Mario Vargas Llosa vs the giant magical guinea pig

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hello again, sorry for not writing much. It has been a busy week. It has also been a fascinating week of elections but, I’m afraid this is going to be a somewhat cursory review as time is pressing. Fortunately some really good stuff has been written about most of these elections so I can point you at that. I’m going to do results first, then previews.

First up, if you remember, was Benin. This is the most straightforward at they didn’t happen. Following much debate about preparation and process the polls have been pushed back to April 30th.

Next up – Djibouti. To nobody’s surprise Gulleh won by 80% on a 75% turnout. Allegedly. No details yet on the parliamentary polls but in a one party state they scarcely matter.

Now to some much more interesting elections. Nigeria could yet be the election of the year. I don’t have time to go into it as fully as I’d like but I urge you to peruse Think Africa Press’s mini site in detail. Here are the headlines:

  • The PDP suffered there worst result in modern times – suggesting that these elections were the freest and fairest in some time – arguably ever. However they are still on course for an outright majority in parliament.
  • However their poor showing could be a worry to presidential candidate Goodluck Jonathan (the first round election is tomorrow). To avoid a second round, Jonathan needs not only 50% overall but at least 25% in at least two thirds of states. Whilst the PDP just about managed that, Jonathan is personally unpopular in the north – who feel that a northerner should have been the Presidential candidate this time.
  • Nevertheless, hopes for an upset opposition Presidential victory were dealt a severe blow when the muted alliance between the ACN and the CPC appeared to fall apart. Neither really had the breadth of support to take on Jonathan alone and the collapse of the alliance means that only a second round would make an opposition victory possible.
  • For me the biggest story of the campaign was the collapse of the ANPP. The ANPP used to be the only real opposition party of any size, and it was expected that any reduction in support for the PDP would benefit them. However, as with the Arab Spring, it appears that in Nigeria hard-line Islamic conservatism is quite popular when it is the only thing opposing a severe autocrat – but give the people a genuine choice and they’d rather go for a secular liberal party. That appears to be what happened here, and it was the ACN (in the south) and the CPC (in the north) that picked up most of the seats the PDP lost. The ANPP collapsed to a humiliating fourth place.

Finally, but certainly not least, Peru. Another fascinating election which I don’t have time to go into detail on, but I would urge you to read World Election’s comprehensive piece on it.

The headlines are that, after a very open Presidential election, we are set for a Humala (left wing Amerindian nationalist) vs Fujimori (right wing Peruvian nationalist) run off. As World Elections analyse in detail, this is somewhat hard to predict as these are the two most polarizing and alienating of the candidates – many Peruvians will consider it a Hobson’s choice. Moreover, whilst the candidates have radically different politics, both appeal to the same group – the rural poor – and urban and middle class people do feel somewhat distanced from the process. Parliamentary election results followed the Presidential pattern – with the APRA predictably falling apart due to their not fielding of a Presidential candidate and their general train wreck of a last five years.

People have reacted in various ways to this. Mario Vargas Llosa has described the choice as equivalent to the choice between “AIDS and terminal cancer”. Whilst this sums up the views of many it is somewhat undermined by the fact that Mario Vargas Llosa says this kind of thing all the time. If you asked Mario Vargas Llosa if he’d rather have the chicken or the fish he’d probably tell you the choice was equivalent to the choice between AIDS and terminal cancer. Mario Vargas Llosa is a strange and bitter man.

The Peruvian Chica Bank have taken a different approach. They have launched an advertising campaign aimed around alleviating the stress and worry surrounding the elections. The tag line is “Preocuparte no debes” (worrying, you shouldn’t). Here it is:

Previews

Tomorrow is round one of the Nigerian Presidential elections. As mentioned above it is going to be a doozy.

Then on Sunday we have Finland. Another doozy, Chris Terry from Britain Votes will be writing a piece shortly but in the meantime the main point is that it is a very open election, held under PR, and as a result lots of parties have the ability to make an impact.

One party that might benefit are the slightly odd euro-skeptic rural populist True Finns. They normally get about 4% of the vote but are currently polling at around 15%.  They are taking advantage of the highly open nature of Finnish PR to win seats by standing eccentric and charismatic personalities as candidates. Set to be True Finn MPs (and in some cases already serving) are a pro wrestler, a musician famous for his beret, and this man:

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Four elections in four days

April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

It is a big old week in international politics.

