Brexit, Israeli election results and upcoming elections

Latest Brexit developments, stalemate in Israel and previews of elections in Austria, Portugal, Poland and Canada. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

Boris Johnson said he wants a deal with the European Union, but has also said that if there is not a deal, he will ignore parliament’s legislation, and break free of the EU like “the Incredible Hulk”. Courts in Northern Ireland and England upheld parliament’s prorogation, but a Scottish court rejected it. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by next week. Polls in the last week gave the Conservatives nine-point or better leads, except for ComRes (just a one-point Conservative lead).

The key question is whether Johnson is serious about coming to a feasible deal with the EU, or is he pretending so he can blame the EU and parliament once talks collapse? A feasible deal would be attacked by Nigel Farage and hard Leave Conservative MPs, and be unlikely to pass parliament, which three times easily rejected Theresa May’s deal.

The remainder of this article will be a recap of the Israeli election, then previews of elections in Austria (September 29), Portugal (October 6), Poland (October 13) and Canada (October 21). Except for Canada, all these countries use proportional representation.

Neither side wins Israeli election 

The 120 Knesset members were elected by proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. At the September 17 election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud won 31 seats, one behind the left-leaning Blue & White. With potential allies, Netanyahu had 55 seats, to 56 for the opposition.

Yisrael Beiteinu (YB), with nine seats, is the kingmaker. Netanyahu failed to form a government after the April 2019 election because YB advocated introducing conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, which religious parties opposed. YB’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, said prior to the election that he would only join a Likud and Blue & White government. Neither the left nor the right can claim victory in this election.

Austria (September 29) 

Austria uses proportional representation with a 4% threshold. At the October 2017 election, the conservative ÖVP and far-right FPÖ formed government, having won a clear majority of seats. In May, this government collapsed after the FPÖ leader was accused of collusion with a Russian oligarch, and new elections were scheduled.

Polls have the ÖVP leading with 35.5%, followed by the centre-left SPÖ at 21.6%, the FPÖ at 19.8%, the Greens at 10.9% and the liberal NEOS at 8.5%. The ÖVP would prefer to govern with NEOS, but it is unlikely that these parties will have enough seats. The alternatives are another ÖVP/FPÖ government, or a grand coalition, which had governed prior to the 2017 election.

Portugal (October 6)

Portugal uses proportional representation at the regional level; bigger parties win a greater share of seats than their national votes imply. After the October 2015 election, the Socialists formed a minority government supported by the Left Bloc, Communists and Greens.

There has been a trend towards right-wing and far-right parties internationally, but Portugal is the exception. The Socialists have 39.6% in the polls, the combined vote for conservative parties is just 24.5% and other left-wing parties have a combined 24.1%. The only question, given the bonus for big parties, is whether the Socialists win a majority in their own right.

Poland (October 13)

Poland uses proportional representation in multi-member constituencies with a 5% national threshold for single parties and 8% for coalitions. At the October 2015 election, the Law and Justice (PiS) party won a majority on just 37.6%, as the centre-left coalition fell below the 8% threshold and was wiped out. While socially conservative and anti-immigrant, PiS is economically left-wing.

Polls for this election give PiS 45% of the vote, followed by a coalition of right and left-wing parties on 27% and a centre-left coalition on 13%. It is likely that PiS will win another majority, but the centre-left should return to parliament.

Canada (October 21)

Canada uses first-past-the-post. At the May 2011 election, the Conservatives won a majority on just 39.6% as left-wing parties split virtually all the remaining vote. Prior to the October 2015 election, which the centre-left Liberals won with a majority, current PM Justin Trudeau promised to reform the electoral system, but disappointingly he wimped out.

I will use CBC analyst Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker. This currently gives the Conservatives 34.4%, the Liberals 34.1%, the left-wing NDP 13.8%, the Greens 9.5% and the Quebec Bloc 4.4%. Although the two major parties are tied in vote share, the Liberals are expected to win 167 of the 338 seats, the Conservatives 139, NDP 16, Quebec Bloc 12 and Greens four.

Canadian election thread

Stephen Harper’s three-term Conservative government faces defeat in today’s Canadian election, if the polls are accurate – although in Canada, that’s often not the case.

Canada’s national election takes place today, and it appears Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has the odds stacked against it as it seeks a fourth term in the face of a resurgent Liberal Party. Polls will close progressively from the east of the country to the west between 10am and 1pm Sydney and Melbourne time. Bowing to modern realities, Canada has repealed a law that banned reporting of results on provinces where voting was still under way, so the count will fold in a manner broadly familiar in Australia, with the earliest results to be reported from the eastern provinces and the thickest flow coming about an hour or two later on.

