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.
Redistricting of the 435 Congressional Districts for US federal House elections occurs once a decade based on the Census. Some states use independent commissions, but in most a party that has control of the legislature and governor can gerrymander. Sometimes state courts reject gerrymanders.
In the FiveThirtyEight tracker, there are 160 Democratic-leaning seats, 141 Republican-leaning seats and 26 competitive seats in new maps. Changes from the previous maps are Democrats up 11, Republicans down three and competitive down eight.
Democrats in New York used their control of the state legislature and governor to impose a likely 22-4 Democratic gerrymander of NY’s CDs, up from the current 19-8 delegation. Republicans still controlled the state Senate in 2010, the last redistricting year. In other good redistricting news for Democrats, the North Carolina state courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, joining Ohio in doing this.
A three-judge federal court with two Trump appointees required a second Black opportunity seat in Alabama. But the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 right majority, put a stay on this decision in a 5-4 judgment until they hear the case. The 6-1 Republican map passed by the legislature will stay for at least the 2022 elections.
Joe Biden’s ratings remain poor, with 53.1% disapproving and 41.9% approving in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate (net -11.2). He has almost overtaken Trump in having the worst net approval of any president at this stage in their term since approval polling began with Truman (1945-53).
Inflation increased 0.6% in January for a 12-month rate of 7.5%,, the highest since 1982, as 12-month real weekly wages dropped 3.1%. Given the Afghanistan fallout, it’s unlikely a Russian invasion of the Ukraine will boost Biden’s ratings.
UK: Boris Johnson still PM
In my previous article in late January, it had appeared likely that the 54 no-confidence letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger a full confidence vote in Boris Johnson would be submitted soon. But they were not submitted in the next three parliamentary weeks, and there is a parliamentary recess this week, giving Johnson respite until at least February 21.
There are still dangers for Johnson. The first is being fined by the police over the parties held during lockdown he attended. But an aspect that has angered the public is that Johnson and his colleagues have got away with clear rule breaches, when the police would have jumped on ordinary people who held lockdown parties. If Johnson is seen to be punished, that could assuage public anger.
A second danger for Johnson is if the Conservatives get thrashed at the May 5 local elections. Electricity and gas bills will rise 54% for a typical household in April – terrible timing for Johnson and Conservative councilor candidates.
Previously, I suggested voters could move on from the “PartyGate” affair. The last three UK polls have had Labour’s lead over the Conservatives dropping to 3-5 points from the high single digits polls previously gave Labour.
The Conservatives retained Southend West at a February 3 by-election with 86% of the vote. Owing to the murder of the previous MP, no other party with a national profile contested.
Majority for centre-left Socialists in Portugal
At the January 30 Portuguese election, the Socialists won 119 of the 230 seats (up 11 since 2019), the conservative Social Democrats 73 (down one), the far-right Chega 12 (up 11), the right-wing Liberal Initiative eight (up seven) and two far-left parties, who were blamed for the early election, won 11 combined seats (down 20).
Popular votes were 41.5% Socialists, 27.8% Social Democrats, 7.3% Chega, 4.9% Liberal Initiative and 8.7% for the far-left, with the Socialists outperforming the polls. Portugal uses proportional representation, but distributes its seats on a regional basis; this allows bigger parties to win more seats than using national PR.
French elections: April 10 and 24
The first round of the French presidential election will be held April 10, with a runoff April 24. Incumbent Emmanuel Macron is in a clear first place in the first round with about 24%, but the second runoff position could plausibly go to any of the far-right Marine Le Pen, the conservative Valérie Pécresse or the even more far-right Éric Zemmour. In runoff polls, Macron gets over 60% against Zemmour, about 56% against Le Pen and about 54% against Pécresse.