We kick off in Benin on the seventh of April. I’ve written about Benin before here, here, and here (as always scroll down). A couple of weeks back there were Presidential elections which Yayi Boni won with surprising (at least to me) ease on the first round, negating the need for a second. This will give him, and his FCBE party, some confidence going into these, Parliamentary, elections.

However these elections matter, and may not go all Boni’s way. Boni’s last term was blighted by the fact that he couldn’t get the legislation he needed though Parliament, and whilst in the end it didn’t harm his re-election he will want a smoother few years ahead of him.

Last time round the FCBE were only 7 seats off a majority, but the defection of five FCBE members to form a new opposition party (FCBE sursaut patriotique) means that is now 12 – and highest reminder PR means that winning twelve extra seats means winning 14 or so extra percent of the vote.

Moreover the opposition are more united than they were. Last time round a broad coalition of several opposition groups (but not the main one – the PRD) called the ADD won the most opposition seats; the PRD came second, and seven other parties won seats.

This time round there will only be four serious parties: the FCBE, the FCBE sursaut patriotique (which should only really take votes away from the FCBE, and will probably struggle),  a far more united opposition platform dominated by the PRD: the UFN, and the much smaller opposition “Coalition ABT-2011”.

Moreover the lessons of the Presidential election – which Boni won on round one due to the split between the UFN’s Houngbédji’s 36% and Coalition ABT-2011’s Bio-Tchané’s 6% – should mean there is an increase in anti FCBE tactical voting.

Even so the FCBE, riding on the high of Boni’s re-election, should do well – it just might not be enough.

The next day it is the turn of Djibouti. If you read my profile you won’t be surprised to hear that these elections are not expected to be competitive. This, almost chronically downbeat, article gives a flavour of the campaign, albeit not much in the way of analysis. That said, he isn’t wrong, there isn’t a huge amount to analyse: an institutional insider, Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, will run as an independent in the Presidential poll and will certainly lose to Gulleh, and the Parliamentary poll will be largely unopposed – except by a handful of semi-independents. All the opposition political parties are boycotting elections.

Then the next day (ninth) elections will be held in Nigeria. So far, it is a real old mess. Shortages of ballot papers and other materials meant that, had voting gone ahead last Saturday as originally planned, only five states would have been able to conduct a poll. Instead, just hours before polls were due to open, they were pushed back by 72 hours. Then, 24 hours later, they were pushed back once more.

The plan is now to have Parliamentary elections on the 9th, Presidential elections (originally due on the 9th) will now be pushed back to the 16th, and gubernatorial elections are to be held on the 26th. In cases like this it is always tempting to assume conspiracy over cock-up but actually nobody will be more damaged by this than the government – who now have to explain away quite a lot of egg on several faces.

A lot has happened since I wrote this preview and I’ve tried to cover some if it in the comments to my original article. Firstly Nuhu Ribadu is running as the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). This is significant as the partnership of a renowned north-eastern, Muslim independent (actually he’s always been a member of the ACN, he just kept it on the down-low until earlier this year) and the predominantly Christian liberal party with a significant local government base in the south-west, could prove quite powerful.

Even more significantly the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the ACN have announced that they will join together and campaign for the presidential candidate of whichever party gets the most seats in Parliamentary election. This is fairly significant as the CPC (a virtually new – or at least newly relevant – party) and their candidate Muhammadu Buhari (a former president himself – and not an unpopular one) are very northern and heavily Muslim, and have exhibited authoritarian tendencies in the past. The fact that they and a liberal, and largely southern Christian, party would rather each other to the ruling PDP, is profound. As Think Africa Press say, Jonathan will need to live up to his name.

However the key issue will be whether the largest opposition party, the ANPP, are also willing to join in on a deal. That is a bigger ask given the ANPP’s regionalism and conservatism, but talks to this end are underway – so it can’t be ruled out. Of course all this may just lead to the PDP deciding to rig the vote.

Finally on the 10th it is Peru. Peru will have round one of its Presidential election (by two-round FPTP), its Parliamentary election (held under largest remainder PR) and its elections to the Andean Parliament (the trans-national body of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia (and until recently Venezuela and Chile)). If needed, a second round won’t take place until June 5th. The format of elections in Peru means that political parties tend to organise in “two tiers”. They stand for election under broad electoral alliances – often tied to a presidential candidate – and it is these alliances that win the seats, gain the parliamentarians etc… However, most of these alliances last only a term at most, and have no real network of grassroots support. The actual electioneering is therefore done by political parties – e less temporal beasts with networks of known supporters – but these parties don’t stand for election themselves. they also tend to shift alliances fairly frequently.

