Four big results

Sometimes you can see trends (real or imagined) in elections in widely different places. Other times, however, different countries produce very different outcomes. Today is one of the latter cases, with four sets of results defying any single interpretation. Some of these will need a more detailed look over the next few days.

Starting at home, Australia‘s federal election, held a month ago, wrapped up today with the declaration of the remaining Senate results. The new Senate will match exactly what I tipped after the first few days of counting: 32 Coalition, 26 Labor, 12 Greens, two JLN, two One Nation, one UAP and one teal independent.

But although there were no upsets, the late counting showed surprising strength for the far right. In Queensland, where some thought the last seat would be close between One Nation and the Coalition, One Nation’s Pauline Hanson was untroubled, actually being elected fifth on a strong flow of preferences from Clive Palmer’s UAP. And in Victoria, the UAP similarly benefited from preferences, electing its only senator reasonably comfortably ahead of both the Coalition and ALP.

So while pundits have (rightly) been pointing to the way that the Coalition’s turn to the right has cost it support in its heartland, it’s important to notice that it hasn’t stopped the growth of parties on its right flank. And the more it finds itself having to either outbid them or co-operate with them in parliament, the more it is likely to bleed votes to the centre.

There’s something a bit similar going on in France, which voted yesterday in the second round of its parliamentary election (see my preview here). The swing back to Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition that I predicted did not eventuate; his centrist party REM and its allies have finished with 245 seats (down 105 on 2017), well short of a majority in a chamber of 577.

But the left was not the main beneficiary. Even counting those not affiliated (or doubtfully so) with the broad NUPES alliance, its candidates managed only 153 seats – up 81 on last time, but short of expectations given that it outvoted the centrists in the first round. The big surprise was the strength of the far right: the National Rally won 89 seats (up 81), by far its best-ever performance and a reasonable return on its 18.7% of the first-round vote, despite the disadvantage of single-member districts.

The centre-right also recovered well from its dismal first-round effort, winning 74 seats (down 62). It looks as if even the faint threat of a left-wing majority was enough to scare many voters back to the right. Holding the balance of power between Macron and his opponents, the centre-right will now be in a powerful position, but it will also face dangerous conflicts over how to play its hand.

In Andalusia, however, which also voted yesterday (previewed here), the relationship between centre-right and far right came out quite differently. Having been forced to an early election by the withdrawal of far-right support, centre-right premier Juan Manuel Moreno emerged triumphant, more than doubling his vote to 43.1% (up 22.4%) and winning an absolute majority with 58 of the 109 seats (up 32).

The far-right Vox gained only slightly, up 2.5% and two seats to 13.5% and 14 seats. Moreno’s other partner, Citizens, was wiped out, falling from 18.3% to 3.3% and losing all its 21 seats. The opposition Socialists fell to a new low with 24.1% (down 3.8%) and 30 seats (down three), while two far-left parties managed 12.3% and seven seats between them (down 3.9% and ten seats on their combined 2018 result).

It’s a good result for the centre-right’s new national leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who represents a more moderate line than that of his predecessor, Pablo Casado. He may now be better able to stave off questions about how far he would be prepared to go in co-operating with Vox.

And finally to Colombia, where the second round of the presidential election was held yesterday (here’s my report on the first round). Leftist Gustavo Petro carried the day with 51.6%, a lead of 700,000 votes over centrist populist Rodolfo Hernández. While it’s a narrow victory, the left has never won the presidency in Colombia before; on top of last year’s wins in Peru and Chile it’s a huge boost for the Latin American left.

Hernández made up most of his 12-point deficit from the first round, but not enough. It looks as if a surprising number of centre-right voters – perhaps deterred by Hernández’s image as a Trump-like figure – switched to Petro; exactly the sort of switch that the left failed to attract in France. (It’s also fair to point out that, unlike Trump, Hernández conceded defeat promptly and clearly.)

Petro will not have a majority in the legislature, which was separately elected back in March, but the left is better placed there than it was; if he’s willing to negotiate, he should be able to find allies to help implement his program.


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