Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.14-49.86 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.

Morgan poll, redistribution and preselection latest

Roy Morgan concurs with Newspoll in finding little separating the major parties on two-party preferred.

It was a fairly busy week for federal polling by recent standards, with Newspoll, Essential and Morgan publishing results of one kind or another. We may or may not get the monthly federal Resolve Strategic poll from the Age/Herald next week, from which we are also past due for a result on state voting intention in Victoria.

• Roy Morgan this week published results from its regularly conducted but infrequently reported federal voting intention series, showing Labor with a 51-49 lead on two-party preferred from primary votes of Coalition 40%, Labor 35.5%, Greens 11.5% and One Nation 3%. Two-party breakdowns are provided at state level, showing Labor with leads of 50.5-49.5 in New South Wales and 53.5-46.5 in Victoria and the Coalition with leads of 53-47 in Queensland, 51-49 in Western Australia and 50.5-49.5 in South Australia. The poll was conducted over the previous two weekends from a sample of 2817.

• The federal redistribution for Western Australia has been finalised, although maps and accompanying data will not be published until August 2. For now we have a media release detailing the adjustments that have been made to the original draft published in March, which was covered here. The biggest of the six revisions is that the 3000 voters of the Shire of Waroona south of Perth will not now be transferred from Canning to Forrest, a fact of interest to the seats’ respective Liberal members but not to the nation at large. Revisions in Perth target areas that don’t currently have many residents but will do later, and the transfer of the Shire of Wiluna from Durack to O’Connor affects a lot of land but not many people. The finalised Victorian redistribution should be along fairly shortly.

The Age reports a Victorian Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday lifted the injunction on the process by which Labor’s national executive is preselecting federal election candidates in the state, bypassing the usual procedure which includes a vote of party members. However, national executive preselections may yet be invalidated if the court ultimately rules against the intervention. This effectively amounts to a battle over the new seat of Hawke, which appears set to go to former state party secretary Sam Rae if the matter is left to the national executive. Rae’s principal backer is federal MP Richard Marles, who is struggling for dominance over the Victorian Right with rival powerbroker Bill Shorten, an opponent of the intervention.

• Emma Dawson, executive director at the Per Capita think tank, appears set to win Labor preselection to take on Greens MP Adam Bandt in Melbourne. The Age reports Dawson’s backers include “academic Janet McCalman, prominent employment lawyer Josh Bornstein, Rhodes Scholar and venture capitalist Josh Funder, and former deputy prime minister Brian Howe”.

Essential Research: leadership ratings and COVID management

Downward trends continue for federal leaders’ ratings and perceptions of COVID-19 management at both federal and state level.

The latest fortnightly Essential Research poll includes the pollster’s monthly leadership ratings, which finds Scott Morrison’s approval down one to 57% and disapproval up four to 36%, while Anthony Albanese is respectively steady on 39% and up one to 36%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister is at 48-28, narrowing from 50-24 last time. The pollster’s regular question on the handling of COVID-19 gives the federal government its weakest result since the beginnings of the series in March last year, with its good rating down five to 53% and its poor rating up six to 24%.

The trends for the leadership ratings are COVID-19 questions are worth noting: the former can be found at BludgerTrack, which no longer registers a recovery for Morrison after his slump in May, but also now records Anthony Albanese in net negative territory for the first time; the latter is shown in the chart of the Essential Research series below.

However, it’s not just the federal government that Essential Research finds to be down from its earlier peaks on COVID-19 management: the Victorian government’s good rating is down 15% amid the state’s latest lockdown to 48% (the federal government is also down 15% in the state, to 42%), and recent results for the other state governments are all down around six points from where they were at the start of the year, ranging from 65% for Queensland to 75% for Western Australia.

The poll also finds 40% view the federal government less favourably than they did a year ago, compared with 25% for more favourably and 35% for the same; 43% of the view that the vaccine rollout is being conducted efficiently (unchanged since April), 67% that is is being done safely (up four) and 54% that it will be effective at stopping the virus (up two); and 55% agreeing the Victorian government is raising valid concerns about the federal government’s vaccine rollout performance compared with 45% for the alternative option that it is seeking to shift the blame.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday from a sample of 1104. This being Essential’s first result since the launch of the Australian Polling Council code of conduct, it comes with a separate disclosure statement containing detail of the poll’s response options for voting intention, from which we learn that state and Senate voting intention questions were included even if we may never see the results, and that the poll is weighted for age, gender, location and party identification (a somewhat contentious practice in the latter case).