One of my favourite features of Peruvian politics are the number of jaunty (or depending on the tone, slightly aggressive) names political parties have. Thus there is: “And It’s Called Peru”, “Go on Country!”, “Possible Peru” (which I’d like to think has a question mark – sadly it doesn’t), “Lets make Progress, Peru” and “We Are Peru”.

Shifting tone somewhat the politics of Peru are still dominated by the legacy of Fujimori and the Shining Path:

Now far be it for me to accuse Rage Against the Machine of a lack of nuance, but the Shining Path were not as cute and fluffy as this video suggests. Nevertheless they did have a point in that the war President Fujimori fought against them went well in excess of what was legal – to the extent that in 2008 he was sentenced in absentia (Fujimori, a joint Peruvian and Japanese national who is also active in Japanese politics, has lived in Japan since his 2001 impeachment for bribery in Peru) to 25 years for state terrorism. Moreover his 1992 internal coup (where he drove a tank, literally drove a tank, to the steps of congress, declared the legislative suspended, and filled the senate with tear gas to prevent them sitting) has dealt parliamentary democracy a blow from which it is still recovering.

This of course links in with the major fault-line in Peruvian society: the ethnic split between Amerindians (45%) and Mezisto (37%) and other groups of  mixed origin who do not identify as Amerindian.

Last time round the centre-left APRA won the Presidency and, whilst they only came second in the Parliamentary election (with 36 of 120 seats), they were able to appoint a Prime Minister. The left-wing nationalist Peruvian Nationalist Party (supporters of the Movimiento Etnocacerista: pro-indigenous people, pro-Coca cultivation, economically left and from the same general political space – if not the same stock – as the Shining Path) won most seats in Parliament (45 together with the Union for Peru – an electoral alliance they dominated) and came second in the race for the presidency.

It was an election dominated by the left and, as such, the main issue became not so much economic left vs right as it was Amerinadian vs Mezisto, or to put it another way: indigenous left-wing nationalists vs those that disliked what the Shining Path stood for and fear that, even if something like the Shining Path per se is not a likely outcome, the Peruvian Nationalist Party might at least turn Peru into something like Evo Morales’ Bolivia.

This unusually through Wikipedia page has the full story of that election and some maps which illustrates my point – the mountainous and jungle areas went heavily to the PNP whilst the cities and less indigenous areas went to the APRA.

It was a rough term for APRA and their president: Alan García. His first Prime Minster had to resign in 2008 after officials in his government were caught on camera exchanging bribes for oil concessions. His second Prime Minister had to resign a year later after there were 65 consecutive days of rioting by indigenous people angry at Petroperu‘s exploitation of oil reserves. The government’s initial response, suspending the constitutional protection of civil liberties, and introducing a state of emergency, had no effect and once they sent the army in there was a bloodbath (although surprisingly one in which the indigenous rebels – armed with spears – gave as good as they got) in which 22 soldiers and around 30 indigenous people were killed.

It looked pretty hopeless for the APRA, and so they haven’t even put up a candidate in the Presidential elections (a ban on consecutive terms means it would not have been García to stand again in any case). It therefore looked like Ollanta Humala: the Peruvian Nationalist Party candidate from last time round, and the alliance he had built with other left wing groups would be in the strongest position to win – with what challenge there was to the Movimiento Etnocacerista coming from the right (as it had in decades past).

Two strong candidates emerged from the right: Keiko Fujimori (the daughter of President Fujimori) and her brand new Force-2011, and Mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda Lossio and his Alianza Solidaridad Nacional. Almost all the other political parties that won seats in the 2006 Parliamentary election have joined one of these two new formations. Initially it looked like Lossio would be the leading right wing candidate  but over the last few months Fujimori has overhauled him.

However the race was then blown wide open by the introduction of two centrist candidates. The first came from another new coalition: Alliance for the Great Change. This was formed around the candidacy of the former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Initially, as he was something of an outsider, and the members of the new coalition were all very small moderate political parties who had been part of other coalitions last time round, it was thought he wouldn’t have much of an impact. However, he has been gaining steadily in the polls.

