California recall, Canadian and German elections minus one to three weeks

Democrat Gavin Newsom now likely to beat recall in California, Liberals slump in Canada after Trudeau’s early election call and Social Democrats surge to the top in Germany.

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.

Polls close in the California recall election next Wednesday September 15 at 1pm AEST. There is a Yes/No question on whether the governor is recalled, followed by a long list of replacement candidates. If the recall succeeds, the candidate with the most votes is elected.

In my last article two weeks ago, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom led Recall by just 1.2% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, but he has surged since then, and now leads by 10.1%. California is a Democratic stronghold that voted for Joe Biden by 29% in November 2020. Motivating Democrats is likely to be enough for Newsom.

To qualify for a Recall election, 12% of the total votes cast for governor at the last election must sign a petition. Only one governor has been recalled since recalls were introduced in 1911: in 2003, Democrat Gray Davis was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Davis lost the Recall vote by 55.4-44.6, and Schwarzenegger had 48.6% of the replacement vote, well ahead of 31.5% for a Democrat.

Since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden’s ratings have continued to slide in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate. He’s now at 49.0% disapprove, 45.3% approve for a net approval of -3.7%. Biden’s net approval was +6 before the fall of Kabul on August 15.

There are other factors dragging Biden down, like COVID, inflation and illegal immigration. But the clear downward trend since Kabul’s fall indicates Afghanistan is a big factor. US COVID is likely to improve soon, but Biden’s perceived incompetence over Afghanistan could reflect badly on him when Americans consider other problems.

Trudeau’s Liberals slump in Canada

Justin Trudeau called the Canadian election for September 20, two years early. Canada uses First Past the Post to elect its 338 parliamentary members.

The CBC Poll Tracker has the Conservatives leading with 33.5%, followed by Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals on 31.2%, the left-wing NDP 20.3%, the left-wing separatist Quebec Bloc 5.9%, the right-wing populist People’s Party 4.8% and the Greens 3.4%. The Liberals were eight points ahead before the election was called, and their position deteriorated rapidly in the first two weeks of the campaign, but it has stabilized in the last week.

Despite the Conservatives’ narrow vote lead, the Liberals still have a narrow seat lead of 140-133, with 37 NDP and 27 Bloc, owing to Conservative wastage in safe seats. The tracker gives the Conservatives just a 4% chance of winning an outright majority.

In a recent Angus Reid poll, NDP leader Singh had a +14 net favourable rating, the Bloc’s Blanchet -1, the Conservatives’ O’Toole -17 and Trudeau -25. In Abacus, it was Singh +19, Blanchet +10, Trudeau -5 and O’Toole -8.

Social Democrats (SPD) surge in Germany

The German election is on September 26. Germany has 299 single-member seats elected by FPTP, and at least 299 list seats that are used to top-up FPTP seats to ensure overall proportionality of all qualifying parties. Voters cast one vote for their FPTP seat, and another for their preferred party. Parties can qualify by either exceeding 5% of the national “party” vote, or winning three FPTP seats.

List seats are awarded by states, and this results in frequent “overhangs” when a party wins more seats by FPTP than entitled from its party vote, which are compensated by “leveling” seats for other parties. There are usually more than the minimum 598 seats in German parliaments, with the 2017 election having 709 seats owing to the conservative CDU/CSU’s dominance of FPTP seats on a 32.9% vote share.

In the Politico poll aggregate, the SPD now leads with 25%, with the CDU/CSU at 21%, the Greens 17%, the pro-business FDP 12%, the far-right AfD 11% and the far-left Left 6%. The SPD has surged to the top at the expense of the CDU/CSU, and the combined left now leads the combined right by 48-44 (47-45 to the right two weeks ago). The Left is close to the 5% threshold, but could survive even if they fall below as they won five FPTP seats in 2017 – three are needed.

Angela Merkel, who has been German chancellor since 2005, is retiring at this election. In a recent poll, just 20% were satisfied with the new CDU/CSU chancellor candidate, Armin Laschet, compared with between 57% and 71% for Merkel in the four elections she contested.

27 comments on “California recall, Canadian and German elections minus one to three weeks”

  1. Long time lurker, first time poster.

    I wondered when Trudeau called the early election if he was gonna pull a Theresa May. Admittedly I don’t know too much about Canadian politics, but if this polling holds up it certainly seems like it?

    If Singh’s polling also extends to any change in NDP vote, if the Tories win in September, will there be a chance of NDP being opposition again?

  2. Canada: I suspect that Canada will end up with something of a status quo result – a minority Liberal government backed by the NDP and the Bloc. A good way short of the majority government that Trudeau was aiming for, but he’ll most likely remain prime minister.

    US: looking increasingly likely that Newsom will survive the recall, and most probably pretty comfortably. The early pre-poll and postals (as we’d call them) look to be leaning heavily Democratic.

    Biden’s approval rating has certainly taken a hit in recent weeks, and it seems likely that Afghanistan is a big contributor to that. But I don’t think Afghanistan will matter (politically) much in the coming months. Biden’s fortunes are more likely to rest on the fortunes of the infrastructure bills (and maybe also the voting reform bills) by the time the mid-terms come around.

