Canadian and German elections minus four to five weeks

Justin Trudeau calls an early Canadian election and German polls tighten. Also: Biden’s ratings slump after the Afghanistan withdrawal.

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.

23 comments on “Canadian and German elections minus four to five weeks”

  1. For Trudeau to call an election two years early and gain a couple of seats or go backwards… would have to be an act of the most idiotic stupidity since… Theresa May.

    The world should miss Angela Merkel, possibly the soundest world leader in place over the last decade?

    Americans dont like being embarrassed – thus Biden’s slump. But Americans also couldnt care less about what happens to women or Hazara in Afghanistan, so if he can get all Americans out without anyone getting shot then i suspect this will be forgotten pretty quickly. Would help a lot if Pelosi would pass the infrastructure bill and a few bridges and roads could be fixed.

    The recall mechanism in California is kinda like a leadership spill motion here. A majority to kick him out then the plurality vote-winner gets the gig. Elder is a total clown! If Dem voters cant get out in california with that guy poised to win, then i dont know how Biden beat Trump anywhere lol

  2. Biden should be relaxed, he showed leadership by taking full responsibility (unlike Trump who is an expert blame-shifter), he ended a stupid war that most Americans wanted to end…. and he will save a massive amount of money that he can divert to social programs… He only has to show humanitarianism by accepting many refugees (that will make the left happy), and stress that “our soldiers are now back home” and no more hard-earned American taxpayer’s money will be given away to corrupt Afghan officials, etc. to make the populist right happy.

    Smartly, Biden ended the war now, with plenty of time to recover for the mid-term elections….

  3. I believe one of the other reasons Trudeau called the election is that support for the NDP has been falling and it seems that, rather than migrate to other left-wing third parties or to non-voting, they’re moving to the Liberals, so he’s seeking to capitalise on that (as well as the lead against the conservatives.)

    I do think he does risk backlash for opportunism but I still think Trudeau will get over the line but it might still be in a minority government. Which will lead many to ask what the point of the election was.

    Even if they do get over the line with a minority government, it’ll still be a win for Trudeau and might end up being Chrystia Freeland’s problem at the following election, not his.

  4. As for Germany, Scholz’s ascendency can be attributed to his campaigning being absolutely on fire for the last month or so. Until recently, he was a bit of a dud, seeming more problematic than anything and the SPD were written off as a slowly dying party. I certainly still prefer Baerbock and the Greens in this race but I am warming to Scholz as he is still better than Laschet but that’s just my own personal opinion.

    I won’t make a prediction of the result, who the next Chancellor will be or what coalition elected them but this will be an interesting one to watch.

    Things have certainly changed from a few months ago when a certain someone was doing continuous premature victory laps on this site over the Greens’ inevitable win.

  5. If Newsom loses, Republican Elder, with 19%, has a ten-point lead over his nearest rival.

    Republicans always seem to the favourable breaks.

  6. In month of May, 2021 when Greens were leading the polls in Germany and won a council seat from Labour in English council elections there was this Greens supporter who was jumping with joy.

  7. Vensays:
    Monday, August 23, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    If Newsom loses, Republican Elder, with 19%, has a ten-point lead over his nearest rival.

    I mean Republicans always seem get the favourable breaks.

  8. The CBC Poll tracker is too bullish on Trudeau IMO – I think polls stay in the mix for at least 30 days (although the weighting is falling) and obviously the election was only called because the Libs were consistently 6 or 7 in front for quite a while .. until last week

    There have been 21 polls published since the election was called and the average poll lead for the Liberals is 2.4%. That includes what looks like a rogue poll that had the Libs ahead by 12 points, take that out and the average lead is under 2%

    Ten polls have been in the field wholly since the election was called, 7 Lib leads, 2 Con leads and one tie. Average lead is 0.9% for the Libs

    One of the polling firms is doing a daily tracker poll and the Conservatives took the lead yesterday I think

  9. In regard to Biden ending Americas involvement with Afghanistan I think despite the hoo ha etc. it was the only sensible decision. Tony Blair disagrees. I am perplexed as to why he would think this and also why was he persuaded by Bush to enter Iraq. I think he still defends this and by any measure it was stupid and a massive disaster. Howard supported it but I would have expected better from a Labour leader.

  10. “The world should miss Angela Merkel, possibly the soundest world leader in place over the last decade?”…

    She deserves the Nobel Peace prize far more than Obama ever did…. and mind you, politically I am closer to the American Democrats than the German Christian Democrats…..

  11. Giving Nobel Peace prize to Obama had completely devalued Noble awards. That prize to Obama was based completely on political considerations than any achievements.
    It had led to people like Trump to demand for Nobel peace prize.

  12. Thanks for this post Adrian – a good round-up of electoral matters around the world at the moment.

    Canada – I think Trudeau has taken an unnecessary gamble in calling this election. His effective parliamentary majority (via the support of the Bloc and the NDP) was relatively secure, and he still had two years to go until the election was due. Voters typically frown opn opportunism like this, though Trudeau’s personal popularity will probably be enough to get the Liberals to a status quo result, presuming nothing unexpected obver the coming weeks.