Newspoll: 50-50

A steady set of numbers on voting intention from Newspoll, with Scott Morrison taking a knock on personal approval.

As reported in The Australian, the latest Newspoll has the Coalition and Labor tied on two-party preferred after four polls with Labor in front, most recently by 51-49. However, this is not reflected by appreciable movement on the primary vote, on which the Coalition and Labor are steady at 41% and 36% with the Greens down one to 11% and One Nation up one to 3%.

On the personal ratings, Scott Morrison has lost the ground he recovered over the past two polls, being down four on approval to 54% and up five on disapproval to 43%, leaving him with his weakest net approval rating since the onset of COVID-19. Anthony Albanese has softened slightly from what were already his weakest ratings since he became leader, being down one on approval to 38% and up one on disapproval to 47%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 55-30 to 53-32.

The poll was conducted Wednesday to Saturday from a sample of 1516.

UPDATE: The Australian also has a piece from Campbell White of YouGov about the Australian Polling Council’s new code of conduct, which “will require polling companies to provide more information about how they obtain their samples, how they analyse their data and how they structure their questionnaires”. I had a piece of my own on the subject in Crikey last Thursday — both of the above are paywalled.

Old, new, borrowed and blue

The AEC contentiously green-lights a party called the New Liberals, plus the resolution of the Tasmanian state election and Upper Hunter by-election.

Four entirely unrelated items of electoral news after a week without new poll results:

• The Australian Electoral Commission has approved the registration of a party called the New Liberals. In doing so it rejected a 55-page Liberal Party submission that included CT Group polling to support its argument that voters would confuse the new party with the old. The judgement cited the similarly unsuccessful bid to deny Liberals for Forests in 2001, in which it was determined that a ban on words as generic as “liberal” and “labour” demanded “clear language” from the Electoral Act – although it conceded the name New Liberals landed “much closer to the line”. The Howard government’s dissatisfaction with the 2001 ruling resulted in a new clause targeting names implying a “connection or relationship” with an existing party, but the AEC has ruled this doesn’t catch the New Liberals. The judgement also expressed reservations about the CT Group survey, in terms implying a dubious attitude to much of the modern practice of opinion polling. The Liberals can now apply for an internal review, followed by an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

• The count for the Upper Hunter by-election has been finalised, confirming a 5.8% winning margin for Nationals candidate David Layzell and a two-party swing to the Nationals of 3.3%. Antony Green crunches the ballot paper data (a welcome feature of NSW election counts) to determine how each candidate’s preferences divided between Nationals and Labor, which in aggregate was very similar to the 2019 election.

• Resolution also for the Tasmanian state election, which had a post-script after elected Adam Brooks was charged with firearms offences the day after his election was declared, prompting him to decline his seat. This was resolved through Tasmania’s recount procedure for lower house vacancies using the ballots that elected the outgoing member, which naturally went overwhelmingly to other Liberals. The result was a win for Felix Ellis, a member of the previous parliament who initially failed to win re-election, finishing the distribution with 5881 votes (53.4%) to Stacey Sheehan’s 5132 (46.6%). The party numbers remain Liberal 13, Labor nine and Greens two, with one independent.

• I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the recently launched Australian Polling Council’s new code of conduct. Both council and code draw inspiration from the British Polling Council, though to my own disappointment it does not follow the British example in requiring members to publish full breakdowns and weighting bases for each poll. However, pollsters will be required to publish a range of other detail that is often absent from media outlets’ reporting of polls they commission, including margin of error calculations that account for demographic imbalances in the sample. The nine pollsters who are members of the council include most of the familiar names, but not Resolve Strategic and Roy Morgan.

More month of May miscellany

Preselection challenges aplenty against federal Liberals from New South Wales; a potential second Labor membership ballot as the party seeks a new leader in New South Wales; and a state by-election looms in Queensland.