    Germany: probably the most interesting of the three countries being discussed, as Merkel’s departure creates a huge void in German and European politics. As a lefty it’s nice to see the SPD surging, seeing as they were the lynchpin of of the post-War Centre-Left. Still, a while to go before votes are cast, and it’s the kind of system where any result is still possible.

  3. A fun fact about Angela Merkel. She is apparently the only leader of the 200-odd states on this planet who has a degree in science! That says something about Germany I think. She was my ideal of what a moderate pro-business conservative leader should be-serious about action to limit climate change, without destroying jobs, serious about Germany’s responsibilities to assist refugees, and happy to share power with the centre-left rather than the hard right of AfD. It’s a pity right-wing parties in the anglophone world aren’t like that. And good to see the SPD making a comeback-it looked like they were in danger of being completely eaten by the Greens.

  4. Matt31 – I don’t think “the Left” was ever popular in East Berlin – as you might recall, the Communists took power after the Red Army swept in at the end of the War, and not via some groundswell of support. In common with many ex-Communist countries in Eastern Europe, there remains a deep-seated suspicion of “the Left” in eastern Germany. Their experience was more Stasi than Whitlam, in contrast to western Germany.

  5. The CBC Poll Tracker has the Conservatives leading with 33.5%, followed by Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals on 31.2%, the left-wing NDP 20.3%, the left-wing separatist Quebec Bloc 5.9%, the right-wing populist People’s Party 4.8% and the Greens 3.4%.

    So leftists have 60.8% of the vote, but risk an embarassing loss thanks to FPTP. Lovely.

  6. The Liberals and the NDP’s refusal to come to an agreement on electoral reform is easily one of the worst strategic decisions ‘the left’ have made in Anglo-American politics, to say nothing for the sake of democracy itself. They almost deserve to lose for that alone.

  7. Matt – short answer, yes, in certain areas.

    Longer answer – the support base for the Linke is almost entirely in the former East Germany. One of the Eastern states (Thüringen) even has die Linke governing as the largest party in the Landtag, in coalition with the SPD and the Greens. The state of Berlin has also been governed by a Red-Red-Green coalition at various times. Brandenburg was governed by a red-red coalition (SPD and Linke) 2009-2019 – the city of Potsdam was a centre of power in East Germany and still has a large support base for the Linke.

    In the former East, depending on the area, die Linke get up to around 20% of support. This doesn’t seem like much, but Germany is much more pluralist than Australia – support splits six ways. Compare with the former West, where die Linke get maybe 5%.

    As a former German resident, I can tell you it’s far more complicated than non-Germans realise. The Communists in the DDR had more popular support than most people in the west wanted to admit. Confuses the crap out of West Germans who look down on the “Whinging Easterners”.

    After the wall fell, a lot of former East German citizens were very disillusioned with the new world, and the phenomenon of “Ostalgie” (I guess in English it’d be “Eastalgia” – nostalgia for the old East) increasingly grew. Even among young people now who were born 10 years after the wall fell and only know it from their parents’ stories. This feeds into the base who nowadays still hang around sharing photos on Facebook of their good old Trabant, go and buy Ostprodukte from the shop in the subway station on the Alex, and vote for die Linkspartei.

  8. Thank you Adrian.

    Trudeau called early election due to fact he wants to govern with a majority.
    So far looks like his wish won’t be granted.
    Another coalition govt is on the way.

  9. Expat & Simon – thanks for that. I will bow to your superior knowledge of German politics. Interesting that there is still some nostalgia for the East German regime among the young in particular.

  10. If the Greens end up at 17% as they are in this poll, it will mean they will have more than doubled their result from the last election (8%). That’s a truly remarkable surge in the space of just one electoral cycle. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that there is another party to the left of them in the race taking up a significant chunk of the vote (Die Linke).

    Canada is concerning – Trudeau may have made a very costly mistake. Lets hope not.

    In America, Biden continues to be a massive disappointment to the true left, but that’s nothing new. What is new though is that he now seems to be becoming a disappointment to the establishment too. Meanwhile, the Republicans remain as nutty and unhinged as ever. What a mess of a political system.

    You did leave one huge piece of international political news out of your article though, Adrian, which is the formation of the new SNP/Greens Government in Scotland! It’s the first time in history that the Greens have entered a national government in the UK. The co-leaders of the Greens will both be ministers, another first for the Greens in the UK. And speaking of the UK, on top of all the other issues the Greens and SNP have agreed to work together on in government, winning independence for Scotland from the UK is right at the top of the list.

    New Scottish government: key takeaways from the SNP deal with the Greens

    The SNP and Scottish Greens have published an agreement that outlines the terms of their collaboration in government. This is not a coalition but a governing partnership – and one that is unique in the history of Scottish and UK politics.

    It’s the first time the Greens will enter a national government in the UK, working with a party that has been in power for a decade and a half. The deal outlines the issues on which the two parties agree to cooperate – rent controls, new rights for tenants, active travel, green energy and renewables. The two parties have agreed to reform the Gender Recognition Act to “ensure the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition is simplified” and, crucially, to secure a second independence referendum.

