September electoral roundup

The big electoral event for this month is Sunday’s Italian election, which we’ll have a look at tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s a rundown on some other current happenings

Kenya

Following last month’s closely-contested election in Kenya, new president (and former vice-president) William Ruto was sworn in last week. His defeated opponent, Raila Odinga, still grumbles that the poll was rigged and declined to attend the inauguration, but outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta – who had backed Odinga – was there to endorse the peaceful transfer of power.

A week earlier, the Kenyan supreme court had unanimously rejected Odinga’s challenge to the result, saying that there was no credible evidence of vote tampering, and that the fact that the electoral commission was internally dysfunctional (four of its seven members had refused to certify the result) was not enough to invalidate the election.

With the courts again showing their independence and Ruto stressing the importance of unity and reconciliation, there are hopes that Kenya has fully moved on from its authoritarian past, and particularly from the ethnic bloodshed that followed the 2007 election.

Canada

Last month we noted the leadership election being held in Canada’s Conservative Party, following the ouster of previous opposition leader Erin O’Toole. Results are now in, and Pierre Poilievre scored an easy victory, winning 70.7% of the votes of party members, which when weighted by electorates comes to 68.2% of the available points.

As expected, Jean Charest was runner-up but well back on 16.1% of points. Another three candidates failed to make double figures. Unlike the corresponding process in Britain’s Conservative Party, there is no previous screening vote by MPs, so it’s not clear how strongly Poilievre’s brand of right-wing populism is supported by his parliamentary colleagues. But with a mandate like that there’s not a lot they can do about it.

The next Canadian election isn’t due until 2025, so Pollievre has plenty of time to show what he can do. For what it’s worth, recent opinion polls put the Conservatives slightly ahead of the governing Liberals, but still well behind the total centre-left vote.

Brazil

In one of the year’s biggest elections, Brazil goes to the polls in ten days time, on 2 October. Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is still very much an underdog for re-election; recent polling has him trailing his left-to-centre-left opponent, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by a little under ten points in the first round and a little under twenty in the hypothetical runoff. Sportsbet yesterday was quoting him at odds of 9-4 against, with Lula at 7-2 on.

There are eleven candidates for president, but apart from Bolsonaro and Lula only two have any appreciable support: Ciro Gomes, also from the left, who placed third last time, and Simone Tebet from the centre-right.

Although the polls have been quite stable for some months, there are persistent fears that the election will be close enough for Bolsonaro to attempt to steal it. There is nothing like the electoral college that gave Donald Trump his opportunity, but there is a much more recent history of political violence and military intervention, and Bolsonaro has been doing his best to sow doubt about the process.

A recent analysis by Flavia Bellieni Zimmermann at the Australian Institute of International Affairs paints a disquieting picture, suggesting that a late surge by conservative voters and fears of corruption under Lula could still deliver Bolsonaro a second term.

Austria

Finally to Austria, where the state of Tyrol goes to the polls on Sunday to pass judgement on its centre-right government, at a time when the centre-right nationwide seems to be in some difficulty.

In Tuesday’s discussion of the International Democrat Union I mentioned that former Austrian prime minister Sebastian Kurz had been appointed alongside Scott Morrison. Kurz took the Austrian People’s Party to the right after becoming leader in 2017 and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party on winning that year’s election. But after a scandal took out his coalition partner, Kurz turned to the Greens instead, before himself leaving office under a cloud in 2021.

People’s Party and Greens, however, still govern together both nationally and in the three western states – Salzburg, Vorarlberg and Tyrol. The last Tyrolean election, in 2018, gave the centre-right close to an absolute majority, with 44.3% of the vote and 17 of the 36 seats; the Greens, with 10.7% and four seats, were very much junior partners.

Things look very different now. At national level the People’s Party is fighting for second place in the polls with the Freedom Party, both well behind the Social Democrats. And in Tyrol, although still in first place, its support has fallen to the mid-20s: it has no prospect of governing without either the far right or the centre-left, and it’s distinctly possible that Social Democrats, Greens, regionalists and liberals will be able to put together a majority without it.

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