November electoral roundup

Time again for our regular roundup of election news from around the world.

United States

Two weeks after the US mid-term elections, results at last are almost final. Last week I said there were five seats in the House of Representatives still doubtful: the Republicans have won four of them (the 22nd and 41st districts in California and the 1st and 6th in Arizona), leaving the 13th in California as the sole remaining doubtful.

Republican John Duarte leads in the 13th by 852 votes, or 0.67 of a percentage point, but with a few thousand votes apparently still to be counted he is not yet out of danger. Assuming he holds on, his party will have a nine-seat majority, 222 to 213 – exactly the same margin as the Democrats won by last time. (An eerie echo of the 2020 presidential election, when Joe Biden won the same majority in the electoral college that Donald Trump had four years earlier.)

So for the next two years, Democrats will control the White House and the Senate while Republicans have the House (and the Supreme Court), in a return to the pattern of 2013-14. But the new Congress does not take office until 3 January, so there is still an opportunity to pass some legislation in a “lame duck” sitting this year: including, importantly, some version of a bill to amend the Electoral Count Act, which we discussed a few months ago.

It’s interesting to note, as Politico reported last week, that not only did pro-Trump candidates do badly, but most of them have placidly conceded defeat rather than make new claims of fraud. It may be that the “Big Lie” of election denial is really just about Trump himself rather than a broader movement.

Slovenia

Slovenia voted the Sunday before last in the second round of its presidential election. In the first round, held three weeks earlier, the right’s Anže Logar had led with 34.0% of the vote, about 60,000 votes ahead of Nataša Pirc Musar, an independent human rights lawyer and activist, who had 26.9%.

Since more than 60% had voted for broadly left-of-centre candidates, it was always likely that Pirc Musar would prevail in the runoff. And so she did, winning with 53.9% on a turnout of 53.2% (up slightly from the first round). She will take office in a month’s time as the country’s first female president.

The president’s duties are mostly ceremonial, but they can be important when control of parliament is uncertain, so presidential elections tend to be more hotly contested than in the more established democracies. Slovenia’s new centre-left government, elected last April, would have had some concerns about dealing with Logar and will now be feeling rather more comfortable.

Kazakhstan

Last time we looked at Kazakhstan, back in January, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was engaged in violent suppression of anti-government protests, but had also taken the opportunity to break with the influence of his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev. There is now no doubt about who is in control, although Tokayev’s authority seems not to be as comprehensive as Nazarbayev was able to exercise in his day.

In the meantime, the geopolitics of the region have been disrupted by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite his previous reliance on Russian troops, Tokayev has conspicuously refrained from any measures to support Putin, and Kazakhstan has abstained on the issue at the United Nations. Instead it has been looking to its own defences in case Russian aggression should one day turn on it.

That was the context when Tokayev faced the voters in Sunday’s presidential election, which, while perhaps not entirely meaningless, was clearly much less than a genuine democratic exercise. Tokayev was re-elected for a seven-year term (his last, according to a recent constitutional amendment) with 81.3% of the vote against five opponents, of whom only one, Nurlan Auesbaev (who got 2.5%), appears to be a genuine opposition figure. “None of the above” scored 5.8%.

Equatorial Guinea

Kazakhstan, however, looks like a model democracy compared to Equatorial Guinea, which also voted on Sunday. Incumbent president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has been in power since 1979 and at age 80 is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, was to no-one’s surprise re-elected with only token opposition.

The last election, in 2016, credited Obiang with 93.5% of the vote against six opponents. This year he has improved on that, at least on the basis of provisional results: with 21.8% of polling places reporting, the ruling party claims to have 99.7% of the vote. One opposition party has managed 152 votes and the other, so far, only 32.

Apparently the plan is that Obiang will retire mid-term and hand over power to his son, Teodorín, although such plans have a way of coming unstuck (as Malaysia’s recent experience can testify). Either way, there seems little prospect of Equatorial Guineans having any real say in the matter.

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