  11. Newsom’s lead in the 538 aggregate out to 12.3%, so he looks safe.

    Biden’s net approval down to -4.1; he copped a horrible YouGov poll that had him at 50% disapprove, 39% approve.

    Polls added today haven’t changed Canada or Germany much.

    Re Firefox2, I had a long live blog in May on the UK local, Scottish and Welsh elections. The SNP/Green alliance was predictable given the Scottish parliament results.

  12. Aside from a Tory win, a real possibility for the Canadian election outcome is another Liberal Minority Government, which is going to make a lot of people in his party ask Trudeau what exactly the point of this election was. Unless it turns out that he and party wonks know something we don’t know and a surprise Liberal majority ends up happening, calling this election was just hubristic and silly.

  13. Newsom’s lead in the 538 aggregate out to 12.3%, so he looks safe.

    While I don’t want to run post-election analysis before the vote happens, if Newsom does safely overcome it, I would like to acknowledge that the gambit of the Democrats not offering a serious contingency candidate, should Yes succeed, has paid off. While it would mean a Republican if the Recall was successful, I did also allow the question to be framed as a choice between “No” or a Republican Governor. Furthermore, with Elder solidifying his position as the probable winning replacement candidate, should the Recall be successful, has allowed there to be a face and a target to rally against. The race can be framed less as “Is Newsom doing a terrible job and should he be replaced?” and more as a Newsom v. Elder election – which, if CA’s liberal voters are thinking in those terms on the day, should easily defeat the Recall.

  14. Germany looks interesting – the centre left i dont think can go into coalition with Linke and the centre right cant go into coalition with the AfD. Feels like the FDP might be kingmakers, wonder how open they might be to working with SDP/Greens. Might not have enough between them and CDU/CSU to get a majority.

    Trudeau is an idiot with his Theresa May misguided election call. Liberal seats almost certain to go down… just a total own goal of his own making.

    Cali – the best thing that could ever happen for Newsom was Larry Elder coming to the forefront as leading alternative. He is loony righting his way to a slim plurality of the republican base but in the process is driving up Dem turnout. If you vote “no” on recall, do you nonetheless get a chance to vote for a candidate if “yes” wins out? Am v surprised no serious Dem or hi profile Indy went on the ticket just as some insurance value. Newsom made his life hard doing the French Restaurant thing, this a chance to reset and possibly do well next year and maybe take a run at ’24 presidential if Biden doesnt run and his record as governor of largest economy goes well from here?

  15. If you vote “no” on recall, do you nonetheless get a chance to vote for a candidate if “yes” wins out?

    Yes. From my memory of the last one in 2003, there are two ballot questions (paraphrased): 1. Do you want to recall the Governor? and 2. If the Governor is recalled, who do you want as his replacement?

  16. What would be the argument for Newsom to challenge Biden? Sheer ego? Not policy surely, unless the media is desperately in need of a warhawk to astroturf back into the white house (and I’m not sure he even is one). The recall election wouldn’t be happening if he wasn’t so unpopular and so bad at the job he has now.

  17. In the event Biden doesn’t run for re-election in 2024, I think the worst place for a Governor to mount a challenge for the Democratic nomination from would be California – the state where the Vice President (and favourite for the nomination in that scenario) is from. Newsom would find it hard to get much support (and therefore build much early campaign infrastructure) in his own state.

    Not that it matters, Newsom is not a big contender for the Democratic nomination in 2024 – especially on the back of current events (which we still don’t know if he’s successfully cleared.)

    If Biden runs, it will be Biden. If he doesn’t, it will be Harris.

  18. I am sure this matter has been discussed on Pb and recently but I’ll ask anyway

    What is the past practice/tradition/protocol of PM and family residing in the lodge?

    Why wouldn’t morrison want his family to live there at present especially with lockdown?

    Didn’t Howard start practice of using Kirribilli House as residence, and wasn’t his preference controversial?

  19. “If Biden runs, it will be Biden. If he doesn’t, it will be Harris.”

    then Repub nominee stands a strong chance of winning – inc Trump.

    Newsom obviously judged now is a non-starter, but thinking fwd to what he could do. Any kind of tenable credible candidate should give Harris plenty of problems, the big worry is that it comes from someone from the extreme left of the party

  20. “Re Firefox2, I had a long live blog in May on the UK local, Scottish and Welsh elections. The SNP/Green alliance was predictable given the Scottish parliament results.”


    Aye, I remember it well. That was when they had a tonne of different elections in the UK all at once and the Greens picked up all those mammoth swings in the English council elections.

  21. SPD turning around is totally unexpected. It looked after the Centre Left was dying not too long ago. I guess the CDU has not learnt how to deal with AfD coming in from the right on them.
    Also amazed FDP had recovered after foolish move followed by foolish move; they are like a cat with nine lives.

  22. EF, I am sure all candidates have their pros and cons, and I don’t want to dive too deeply into the state of play of an election that’s still three years away, I am just pointing out obvious political wisdom.

    Barring some exceptional circumstance, the incumbent president or the incumbent vice president will be the 2024 Democratic nominee.

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