    USA – Biden’s approval is clearly taking a hit, both from the bad optics of the Afghanistan withdrawal, and more generally of the end of the sugar hit of Trump’s departure. But both he and the Democrats have reason to be hopeful, though. Afghanistan will cease being an issue within weeks, and certainly by election day next year it will be a complete non-starter. Similarly, some movement on the infrastructure bills over the coming months will give the Blue team some momentum. The key for the Democrats, though, is to lean on Manchin and Sinema to carve out some room on the Senate filibuster to pass HR1 & HR4, which should see off the worst excesses of voter suppression being undertaken by Republican states.

    Germany – this is the most fascinating of all, in my view. Merkel has been such a towering figure in German and European politics for so long that it’s hard to imagine what things will be like after she’s gone. The polling Adrian has referred to above does suggest that Merkel attracted many otherwise-SPD leaning voters, and with Merkel’s departure, the SPD appears to be recovering.

  13. On the recall, I still think that No will get up but I don’t think it’s such an open and shut case that some were thinking earlier this year. The polling isn’t that one-sided for No and a “silent voter” bump could put Yes over the line, letting whichever Republican has their nose in front in the second question become Governor.

    I am of two minds of whether or not it was a good idea to not have a Democratic contingency candidate e.g. Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis. On one hand, if Yes prevails it basically means a Republican is becoming Governor as there are no viable Democratic alternatives to fall back on. On the other hand, it muddies the water to have a high profile candidate on the Democratic side, and it might encourage a few people who’d never want a Republican as Governor but don’t like Newsom to flip to Yes because there’s a suitable option – not to mention voters who might find the alternative Democrat better than Newsom.

    I think I lean towards the latter, as it draws a hard line for the heavily Democratic state: it’s either No or a Republican. However, I imagine if the recall is successful, there will be some finger-pointing and hindsight, and no doubt the criticism that there should have been a Democratic contingency candidate will no doubt arise.

    I guess the best thing for the Democrats here is that there is no Schwarzenegger in this race – i.e. no acceptable Republican with a high profile that might lure Democratic voters over – instead being a bunch of heavily conservative no names competing to be at the front of the pack at the finishing line.

  14. Additional thought: I am surprised Caitlyn Jenner is polling so dismally. I would’ve thought there’d be a little boost from name recognition there. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect her to do well: she’s too conservative and pro-Trump for the liberal-leaning voters and most conservative Republicans are not going to support a trans candidate, regardless of their views (unless they’re the only Republican on the ballot.)

    Also, I’d be amused if, in the case the recall is successful, one of the minnows that have registered as Democrats wins by pure virtue of having the D next to their name. Unlikely, of course, but still amusing to think about.

  15. I’m actually not too concerned if the recall vote against Newsom gets up. If it does it would likely be in the region of a vote around 48-52. If a republican then finishes on top of the jungle-style ballot (and polling suggest that this will be Elder), they would do so on the back of about 20% of the vote.

    In practice, would-be Governor Elder would be powerless. The Democrats control super-majorities in both Houses of the Californian legislature, and so if Elder did anything that got out of hand, they could impeach him and install Lt Gov Kounalakis in his place – they might even do this anyway, on the basis that the recall process has been so clearly gamed. And even if they don’t, the new governor will only filling out the remainder of Newsom’s term, until late 2022. It would be embarrassing for the California Democratic Party, but nothing particularly problematic is likely to come of it.

    Either way, we can expect a ballot imitative to greatly reign in the parameters of the recall law as soon as next year.

  16. I haven’t commented much on the Afghanistan situation, mainly because it’s all just so damn depressing, but it’s hard not too see this as a catastrophic blunder by the Biden administration.

    As far as longer term electoral implications go, while it’s probably true that people won’t be that fussed about it once a month or two has passed, the perceptions this has created and/or reinforced about Biden’s competence may linger a whole lot longer.

  17. Apropos of nothing but Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as NY Governor came into effect today, meaning his Lt. Governor, Kathy Hochul is the new Governor of New York. She is the first woman to hold the office.

    What happens next is how well Hochul steers the ship over the next year. Hochul has already expressed interest in seeking re-election at the next gubernatorial election. Her biggest hurdle to that will be the Democratic Primary for that office. She will need to hit the ground running to build a positive public profile to be successful in that race, in which I imagine we might see some strong contenders – including Attorney-General Letitia James (although James needs to be careful if interested, as it was her office that ran the investigation that brought Cuomo down and, while it was done professionally and independently, an accusation of it being guided by a desire to become Governor could stick – even if absurd.)

    These events have shocking similarity to events a decade ago when Elliot Spitzer resigned in a scandal leading to his Lt. Governor, David Paterson to become Governor (he also made a first by being the first Black Governor of New York and the first blind Governor of any state.) He was beaten in the Democratic Primary for the subsequent gubernatorial election (2010) by Cuomo (who was AG at the time.)

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