10am AEST Monday Hungary’s far-right Fidesz has been easily re-elected at Sunday’s election. The polls that showed a close race between Fidesz and the united opposition were wrong. I will have more before the first round of the French election next Sunday.
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.
First the Ukraine invasion: In the five weeks since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion, neither side has made decisive breakthroughs. Despite relentless bombardment of cities, Russia has been unable to seize them, while Ukraine has been unable to repel the Russians. Analysts expected Russia to overwhelm Ukraine quickly, so this stalemate is a surprise.
If Western powers sent tanks and aircraft to support Ukraine, Ukraine would win decisively. But the West is afraid to escalate and possibly provoke nuclear retaliation from Russia. My opinion is that Putin would only destroy the world if Russia itself was invaded, and that yielding to this nuclear blackmail will encourage Putin to use the same tactics again.
In my last Ukraine article three weeks ago, I said incumbent governments had received a boost from the popularity of the Western sanctions on Russia. But as I predicted then, that boost has reversed owing to higher inflation due to the sanctions, and the perception that the West should be doing more to militarily assist Ukraine.
Don’t expect Putin to become unpopular in Russia anytime soon. The UK’s Survation pollster conducted a mid-March Russian poll, well after the sanctions were imposed. The invasion was supported by a 64-17 margin, and 69% thought Russia was a liberator, 62% a peacekeeper and just 13% an aggressor. Putin had a 66-16 approval rating.
The first round of the French presidential election will occur April 10. In the likely event no candidate wins an outright majority, the runoff between the top two first round candidates is April 24.
Incumbent Emmanuel Macron currently leads in the first round with about 28%. The far-right Marine Le Pen is second with 20%, while the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon has surged into third with 15%. The more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse have both faded to around 10-11%.
This has been a humiliating election for the former major centre-left party, the Socialists, who elected a president in 2012. The Socialist candidate has about 2% in the polls.
An Elabe poll conducted March 28-30 gave Macron just a 52.5-47.5 runoff lead over Le Pen, down from 56-44 on March 20-21. But two other recent polls gave Macron a 55-45 lead and one a 53.5-46.5 lead. Macron still leads by about 60-40 against Mélenchon.
At the 2017 election, Macron defeated Le Pen by a 66.1-33.9 margin with polls understating Macron. If current polls are accurate, that’s a double-digit swing to Le Pen. Last May, I wrote about how non-university educated whites are shifting to the right in the US, the UK and Australia; France looks like another example.
These elections will only elect the president. Legislative elections will occur on June 12 and 19 in a two-round system. France holds its legislative elections about two months after the presidential election so that the president’s party is more likely to win a legislative majority. A newly elected president would expect a honeymoon.
Far-right likely to win in Hungary despite closeness to Putin
The Hungarian election is Sunday. 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). Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was warmly received by Russia three weeks before the Ukraine invasion, and has been friends with Putin for a decade. Despite this, Fidesz leads by two to 11 points in eight polls conducted since March 21.
US and UK polls
53.0% currently disapprove of Joe Biden in the FiveThirtyEight tracker, and 41.3% approve (net -11.7). Biden’s net approval recovered early in the Ukraine invasion to a peak of -8.6, but has slipped back since. US inflation increased 0.8% in February for a 7.9% 12-month rate. Real weekly earnings dropped 2.3% in the 12 months to February. In redistricting news, Ohio’s Republican gerrymander will be used for at least the 2022 elections, while Maryland’s Democratic gerrymander was rejected by state courts.
UK polls suggest the Conservatives are continuing a recovery from Partygate, with Labour’s current lead down to low single digits. The police recently issued 20 Partygate fines, but I don’t believe this will have anything like the impact of the original revelations.