The opinion poll industry in Canada hasn’t been in particularly good form in recent years, having seriously underestimated the Conservative vote at the last federal election in 2011, and badly miscalled provincial elections in British Columbia in 2013 and Alberta in 2012. For what it’s worth though, poll aggregators suggest the most likely outcome is that Harper will make way for a minority government under Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who bears the most famous name in Canadian politics as the son of Pierre Trudeau, the longest-serving prime minister of the modern era. The Liberals are of the left to the extent that they are the traditional party of government that’s not the Conservatives, but they also have to reckon with the rivalry of the trade union-backed New Democratic Party, whose breakthrough performance in 2011 reduced the Liberals to third place. The picture has also been complicated in recent decades by the notional separatists of the Bloc Québécois, although they appear not to have recovered from the drubbing they copped on their home turf of Quebec at the hands of the NDP in 2011.

The projections of CBC News and the Toronto Star suggest the Liberals stand to win around 145 seats, leaving them about 20 short of an absolute majority in a chamber that is growing from 308 to 338 seats. The Conservatives are well behind on around 120, while the NDP appears set to return to its traditional third party status with about 70 seats. So far as vote shares go, the Conservatives have spent the two-month campaign stuck in the low thirties, putting them well below the 39.6% that secured them a bare majority in 2011. The big story has been the consolidation of the anti-Conservative vote behind the Liberal Party – a remarkable achievement, given that they started about 10% behind the NDP. The Liberals gained steadily from the beginning of the official campaign period in August and moved ahead of the NDP around the time of the final debate on October 2, which triggered a snowball effect as tactical voters sided with the party best placed to defeat the Conservatives.

This points to the fact that Canada retains a British-style single-member first-past-the-post electoral system, tailored to fit a two-party system that neither country still possesses. In the absence of preferential voting, the hopes of the struggling Conservatives rest on Liberal-NDP vote-splitting enabling them to secure victories from a low share of the vote. Not surprisingly, the Liberals are making an issue out of electoral reform, promising an all-party committee to review alternatives to first-past-the-post. Prominently featured in the discussion are the alternative vote, otherwise known as optional preferential voting, and proportional representation by single transferable vote, the electoral system of choice for Australia’s upper houses.

Further Australian perspectives on the election are offered by Charles Richardson and Antony Green.

Canadian election: May 2

Canadians go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to grant a third term to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who have been in minority government since 2006. The Conservatives currently have 143 of the parliament’s 308 seats, with their main rivals the Liberals on 77, the separatist Bloc Quebecois on 47 out of the 75 seats in Quebec, and the leftist New Democratic Party on 36. The current election campaign has produced a major astonishment in the polls, which after pointing to a roughly status quo result at the start of the campaign have had the NDP rocketing into second place at the expense of the withering Liberals. Localised polls also show the NDP taking the lead over BQ in Quebec. The precise impact of such shifts in terms of seats would require an expertise on matters Canadian which I cannot claim. Nonetheless, there is serious discussion of the prospect of an NDP-led coalition with the Liberals, granting the prime ministership to the party’s leader Jack Layton rather than Liberal Opposition Leader, Michael Ignatieff (a circumstance with many precedents at provincial level, but not federally). Failing that, they might at least displace the Liberals as the official opposition. The latter result would seem to my untrained eye to be a lot more likely: surely any split in the left-centre vote will prove a boon to the Conservatives, who monopolise the right. It is also tempting to recall that the Liberal Democrats went into last year’s British election with expectations nearly as lofty as those of the NDP, only to be disappointed on polling day.

Canadian election minus four days

In the interests of Anglosphere outreach (with apologies to our friends in Quebec), here is a thread for discussion of Tuesday’s Canadian election. Conservative leader Stephen Harper has headed a minority government in Canada since the defeat of Paul Martin’s Liberal government at the January 2006 election, and has called an early election in the hope of securing a majority. However, recent polling suggests his party’s vote has softened from the high to the low thirties, slightly lower than where it was at the 2006 election. The Conservatives currently have 127 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons (lower house) against 95 for the opposition Liberal Party, led by Stéphane Dion. On the cross-benches are Bloc Québécois (48 seats), the New Democratic Party (30 seats), the Green Party (one seat) and three independents. Canada has a single-member electoral system, but lacks the even geographical spread of party support that enshrines the two-party system in Australia. In particular, the separatist Bloc Québécois usually polls over 40 per cent of the vote in its home province, and holds a majority of its 75 seats. Canada also has a Senate, but it is unelected and has only residual powers.