rival nationalists in the Democratic Party (7.8% and three seats).
The Dutch election, on the other hand, was a long time ago – in March of last year. But only last week was a new government finally sworn in: a four-party coalition led by incumbent right-liberal prime minister Mark Rutte.
The coalition brings together Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the left-liberal D66, the centre-right Christian Democrats and the conservative Christian Union. That’s exactly the same combination as was previously in government; between them they hold 78 of the 150 seats, a gain of two in the election.
Why did it take them so long to agree to team up again? Covid-19 probably inhibited the negotiating process, and near the start of it there was a minor scandal involving Rutte, which alienated some of the other parties. But probably an important reason was the simple fact that they were all in government anyway, albeit in a caretaker capacity, so there was no pressure on them to hurry into a new arrangement.
Finally to North Macedonia (formerly Macedonia), which has a new prime minister this week with the swearing in of Dimitar Kovačevski. He takes over from Zoran Zaev, who had held the job since May 2017, with a gap in the first half of 2020.
As we noted at the time, Zaev announced his resignation at the beginning of November after his party, the Social Democrats, did poorly in local elections. But he decided against leaving immediately, and narrowly saw off a parliamentary motion of no confidence before his party chose Kovačevski as its new leader. Zaev ultimately submitted his resignation just before Christmas.
Although the party composition of the government isn’t changing, Kovačevski brings an infusion of new blood with changes in a number of senior ministries. The next election isn’t due until the middle of 2024, so the new prime minister will be hoping to be make some concrete progress before then on the goal of membership of the European Union – and stave off opposition demands for an early poll.