A whitewash, or a fresh Cote of paint?
November 1, 2010 § 9 Comments
So, excitement. Four elections over the weekend. Let’s do the most straightforward ones first.
Brazil went to Lula’s PT’s Dilma Rousseff as expected. However, I at least, was expecting a more emphatic victory than she got. She ended up picking up 9% more votes than in the first round to win with 56%. Meanwhile the Social Democrats candidate – Serra – picked up a further 11% to reach 44%. Part of the reason was that whilst the right – such as it is – were happy to back Serra the left were deeply deeply deeply deeply deeply (update, apparently not that deeply – see comments) split on whether to support Rousseff. Anyway, hats off to the first ever female President of Brazil.
Niger has voted on its constitution but it looks like it will be Wednesday or Thursday before we know the result. It will almost certainly be a yes vote by around 90% but it looks like turnout could be lower than the 70% the ruling junta was hoping for. This is because a number of leading Sufi Pirs (the most influential clerics in the country) have called on people to boycott the referendum as one of the changes is the formalisation of the separation of church and state.
Again, we might have to wait for presidential elections later in the year before we see how genuine the junta’s desire to give up power and return to civilian rule is. However, they gave out a promising signal on Sunday when they said that none of the junta’s leadership were intending to contest the upcoming elections. There’s some more background here.
The status quo was retained in Bahrain, and the anti monarchy coalition I posited here did not come to pass (there’s more background on the Bahrain page – which I will update later today) but that was not the real story of the night.
The results are the worst ever for secular parties in Bahrain – every single one of the 40 seats went to religious parties. They were also a disappointment for the Shia opposition who once again fell two seats short of a majority. However every single opposition seat is held by one party – the Shia Al Wefaq.
Which brings us to the main story: whilst Sunni members loyal to the monarchy did win a majority, the actual Sunni pro-monarchy parties were absolutely devastated as independents ran riot. The leading governing party Al Alsalah won only 3 seats (a loss of 5) whilst the Salafi Al Menbar won only 2 (also a loss of 5). Vaguely pro-monarchy Sunni independents amassed 17 seats (an increase of 10).
So when I said the status quo was retained, that was a little simplistic. Sunni pro-monarchy members are the majority, but they are totally split, their political parties have been, drubbed and the largest party (by a factor of 6!) is the Shia opposition. Last time round four of the seven independents banded together into a bloc called “the Future Bloc” for greater bargaining power. If they could persuade a few more to do the same this time they could easily form the new government without ever having stood under a platform and without anyone really knowing anything about them.
Alternately Al Alsalah and Al Menbar might be able to tempt some of the new independents over into their column and we might end up with something similar to the previous government. Otherwise we look set for an Al Alsalah/Al Menbar coalition government despite the fact that they only got five seats between them. The Coalition would also not have a single seat in the Capital (which Al Wefaq almost swept) or the south (which independents did sweep).
Of course the one group which will be delighted with all this is the creepingly authoritarian Monarchy who are likely to continue to pull all the strings.
Last, but certainly not least is the Cote d’Ivoire. Sadly we won’t get any results until Wednesday at the earliest (I’ll do a Cote d’Ivoire and Niger update later in the week) but that they have happened at all is news in itself. Remember this was the eighth attempt to hold the poll. I previewed the elections last week.
So far it has been reasonably peaceful, and the UN mission says they are satisfied with security arrangements and think the poll will be “credible”. Gbangbo’s supporters have accused foreigners of using false documents to vote for the opposition – but this is to be expected as many of Gbangbo’s supporters view the entire north of the country (which is Muslim as opposed to the Christian south, and has large numbers of seasonal workers from Central Africa living in it) as being inhabited by foreigners. So far $400 million has been spent on determining who is Ivorian and who isn’t – leading some to call it the most expensive election in the world – however as the issue is more political than one of passports that will not be the end of the matter.
Turnout seems to be quite high -60% – which is a good sign, and the UN are congratulating themselves on the success of their “Drogba” campaign: