August electoral roundup

There’s usually not much on electorally in the middle of the northern hemisphere summer, so I didn’t bother with a July roundup. But there have been a few more things happening lately.

Kenya

The big election this month was in Kenya: see my preview here and initial report on the results here. Final results of the presidential election were announced on Monday, showing a narrow win to current vice-president William Ruto, 50.5% to 48.8% for Raila Odinga, a margin of about 233,000 votes.

This was consistent with the progress figures released over the previous few days, but Odinga has refused to accept defeat, and he has some support in the fact that four of the seven members of the electoral commission resigned rather than agree to certify the result. He says he will lodge a legal challenge – last time around he did so and succeeded, although he then boycotted the election when it was re-run.

Confirming the fact that this was a very close election, it appears that neither side will have a clear majority in either house of the legislature (although the BBC, the Nation and NTV Kenya all give slightly different figures). Turnout was 64.8%, a big drop on previous years.

Kuwait

Kuwait will go to the polls later this year after the existing parliament was dissolved by crown prince Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah – who is apparently exercising the powers of the emir, his half-brother Nawaf al-Ahmad, due to the latter’s ill-health.

Kuwait is not a democracy; the emir and his family hold most of the levers of power. But its elections are mostly free (although candidates technically run as independents, with no parties allowed) and parliament is more influential than in any of the other gulf states. Because of that, clashes between it and the royal government lead to frequent elections: this will be the ninth in 17 years.

My report on the 2013 election has more background. This time around, prime minister Sabah al-Khalid (another member of the ruling family) has had a difficult time of it since opposition gains at the last election, in 2020. He submitted his resignation back in April, but has remained in office in a caretaker capacity. Now he will be hoping that the voters are in a more co-operative mood.

Senegal

Senegal voted at the end of July in parliamentary elections, which have fallen out of alignment with presidential elections – incumbent president Macky Sall still has a year and a half of his term to run. (President and parliament share power on the French model.) Last time around, in 2017, the president’s party, running as a coalition called United in Hope, won a big majority with 125 of the 165 seats.

Senegal’s democratic credentials have been in some doubt recently, with opposition candidates disqualified on dubious grounds and Sall refusing to rule out running for a (constitutionally prohibited) third term. So this was a vital test for the two opposition parties, which worked together to avoid splitting their vote.

They seem to have succeeded, with the government losing 43 seats and falling to 82, one short of a majority. The combined opposition has 80 seats, with minor parties holding the remaining three. Voting figures on Wikipedia show the combined opposition narrowly outvoting the government, 47.3% to 46.6%.

Canada

And to Canada, where the Conservative Party, like its British cousin, is engaged in a leadership contest. Previous leader Erin O’Toole, who failed to make up ground in last year’s Canadian election, attempted to stay in the job but was removed by a vote of his caucus colleagues last February. Now a postal ballot of party members is choosing his replacement.

There are five candidates (it’s a preferential ballot), but only two are given a serious chance: veteran Jean Charest, who led the then Progressive Conservative Party briefly in the 1990s before going on to serve for almost a decade as premier of Quebec, and westerner and shadow finance minister Pierre Poilievre, twenty years his junior.

Polls show Poillievre with a big lead among party members. While some of his supporters portray him as a mainstream Reagan-style conservative, he has also pitched himself to climate denialists and anti-vaxers. Voting closes on 10 September, so we’ll see then if Conservatives are looking for a more aggressively right-wing approach, even if it won’t play well with voters at large.

Washington DC

Finally, not an election but an update on a story from last year. I reported then on the controversy at the Atlantic Council, a mainstream American think-tank, which, having accepted money from Charles Koch for a new program, found that its “realist” views on Russia came under fire from the Council’s other experts, who saw it as a sort of Trumpist Trojan horse.

It’s now been announced that the program, called the New American Engagement Initiative, has found a new home. It will part ways with the Atlantic Council and move to the Stimson Center, which Politico describes as “a significantly smaller foreign policy oriented D.C. think tank.”

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