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.