April/May electoral roundup

I didn’t get around to doing an election roundup last month, so this one can serve for April as well as May.


Formal negotiations have started this week to try to form a government following Finland’s general election, held a month ago. Centre-right leader Petteri Orpo, whose National Coalition Party won the most seats, aims to win over three other parties: the True Finns, the Swedish People’s Party and the Christian Democrats.

The four parties between them have 108 of the 200 seats in the new parliament. But reaching agreement may be difficult, because the True Finns are on the far right whereas the Swedish People’s Party is broadly liberal, having been a component of the outgoing government led by the centre-left.

That said, Orpo sounds both confident and determined, and the Swedes have a history of making compromises in order to preserve their seat at the table. Moreover the True Finns (also called just the “Finns Party”), after a lurch rightwards back in 2017, now seem to be tacking away from the extremes, in particular giving strong support to aid for Ukraine and membership in NATO.

Last month the True Finns left the far-right group, Identity & Democracy, in the European parliament and returned instead to the slightly more moderate Eurosceptic group, European Conservatives & Reformists. That led one of ECR’s leaders to describe it as “the preeminent Russia-critical voice” in the parliament – an interesting sign of the way the Ukraine war is disrupting the old verities of far-right politics.


Bulgaria is also trying to put together a government, but it’s something of a contrast with the businesslike flexibility of the Finns. Its election (held on the same day – see my report here) was the fifth in two years, an extraordinary series produced by the failure of its politicians to work together.

The two largest parties are both broadly centre-right, but one, GERB, is at the heart of the establishment, oligarchical and corrupt, while the other, the alliance PP-DB, is liberal and reformist. So far they have managed a limited amount of co-operation, agreeing two weeks ago on a deal to elect a parliamentary speaker (from GERB, with PP-DB to rotate into the position after three months).

But while GERB leader Boris Borisov, who will be given the first opportunity to form a government, says that an alliance with PP-DB is his preferred option, the latter has so far refused to countenance the idea. The only plausible alternative route to a majority is for the three establishment parties (GERB, DPS and the Socialists) to join up, but since the Socialists are (mildly) pro-Russian while the other two (like PP-DB) are pro-Ukraine that would seem like a recipe for chaos.


Paraguay (which Firefox weirdly refuses to accept as a word) went to the polls last Sunday, in presidential and legislative elections. Presidents can only serve a single term, so a change of some sort was assured, but a change of party was unlikely: the Colorado Party (right to centre-right) has governed the country almost without a break since the restoration of democracy in 1993 – and for another 45 years prior to that.

And so it proved. The Colorados’ Santiago Peña was elected with 43.9% of the vote (voting is first-past-the-post) against 12 opponents, of whom only two had more than a handful of votes: Efraín Alegre from the Liberal-led Coalition (centre-left) with 28.3%, and Paraguayo Cubas of the National Crusade Party (right-wing populist) with 23.6%.*

This was the third time Alegre had run for the presidency, and his worst result; he managed 39.0% in 2013 and 45.1% in 2018. No doubt Cubas took some votes from him, despite being on the opposite side ideologically, but it’s unlikely that this hurt his chances of victory much if at all. More significant is the fact that the Colorados have a well-oiled and well-entrenched machine that is never going to be easy to beat.

North Carolina

Readers may remember the American case of Moore v. Harper that we looked at last July. At that point the supreme court had just agreed to take up the case: ostensibly concerning the validity of a gerrymander in North Carolina, but more fundamentally about the question of whether state legislatures were constrained at all in their decisions on electoral matters (the so-called “independent state legislature” doctrine).

Arguments in the case were heard in December, but the question is now moot, and most probably the court will drop it again. The reason is that in last year’s election North Carolina Republicans picked up two previously Democrat seats on the state supreme court, giving them a five to two majority. That court promptly agreed to re-hear the gerrymander case, and last week, in Harper v. Hall, it ruled that the state constitution does not provide grounds for interfering with partisan gerrymandering.

That means that the Republican majority in the state legislature is now free to re-draw the boundaries as it sees fit, since the US supreme court had already vacated the field in Rucho v. Common Cause in 2019. That could easily net the Republicans another three or four congressional seats from North Carolina, as well as fortify their control at state level.

It also means that the independent state legislature theory is now unlikely to be adjudicated on this time around, and so will remain a shadowy presence for next year’s elections. But in a small piece of good news, Alaska’s supreme court ruled the previous week that its state constitution does prohibit partisan gerrymanders. That has no federal implications, since Alaska only has one seat in the House of Representatives, but at least it will help to preserve democracy at state level.

For more on the independent state legislature theory, check out this CNN story on the release of the papers of former supreme court justice John Paul Stevens. It concentrates on his role in the Florida election dispute of 2000 (which we’ve previously discussed here and here), where the theory first raised its head.


A large number of local authorities in England go to the polls tonight, in the biggest electoral test so far for prime minister Rishi Sunak. Local councillors generally have four-year terms, so this election is for seats last filled in 2019 (you can see a list here), which was a bad year for the Conservatives – then led by Theresa May and mired in the Brexit quicksands. Even so, the party is expected to lose further ground, with Labour (which also wasn’t in great shape four years ago) tipped to make big gains.

I’ll do a full report once the results are in, either tomorrow or on Monday.


* I’m using Wikipedia’s figures because the electoral commission’s site is denying me access, but others may have better luck.


5 thoughts on “April/May electoral roundup

  1. Thanks for drawing my attention to the Stevens article. It really hammers home just how evil men like Rehnquist and Scalia were, and Thomas is, who would use their office to destroy democracy.

    It’s a shame the North Carolina court has now gone that way as well. Thankfully the opposite has happened in Wisconsin, where the now progressive court will surely have something to say about the grossly gerrymandered state legislature.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Once the dictator is gone,things collapse – e.g. Libya after Gaddafi. Without the military’s rule, which has been both open and behind the scenes over the decades, Pakistan would collapse into chaos and fierce fighting between various political and religious factions.


      1. Charles, please, I’m not sayinig it has, but i know all too well what would happen without them – because even with the military, much of Pakistan pays no heed to the nominal central government and much of the north west and west is alrady effectively Islamist not Islamabad ruled.


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