October 24, 2010 § 3 Comments
So, a bad weekend for parties in power.
Firstly Bahrain, where 31 of the 40 seats in their lower house were decided in the first round. Shia opposition movement Al Wefaq have already won 18 seats – an improvement of one on their performance last time – but are not part of the remaining nine contests. The other thirteen went to pro-monarchy groups and independents.
This allows for the fascinating possibility of a parliament hostile to the King, as two candidates from the leftist secular liberal National Democratic Action are still in the running. Al Wefaq took a huge risk by openly challenging the authority of the king in the run up to the polls – and now they could potentially have a working majority in Parliament.
However, that would require not only the National Democratic Action to win both their seats, but also to co-operate with Al Wefaq. It is not necessarily guaranteed that they will. The NDA have their roots in the liberal, secular, academic class that have always traditionally had good relations with the monarchy (who they see as the bulwark of a tolerant liberal state) and a slight suspicion of the Islamist political parties. The recent crackdown on dissent, and restriction of freedoms, by the monarchy have further muddied the waters here – and (unlike other secular groups) the NDA are actually not overtly pro-monarchy.
An NDA-Wafaq coalition may well not happen – and if it does it may be largely castrated by the king and his appointed upper house. But, if it did happen, it would provide a fascinating insight into the tense relationship in Arab democracies between the liberals (who are largely outside of parliament) and the Islamists (who largely control parliament) and their sometimes common interest in opposing hereditary power.
As predicted both here and elsewhere the Czech government did indeed lose its majority in its upper house: and the opposition now has the power to be a right pain-in-the-neck; but not much more. It is still a huge electoral turnaround with all the parties of government receiving a battering at the hands of the left: the governing Civic Democrats won only 8 of their 19 seats up, their right wing coalition allies TOP09 won only 2 of their 6 seats up. With no seats up the Social Democrats picked up 12 and now have an outright majority. The result is
Social Democrats 41 (+12)
Civic Democrats 25 (-11)
TOP09 4 (-4)
Independents 9 (+3)
I believe the Independent seats went to left leaning Communist and similar parties, with the populist Public Affairs and other minor parties who support the government picking up no seats – but I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere.
Finally world elections have a brilliant article on the changes in Brazil‘s northeast.
Next weekend we have the Ivory Coast – and then on Tuesday it’s the USA. I’ll be putting up a guest post or two about that during the week.