There has been an outbreak of preselection challenges against federal Liberal incumbents in New South Wales, which would appear to be the fruit of new preselection rules that put more power in the hands of the party rank-and-file. However, the branch has not been so democratised as to deny the possibility of federal intervention, which Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports is likely to be invoked by the Prime Minister to protect the incumbents.

• Environment Minister Sussan Ley faces a challenge in her rural seat of Farrer from Christian Ellis, whose conservative credentials extend to an effort to expel Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal Party after he published his autobiography last year. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Ley has complained of “outsiders” descending upon her electorate with “city-based factional branch stacking” and “a toxic culture which isn’t about the policies or the candidate”.

• Further challenges are brewing against two leading factional powerbrokers: Alex Hawke of the centre right, from conservative-aligned army colonel Michael Abrahams; and Trent Zimmerman of the moderate faction, from both Hamish Stitt, a conservative barrister, and Jess Collins, a member of the centre right.

• In the marginal Sydney seat of Reid, moderate-aligned Fiona Martin faces a challenge from sports administrator Natalie Baini. Apparently at an earlier stage of gestation are potential challenges to Bennelong MP John Alexander from Gisele Kapterian, former chief-of-staff to Michaelia Cash; and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, whose Senate seat is reportedly being eyed by conservative colleague Dallas McInerney, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW.

• One challenge that will not proceed is the one said to have been of “most concern” to senior Liberals in a report by Sarah Martin of The Guardian. Melissa McIntosh, a member of the centre right faction who won the key seat of Lindsay from Labor in 2019, was said to have been under serious pressure from Mark Davies, Penrith councillor and husband of state Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies, having “lost control of her branches to the conservative faction”. However, Clare Armstrong of News.com.au reports the conservatives have “done a deal to drop the challenge”, the terms of which are unclear.

Preselections elsewhere:

Tom Richardson of InDaily reports that candidates for Labor’s preselection in the Adelaide seat of Spence include Matt Burnell, an official with the Right-aligned Transport Workers Union, and Alice Dawkins, who works with “a consulting firm specialising in Asian strategic engagement” and is the daughter of Keating government Treasurer John Dawkins. The safe Labor seat in northern Adelaide will be vacated at the election by Nick Champion’s move to state politics.

• A Liberal preselection last weekend for the Adelaide seat of Boothby was won by Rachel Swift, moderate-aligned management consultant and medical researcher. Swift was chosen ahead of conservative rival Leah Blythe, who had the backing of outgoing member Nicolle Flint.

• The Tasmanian seat of Lyons will be contested for the Liberals by Susie Bower, Meander Valley councillor and chief executive of the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone. Bower was a candidate for Lyons at the recent state election, but polled last out of the six Liberal candidates with 3.5% of the vote. Lyons could potentially have joined Bass and Braddon as a Liberal gain at the 2019 election if not for the mid-campaign disendorsement of the party’s candidate, Jessica Whelan.

Other news:

• Jodi McKay’s resignation as New South Wales Labor leader on Friday potentially sets up a second membership ballot for the party to go with the one that will choose Rebecca White’s successor in Tasmania. This depends on whether former leader Michael Daley puts his name forward in opposition to Chris Minns, who would appear to be the clear favourite. Today’s Sun-Herald reports that head office would prefer that Minns take the position unopposed so as to avoid “an expensive ballot of rank-and-file members, which would take weeks”. However, a tweet by Daley yesterday suggested he was not of a mind to oblige them.

• Labor MP Duncan Pegg announced his resignation from the Queensland parliament early this week after a terminal cancer diagnosis. This will lead at some point to a by-election for his southern Brisbane seat of Stretton, which Pegg retained by a margin of 14.8% at the state election last October. Such has been the electoral record of opposition parties recently that one might have thought the Liberal National Party would sit this one out, but they have in fact jumped into the fray with the endorsement of Jim Bellos, a police officer and former Queenslander of the Year. The Courier-Mail reports the front-runner for Labor preselection is James Martin, an electorate officer to Pegg.

• Occasional Poll Bludger contributor Adrian Beaumont has a piece in The Conversation on the apparent trend of non-university educated whites abandoning parties of the centre left in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

Sarah Martin of The Guardian reports the Liberal party room was told this week that the election would be held next year.