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.
On August 15, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called the election for September 20, more than two years early. Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won the most seats, but not a majority, at the 2019 election, and good polling encouraged Trudeau to seek a majority.
Canada has 338 seats elected by first past the post. At the October 2019 election, the Liberals won 157 seats, the Conservatives 121, the left-wing separatist Quebec Bloc 32, the left-wing NDP 24 and the Greens three. Vote shares were 34.3% Conservative, 33.1% Liberal, 16.0% NDP, 7.6% Bloc and 6.6% Greens. The Conservatives wasted votes in safe seats, while the Bloc benefited from only running in Quebec.
The CBC Poll Tracker currently gives the Liberals 34.0%, the Conservatives 30.3%, the NDP 19.8%, the Bloc 6.3% and the Greens 4.6%. Seat estimates are 160 Liberals (ten short of a majority), 111 Conservatives, 38 NDP and 28 Bloc. The Liberal lead over the Conservatives has dropped from eight points to four in the week since the election was called.
At the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to change the electoral system from FPTP, but welched on that promise after winning a majority. There was a bad sign for the Liberals when the Conservatives won the Nova Scotia provincial election last Tuesday. The Liberals were well ahead, but faded late.
Social Democrats gain at CDU/CSU’s expense for German election
The German election will be on September 26. Parties need to clear 5% to qualify for the proportional allocation of seats. The Politico poll aggregate currently gives the conservative CDU/CSU 24%, the centre-left SPD 20%, the Greens 18%, the pro-business FDP 12%, the far-right AfD 11% and the far-left Left 7%. In the last few month, the SPD has gained 4-5 points from the CDU/CSU, and the combined right’s lead over the combined left has narrowed to 47-45 from 51-42.
German polls do not appear to ask for leader approval ratings, only for preferred chancellor. The SPD’s Scholz is leading both the Greens’ Baerbock and the CDU/CSU’s Laschet by double digit margins, probably explaining the shift in voting intention polls. Angela Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, is retiring at this election.
Biden’s ratings slump after Afghanistan withdrawal
A week since the fall of Kabul, Joe Biden’s ratings with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are 49.4% approve, 46.2% disapprove (net +3.2%). Biden’s net approval was +10 in late July and +6 before Kabul. Recent polls have been near net zero, so the aggregate may fall further.
Biden’s drop can also be attributed to US COVID, inflation and illegal immigration. But Afghanistan has been damaging. In a CBS/YouGov poll, 74% thought the removal of US troops had gone badly, although 63% still approved of their removal. Biden’s handling of withdrawal crashed from 60-40 approve in July to 53-47 disapprove.
The Afghanistan withdrawal has been compared to the 1975 US withdrawal from Saigon at Vietnam. New York Times analyst Nate Cohn said former president Gerald Ford’s ratings increased in the months after Saigon.
In Vietnam, over 58,000 US soldiers were killed in action, while 2,500 were killed in Afghanistan. There had been no US combat deaths since February 2020. The far greater US casualties in Vietnam meant the public was far more likely to be willing to accept the costs of sudden withdrawal.
Another problem for Biden with Afghanistan is that the chaos and perceived humiliation for the US erodes the public’s faith in his competence. As an anti-establishment candidate, Donald Trump’s supporters did not care about the scorn of the establishment, but Biden’s competence was a big selling point at the election.
Californian Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall election on September 14. Voters will be asked whether they want to keep or recall Newsom, and who to replace him with. If Newsom loses the recall vote, the replacement candidate is elected by FPTP.
With no primary to select one Democratic and Republican candidate, there are many from both parties, so the winner could have a low vote share. The FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate has Newsom beating Recall by 1.2%. If Newsom loses, Republican Elder, with 19%, has a ten-point lead over his nearest rival.