But meanwhile a new frontrunner emerged: Alejandro Toledo. Toledo was the leader of the opposition against Fujimori and was President from 2001 to 2006, so it perhaps not surprising that as soon as he declared his candidacy he became a frontrunner. However what is surprising is that he did declare his candidacy at all, given only three very small parties backed him. He is running as the Possible Peru candidate, and one of the interesting dynamics if he does win will be if this, currently very small, party can cash in and become a major player and, in the alternative, if Toledo can govern effectively without a significant Parliamentary base. Of course Peruvian political parties are fairly fickle things and, whilst the 4% and 2 seats Possible Peru got in 2006 doesn’t sound that promising, they did get 25% and 45 seats in 2001 when Toledo was President.

Toledo has also surprised many by taking a strong socially liberal tack and demanding full equality for lesbian and gay people – something which until now hadn’t been on the Peruvian political radar at all.

A round two is likely and the fame of the candidates would suggest that Toledo vs Humala is the most likely matchup – but nobody really knows and there have been polls suggesting all sorts of outcomes:

Peru opinion poll tracker

Meanwhile in Parliament it will all depend which of the new alliances can establish themselves quickly – and how well the many political parties who’ve switched from one ticket to another between the last election and now are able to communicate that to their supporters. The Peruvian Nationalist Party’s consistency in this regard should count in their favour. Again, Wikipedia has a surprisingly thorough page listing exactly who is backing who.

In addition, if it helps, I have created this diagram. If you think it just makes things more confusing, ignore it:

This time

Political parties in Peru and their alliances

Last time

The order below is the order in which the associated Presidential candidates finished in round one. In round two, as mentioned above, the 2nd placed APRA candidate – García – beat the first placed Union for Peru candidate – Humala – by 53% to 47%

Peruvian political parties alliances 2006

It’s results round-up time

Andorra had parliamentary elections that I’m afraid I totally missed. Fortunately World Elections didn’t.

Meanwhile, whilst barely qualifying, Kazakhstan had an “election” which Nazarbayev won with 96% of the vote. It was held early to get around a constitutional rule on term limits and allow Nazarbayev’s term to continue until 2020.

I haven’t seen the Central African Republic result ratified anywhere yet, and Haiti is due any minute but I’m not going to wait. Finally the collapse of Portugal’s government means they will go to the polls on June 5th.

Guiseley 0 Worcester City 1

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Danny Glover made it 18 goals for the season as Worcester City earned a vital victory at Guiseley. I’m amazed he found the time. Still his recent trip to Haiti is going better than Wycliffe Jean’s; it is still not entirely clear whether or not Jean was shot in the hand but he certainly hasn’t had that welcoming a reception.

However whilst things might be going well for Glover and poorly for Jean on that front, the fortunes of the candidates that they are in Haiti to support are exactly reversed. It is still not clear what Glover’s man – Aristide – is here for, and whilst much has been written about the “hope” Aristide’s return has brought, there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a plan, or even the beginnings of a plan.

Meanwhile Jean’s candidate, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, looks set to become the next President of Haiti, although full results and parliamentary results won’t be known for some time.

 

Wycliffe Jean and Michael Sweet Mickey Martelly Haiti

Wycliffe (left) and Sweet Mickey (right)

Meanwhile Benin surprised me by confirming that the first round result ensured the re-election of Bon Yaji without the need for a second round. The full result was

Yayi Boni – 1,333,153 – 53.18%

Adrien Houngbédji – Democratic Renewal Party – 893,976 – 35.66%

Abdoulaye Bio-Tchané  – 157,642  – 6.29 %

And everyone else, less than 1%.

This article has some helpful background.

And you can find more information on both these elections by hitting the button on your left and scrolling down.

If I was president, I’d get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, and buried on Sunday

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have three elections on Saturday: Benin and Haiti both have second round Presidential elections, and the Central African Republic will have runoff elections in 70 of the 105 seats in its Parliament.

The CAR is the simplest so we’ll do it first. I discussed the result of the first round earlier so you can see the problem. If you scroll down here you can read the back story as to how this could have been a quite interesting election. It won’t be. The KNK will win a stonking majority and the only real question will be how stonking.

