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.
If Vladimir Putin eventually succeeds in conquering Ukraine, it’s plausible he will commit massive atrocities. Conquerors can do this for two reasons: out of frustration at greater than expected resistance and as a warning to other potential conquests.
The Nazis are the most commonly cited evil government, and there is relatively little knowledge of other governments that committed atrocities. I will give one example: the man-made Soviet famine. There are also many examples in fantasy books, such as The Hunger Games.
This would not be the first time Ukraine has been subjected to Russian atrocities. In 1932-33 there was a horrific famine that is estimated to have killed 4 to 7 million Ukrainians. This famine was man-made, involving rejection of outside aid and confiscation of food. There is scholarly dispute over whether this was intentional genocide by Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin, or reckless disregard for human life in the cause of industrialization.
Western sanctions are already damaging Russia economically, so I don’t think Putin will be restrained by fear of further sanctions. The one thing Putin may fear is a direct military confrontation between the West and Russia, but the West is unlikely to get involved in this way for fear of provoking nuclear war.
With voters strongly supporting Western sanctions, and Ukraine resisting so far, incumbents have increased their support in the second week of the invasion, particularly France’s Emmanuel Macron. But the increase in oil prices due to the sanctions will add to inflation, and if Ukraine falls, voters may ask why more wasn’t done militarily.
US, French, Hungarian, South Korean and New Zealand elections and polls
51.6% currently disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, and 42.5% approve (net -9.1). Biden’s net approval has improved 2.5 points since last week to his best since early January. In redistricting news, the US Supreme Court rejected a Republican challenge to state court-drawn maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The first round of the French presidential election is April 10, with the runoff April 24. In the last two weeks, Macron has surged from the mid 20s to the low 30s in first round polling, with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen on about 18% and now clearly ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse in the race for the second runoff spot. There has been no runoff polling since last week, when Macron led Le Pen 56-44.
The Hungarian election is April 3. The far-right Fidesz has governed since 2010, but faces a challenge from a united opposition (important as 106 of the 199 seats are elected by first-past-the-post). Fidesz is leading by a few points, but no polls have been conducted since the Ukraine invasion.
At Wednesday’s South Korean presidential election, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol defeated the centre-left Lee Jae-myung by a 48.6-47.8 margin; FPTP is used. The conservatives retook the presidency after one five-year term for the left. Yoon is an anti-feminist who has pledged to abolish the ministry for gender equality.
A New Zealand Morgan poll, conducted in February, gave the conservative National 38%, the highest since January 2020 and an 11.5% increase since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins as National leader in late 2021. National and the right-wing ACT now lead Labour and the Greens by 49.5-43, with just 32% supporting Labour.