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.
On October 2, Boris Johnson submitted a proposed Brexit deal to the European Union, but that proposal was dismissed. The EU summit on October 17-18 is the last chance to do a deal before the October 31 Brexit date.
A deal is now unlikely, and it is probable that the proposed deal was designed so Johnson could blame the EU when rejected. As I wrote in mid-September, Johnson would be attacked by Nigel Farage for a genuine attempt at a deal, and such a deal would be unlikely to pass the Commons, which three times easily rejected Theresa May’s deal.
If Brexit is to happen by October 31, Johnson will probably need to attempt a no-deal Brexit. The question is whether he can defy the legislation parliament passed in early September requiring a Brexit extension request by October 19 if there is not a deal (the Benn Act). On October 4, government documents to a Scottish court said Johnson would obey the Benn Act, but Johnson tweeted shortly after: “New deal or no deal – but no delay #LeaveOct31”.
The government may believe there is a loophole in the Benn Act that will allow Johnson to obey the letter of the law, but break its spirit. Johnson has called this legislation the “Surrender Act”, and it would be bad for him politically if he was perceived as meekly surrendering to the “Surrender Act”. He needs to be seen as being dragged kicking and screaming to an extension if he cannot avoid it.
Ex-Conservative MP Dominic Grieve suggested that, if Johnson failed to implement the Benn Act, the Queen would sack him. In my opinion, the responsibility to discipline Johnson for disobeying parliament’s laws is not the Queen’s, but the parliament’s. If the Commons is dissatisfied with Johnson, the Commons can vote no-confidence in him, and then vote confidence in a new PM. There is no agreement among Johnson’s opponents on who that new PM should be, but that is parliament’s problem, not the Queen’s.
Parliament was prorogued on Tuesday until the Queen’s speech on October 14; a short prorogation was permitted by the Supreme Court. Parliament has done nothing notable in the two weeks since it was recalled.
Left wins in Portugal
I previously previewed the October 6 Portuguese election and other elections. Portugal uses proportional representation at the regional level, which assists bigger parties. With four seats from outside Portugal to be attributed, the Socialists won 106 of the 230 seats (up 21 since the October 2015 election), the conservative parties 82 (down 22), the Left Bloc 19 (steady), the Communists and Greens (CDU) 12 (down five), an animal welfare party four (up three) and there are three others. Popular votes were 36.7% Socialists (up 4.3%), 32.2% conservatives (down 6.4%), 8.7% Left Bloc (down 0.5%), 6.5% CDU (down 1.8%) and 3.3% Animals (up 1.9%).
The Socialists will be able to govern with the support of either the Left Bloc or the CDU; in the previous parliament they needed both parties. With this decisive victory for the left, Portugal bucked the trend to the right in much of the democratic world.
Election updates in Austria, Poland, Canada and the US
- Final results of the September 29 Austrian election gave the conservative ÖVP 71 of the 182 seats (up nine since October 2017), the centre-left SPÖ 40 (down 12), the far-right FPÖ 31 (down 20), the Greens 26 (up 26) and the liberal NEOS 15 (up five).
- The Law and Justice party is still likely to win the October 13 Polish election with a majority.
- For the October 21 Canadian election, the Liberals have 34.3% in the CBC Poll Tracker, the Conservatives 33.8%, the NDP 14.5%, the Greens 8.9% and the Quebec Bloc 5.5% – this is the first Liberal lead since February. Seat expectations are Liberals 153 of 338, Conservatives 139, Bloc 21, NDP 20 and Greens four.
- Donald Trump’s net approval is -12.2% with all polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, down 1.8% since last week’s article. I will have a Conversation article by Thursday on impeachment polling.