Benin has a quite interesting but also straightforward election which again is well set up by my piece here and the country profile here. Since then the only thing to add is that it is going to be really close. It also will almost certainly be delayed as final first round results haven’t been confirmed yet. Partial results suggest Houngbedji may be leading Yayi on partial results but Yayi will probably edge ahead and it will almost certainly be a runoff: Abdoulaye Bio Tchane appears to have secured a third but a distant third.

It is not clear yet how much of the psephology surrounding the election is mere speculation but the received wisdom appears to be that Yayi’s native north have voted heavily for him but the nation’s political elites and the voters they control have gone for Houngbedji.

Which brings us to Haiti and I barely know where to begin.

Scroll down here (and go to previous entries) and you will begin to get a feel for what a bizzare, problematic, and prolonged election this has been.

They vote on Sunday. After many court cases, much controversy, wrangling and at least four failed attempts at compromise it has finally agreed that the runoff will be between Mirlande Manigat and Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly. Manigat is the wife of a military-imposed dictator of the 80s and is vaguely rightist. Martelly is a former crooner who used to dance around naked and is vaguely centrist – although a bit all over the place. The main political forces of the country are kind of divided as most were motivated by support or animosity towards the Preval regime candidate – Celestin – who it was finally determined didn’t even make the second round.

Also up for election in the first round were 11 senate seats (just over a third) and all 99 deputies. Both Senate and Chamber of Deputies were dominated by the Preval/Celestin regime’s Front for Hope which has rebranded itself for this election as Inité – although Haitian politics is fragmented enough that they don’t have a majority in either.

So far they have won 1 senate seat and 10 chamber seats, with 1 other senate seat and 8 other chamber seats going to 6 other parties. The other 9 senate seats and 71 deputy seats also go to a runoff on Sunday. So it looks like whoever of Martelly and Manigat win there will be a fragmented legislative dominated by the old regime.

Sound like a recipe for chaos? Well then Baby Doc Duvalier showed up.

Baby Doc is the son of Papa Doc. He was the dictator for fifteen years, and so played a major part in shaping modern Haiti, although not as large a part as Papa Doc’s (also interestingly only 15 year) rule did. He was not as much of a monster as his father, but he was still fairly appalling. It is not clear what he thought would happen when he arrived back in Haiti after many years of exile, but what did happen is exactly what I expected: he was arrested and charged with human rights abuses and massive corruption.

So surely it couldn’t get any more unstable? Well the day before polls open Aristide is due to return to Haiti.

Aristide is a seminal and controversial figure in the modern political history of Haiti. According to his many fans he was a modernising, initially leftist and then centrist, democratically elected leader who did more than anybody to help the poor, and whose only crime was to get on the wrong side of a US administration who didn’t want anything resembling socialism on their doorstep. According to his equally numerous detractors he was a corrupt totalitarian who burned political opponents alive.

He was first elected in 1991 with 67% of the vote, the first Haitian president elected by anything which could even vaguely be called a fair vote. After less than eight months he was deposed by a military coup arguably with US backing. He was then reinstated in 1994 (again actually, arguably with US backing) and allowed to serve out the last fifteen and a half months of his term. He then successfully installed Rene Preval as his successor (having technically  come up against the term limit of the time despite having been out of power for most of his term) but irrevocably fell out with Preval in a matter of months. He was then re-elected in 2001, and this time managed to serve 35 months before again falling victim to an arguably US backed coup.

It is not clear what his motivation is for returning – he cannot enter the election in any form. It may be that with a dangerous political vacuum potentially arising he wants to start a revolution or a popular Egypt/Tunisia stype movement for fresh elections. It may just be that with the Preval/Celestin regime clearly falling he now feels safe to re-engage with politics at what – one has to admit – is an interesting time.

It is also not clear what the reaction will be: Martelly has helpfully called for him to be murdered whilst the US and much of the international community has suggested the timing is unhelpful and are trying to dissuade or stall him. This article provides an interesting alternative take on that view.

So it could be interesting. Whatever happens I cannot recommend this report highly enough and if you don’t have time to read it then this article has a decent overview of who is who.

Results time

Irish election results have finally been confirmed. As World Elections, who have all the details, said it was an epic Fail.

