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).

Bahrain parties

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:


There are some nice pictures from polling day here. African Elections (an NGO) will tweet the results as they come in on their account @cotedivoirevote


Election roundup

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.

Czech Republic

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.

Results from Brazil

October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just to draw your attention to World Elections‘ superb dissection of the Brazilian election results. I’ll be doing a round up of recent election results on Tuesday or Wednesday (as soon as the Kyrgyz situation becomes clear). That’s all for now.

Brazil, Bosnia and other places that don’t begin with B

October 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Quite a lot going on in the world at the moment:

Brazil: This will be a historic election regardless of the outcome as it will see the end of the reign of “Lula” (Luiz Inacio da Silva) who is standing down after eight years in charge of the world’s fifth largest country. His chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, of his Workers’ Party is widely expected to win; the real question is will she do it at the first round (or will there be a need for a run off election) and how will the Workers Party and its allies do in the elections the the legislative which are happening at the same time. There’s a great guide to the elections here.

Lula has been a bit of a Marmite president. He has impressed many former enemies with his skilled handling of the economy and his management of Brazil’s economic boom, but he has disappointed many on the left who accuse him of selling out his principles, or at very least of not having achieved social change quickly enough.

Here is a Brazilian party political broadcast (he won):

Bosnia: Voting has begun in Bosnia’s general election. Lucky Bosnians get to elect 5 presidents, 13 Prime Ministers, 700 MPs and 3 parliaments. I don’t understand it either: yet. When I do I’ll tell you all about it on the Bosnia page. Suffice to say that it all stems from the ethnic compromises in the Dayton accord agreed at the end of the civil-war. The key thing to watch will be if moderates or nationalists from all sides do better – as this will give us a good idea of whether Bosnia is coming together or drifting further apart.

Holland: Holland is almost ready to form a government. The June election gave everyone a massive headache in the form of the frankly unpleasant Geert Wilder’s far-right Freedom Party winning 20% of the seats. No one was that keen on forming a coalition with him but with the electoral mathematics pointing very much towards a centre-right coalition it looks to be fairly unavoidable. The main centre-right party, the Liberal Party, agreed a programme with the Freedom party which ominously included concessions on immigration. However, to govern, they would need the support of the other centre-right party, the Christian Democrats, who were known to be uncomfortable with the deal. Yesterday the Christian Democrat membership voted to agree a coalition with the Freedom Party, but maverick CD MPs could still potentially derail the deal when it goes to the Dutch parliament later this week.

This is a Freedom Party election broadcast:

Latvia: It appears Latvia’s centre-right coalition has been returned to power in the Latvian general election without incident.

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