Updating the detail on the Chad results, it appears parliament will look like this:

MPS: 83

The MPS are Deby’s party and have an outright majority. In addition many seats were won by MPS candidates running on joint tickets with allies  such as VIVA ( a split off from the National Rally for Development and Progress), RDP (Rally for Democracy and Progress – a northern based party) and RNDP (National Rally for Development and Progress – a southern based party). You may remember these parties used to be the principal opposition parties, but how times change. In full:

MPS/RDP: 27

MPs/VIVA/RNDP: 14

MPS/VIVA/RDP: 4

MPS/VIVA: 3

So a total of 131 seats. Many news outlets are counting the RDP as effectively the same as the MPS and so quoting a figure of 11o for the MPS. In actuality all these parties are effectively the same as the MPS

UNDR: 9

This is the National Rally for Democracy and renewal, a southern based party with an ambivalent attitude to Deby. One more of their MPs got in on a joint ticket:

UNDR-PLD: 1

URD: 8

This is the Union for Renewal and Democracy of Kamougué who I also mention in the piece linked above.

RNDT: 6

This is the moderate National Rally for Democracy in Chad (they spell it with a T). In addition two more seats went to what I assume are two allies:

RNDT Le Reveil: 2

FAR-PF: 4

A southern, pro-federal state party

And then we get into the really tiny local parties:

CTPD: 2

PDSA: 2

UDR: 2

AND: 1

AND/R: 1

ART/CNDS: 1

MPDT: 1

MPTR: 1

PAP-JS: 1

PDI-RPT: 1

PLD-UNDR: 1

PPJE-ART-CNDS: 1

PUR: 1

RAPAD: 1

SONOR: 1

UDT: 1

UET-V: 1

UFD-PR: 1

USND: 1

Aside in which I blow my own trumpet: those results are not available anywhere else on the internet yet to my knowledge. The media just reported the headline figures, and the Chad election commission website only put the details up without flagging up who won – this is what I crunched to produce the results.

There is more on the story of the Chad elections if you scroll down here.

Moving on: Samoa

The HRPP absolutely mullahed the TSP, willing 36 seats to 13. I wrote a preview here explaining that that means.

Benin I covered at the top of the Page and Estonia was superbly summarised by World Elections.

Micronesia elected 14 independents as it always does. I don’t think they’ve elected a president from among their number yet.

Niger

I wrote about the background here and here. In the end Issoufou beat Oumarou by 58% to 42%, which is kind of what was expected. Most of all it appears the vote was fair

Parliament is now Issoufou’s PNDS: 39 seats, Oumarou’s MSND 26, Amadou’s MDN 24, the ANDP-Zaman Lahiya 8 seats, the RDP-Jama’a 7 seats, Ousmane’s CDS 2, others 5 – in other words the runoffs didn’t really help the big parties.

Elections finally Benin

March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve previewed the elections in Benin for Think Africa. Elections will be held on the 6th of March. Why not take a look?

6 elections in 8 days

February 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Or it could have been. Actually we are due a mere five as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni won emphatically enough on the first round to negate the need for a second.

First up on the 4th of March is Samoa. Samoa’s system of government is – depending upon your point of view – either delightfully bonkers, deeply iniquitous or both. 47 members are elected to the Parliament – or Fono – by multi member first past the post, although in practice it is now virtually single-member as there are now 35 single member seats and only 6 two member seats. The Fono elects a Prime Minister who has the confidence of the house and an O le Ao o le Malo – or symbolic head of state – for a five year term.

Meanwhile the politics of day-to-day Samoan life is dominated by the network of 35,000 tribal chiefs – the Matai – all of whom answer to the four paramount or royal chiefs: the Tama a Aiga. When the 1960 constitution was established it was envisioned that the leaders of government would always be one of the four Tama a Aiga. In actual fact that is not required but  – tradition being what it is – the O le Ao o le Malo has always been one of the Tama a Aiga, and the first Prime Minister not to be one wasn’t elected until 1982. Up till 1990 the Matai were the only people allowed to vote and, to this day, only the Matai can stand for election.

O le Ao o le Malo is Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi – and he is not up for re-election until 2012. He was also Prime Minister up until 1982. These days he is seen as a fairly non partisan and consensual figure but it was not always thus. In the 1980s opposition to his economic reforms led to the creation of Samoa’s strongest political force: the Human Rights Protection Party.

They have now been in power for more than twenty years (nearly thirty years bar six months in 1987)  and are most likely to win again, securing another term for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi. At the last election they had 30 of the 49 seats and briefly gained another five when five independents joined them. They are campaigning on the success of the 2007 switch from right hand driving to left hand driving, their response to the recent Tsunami, and their desire to turn Samoa into a renewable energy and sports hub.

The remaining seats at the last election went to nine independents (which became four when five joined the HRPP) and to the Samoan Democratic United Party: a centre-rightish pan opposition grouping who won the remaining 10. However the SDUP lost one seat following a court case and two more following defections and so ceased to be recognised as a political party. Some the former SDUP leadership joined the HRPP whilst a group of 11 independents mainly comprising of the backbenchers clubbed together and formed a new opposition party: the Tautua Samoa Party.

They are campaigning at this election primarily on the HRPP’s plan to legalise gambling – which the HRPP claim makes financial sense but the TSP claim will increase crime. The TSP also want to shorten parliamentary terms and cut public spending. Part of their campaigning strategy – sending their leader to spend a week fasting in the woods in search of divine intervention – is unlikely to be particularly successful, but other parts – reaching out to smaller opposition parties like the anti right-hand-drive People’s Party (the change from right to left was incredibly controversial and led to the biggest protests in Samoan history) and the anti tribalist Samoa Party – may well stand them in better stead.

The field is made up by the small left wing Samoa Progressive Political Party and the Christian Party – who despite the name mostly campaign on Women’s issues.

Here are some former Samoan Rugby heroes Sapola and Palu telling you to vote – they may be somewhat over-egging the point:

Then on the 6th of March we have Estonia and Benin.

I’m writing about Benin for Think Africa – and will put the piece up once it is up there. In the meantime I wrote about Benin before here.

Estonia uses a modified form of d’Hondt PR to elect 101 members using two tiers (there are district constituencies and then the final result is averaged over the nation) semi-open lists (lists are open at the district tier with anyone meeting the Hare quota automatically elected – lists are closed at the national tier), a modified formula (the number of seats is multiplied by 0.9 to slightly prioritise larger parties), a 5% threshold (at the national tier only), and full internet voting (the only country in the world to do so).

Currently the government is formed by the market liberal Reform Party (32 seats) led by the popular PM Andrus Ansip, in coalition with the liberal conservative Respublica (19 seats). He formerly had an outright majority with the Social Democrats (13 seats) but they walked out in 2009 and he has been in a technical minority (as the Speaker is also Reform making it 50-50) ever since after talks with the agrarian People’s Party (2 seats) failed.

The main opposition comes from the centrist socially liberal Centre Party (28 seats), although the Greens (6 seats) and one independent also enjoy representation.  Unemployment of around 14% is set to be the big issue, and should hurt the government, Ansip’s personal popularity notwithstanding.

Here’s a jolly guide to voting online:

Then on the eighth of March it’s The Federated States of Micronesia. Elections are non partisan so there’s not much to say – the relative populations of, and turnout on, the islands seems to be the main determining factor. Ten members are elected by first past the post every two years, four are elected by d’Hondt PR across the whole federation every four years (this is the four yearly election). That makes a parliament of 14 who then elect the President and Vice President from amongst the four elected by PR. By elections are then held to replace the winners in Parliament.

Finally on the 12th of March its Niger. As I wrote before it’s Seini Oumarou vs Mahamadou Issoufou with twenty parliamentary seats still to decide. It should be close and it will be interesting.

Now here’s some results:

The Central African Republic which I wrote about here and here several times (scroll down).

President:

François Bozizé – KNK – 66.08%

Ange-Félix Patassé – independent – 20.10%

Martin Ziguélé – MLPC – 6.46%

Emile Gros Raymond Nakombo – Central African Democratic Rally (RDC) – 4.64%

Jean-Jacques Démafouth – ARPD- 2.72%

Parliament:

KNK: 26

Ind: 8

MPLC: 1

Going to a second round runoff on March 20th: 70

Chad which I wrote about here and here several times (scroll down):

MPS: 133

National Union of Democracy and Renewal: 11

15 other minor parties (details sketchy): 44

Uganda, I gave some results and background here (scroll down).  Here are the full Parliamentary results:

NRM 279

Ind 37

FDC 34

Democratic Party 11

UPC 9

Conservative Party 1

Justice Forum 1

Ireland, more background here (scroll down)

FG 70

Lab 36

FF 18

Sinn Fein 13

Soc 2

Others 14

Still recounting 13

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