Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

11:24am Saturday A grim Survation poll for Labour in Batley and Spen, with the Tories leading Labour by 47-41.

11:06am Friday The Lib Dems have GAINED the UK Chesham and Amersham by-election from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%).

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.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.13-49.87 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.

UK local, Scottish and Welsh elections minus four days

Two polls have a sizeable swing back to Labour before Friday’s (AEST) elections. Also: Joe Biden’s ratings after 100 days and German election polls.

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.

UK local government elections will be held on Thursday, with polls closing at 7am Friday AEST. Elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments will also be held. Owing to COVID, no elections were held in 2020, so these elections will combine the normal 2021 with the rescheduled 2020 elections.

The key statistic for assessing the performance of the parties is the Projected National Share (PNS). This is calculated by assuming elections were held across the whole UK, correcting for bias in where elections were actually held.

In the 2016 cycle, which would normally have been up in 2020, the PNS was Labour 31%, Conservative 30%, Lib Dem 15% and UKIP 12%. In 2017, it was Conservative 38%, Labour 27% and Lib Dem 18%. The 2017 local elections were held a month before the 2017 general election at which the Conservatives lost their majority.

The Scottish and Welsh elections use first past the post with regional lists. Parties that win a large proportion of FPTP seats will earn few regional seats, so the system is far more proportional than the simple FPTP used at UK general elections and most councils.

National UK polls currently give the Conservatives about 42%, Labour 35%, the Lib Dems 8% and the Greens 5%. In the last week, two polls have shown a shift to Labour, with the Conservative lead in Survation dropping from six points to one, and in Opinium from 11 points to five. This narrowing has not been replicated in all polls. If it is real, perhaps it is attributable to PM Boris Johnson’s recent scandals.

In Scotland, the Britain Elects tracker has the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 62 of the 129 seats, three short of a majority. The Conservatives have 26 seats, Labour 25, the Greens 11 and Lib Dems five. This outcome would likely result in a continuation of the existing SNP/Green coalition. There has been a recent slide in SNP support in both FPTP and regional list polling, and No to independence has pulled ahead 51-49.

Labour is likely to remain the largest party at the Welsh election, though they will find it difficult to find a governing partner. In other important contests, Labour’s Sadiq Khan is certain to retain London’s mayoralty. There is also a Westminster by-election in Labour-held Hartlepool. In 2019, Labour would probably have lost Hartlepool, which they have held since 1964, if not for vote splitting between the Conservatives and Brexit party.

After first 100 days, Biden has 54% approval rating

It is 102 days since Joe Biden began his term as US president on January 20. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings with all polls are 54.0% approve, 41.1% disapprove (net +12.9%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Biden’s ratings are 53.8% approve, 42.0% disapprove (net +11.8%). For the duration of his presidency, Biden’s approval has been between 53% and 55%.

FiveThirtyEight has ratings of presidents since Harry Truman (president from 1945-53). At this stage of their presidencies, Biden’s net approval is only ahead of Donald Trump and Gerald Ford (who took over after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974).

The US economy, boosted by stimulus payments, appears to be recovering very well from COVID, but attempted illegal immigration has surged since Biden became president. The key question is how Biden’s ratings look at the November 2022 midterms, when the president’s party normally loses seats.

Democrats performed badly at a federal House by-election in Texas on Saturday. Trump beat Biden by just three points in this district, but Republicans overall crushed Democrats 62-37. Democrats failed to make the top two, meaning the runoff will be R vs R.

Greens narrowly lead CDU/CSU in Germany

In January the moderate Armin Laschet won the CDU leadership, but was challenged for the joint leadership of the CDU/CSU by the CSU’s Markus Söder. The CSU only runs in the state of Bavaria, and is regarded as more right-wing than the CDU. On April 19, the CDU’s federal board ruled in Laschet’s favour by 31-9.

Since this vote, the Greens have surged into the mid to high 20’s, while the CDU/CSU has fallen to the low 20’s. Overall, the left-wing parties (Greens, Social Democrats and Left) are a little ahead of the right-wing parties (CDU/CSU, far-right AfD and pro-business FDP). Will this polling movement hold up until the German election on September 26? Germany uses proportional representation with a 5% threshold.

Israeli election minus four days, Germany and Ireland

Monday’s third Israeli election in a year will probably result in another stalemate. Also covered: the recent German political crisis and Sinn Féin surges in an Irish poll. 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.

There are global electoral events happening outside the US. On Monday, the day before the US Super Tuesday primaries, Israel will hold its third election in a year, after no government could be formed following April and September 2019 elections. This was due to Yisrael Beiteinu leaving right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. While Yisrael Beiteinu will not govern with the religious right parties (Shas and the UTJ), neither will they form a government with the Arab parties (the Joint List).

The 120 members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, are elected by national proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. For most of this election campaign, polls gave the left-leaning Blue & White (B&W) a lead over Netanyahu’s Likud, but three of the last four polls have given Likud a narrow lead.

In Israel, overall alliances are more important than major party support. Even with the recent increase for Likud, the right bloc has 56-57 seats, short of the 61 needed for a majority. The left bloc (B&W, Labor and the Joint List) has 55-57 seats. The most likely outcome is therefore that Yisreal Beiteinu again holds the balance of power, but cannot work with either side.

Many people on the Israeli left thought this election would be different after Netanyahu’s indictment in November on fraud and bribery charges. But there have been many scandals involving Donald Trump and Boris Johnson that have had no impact on their popularity. It appears that the economy and other factors are more important to most voters than political scandals.

Israeli polls close at 7am Tuesday AEDT.

German political crisis in Thuringia

On my personal website, I covered the recent German political crisis in Thuringia, in which the far-right AfD and conservative CDU supported a small pro-business party’s leader to become state president. It is the first time that any German party has cooperated with the AfD to form government. While it caused the resignation of the CDU’s presumed candidate for Chancellor at the next federal election, there has been little impact on German federal polling.

I also covered two late January regional elections in Italy. The left held one region, but the right gained control of the other. In Taiwan, the centre-left candidate won a landslide at January’s presidential election.

Left-wing parties had a massive victory at the German Hamburg state election on Sunday, with a combined 72% of the vote. Hamburg was left-skewed compared to the overall German results at the last federal election.

Sinn Féin surges to 35% in an Irish poll

An Irish poll, taken after the February 8 election gave Sinn Féin a shock popular vote lead, suggests the party would win 35% if no government can be formed and a new election is required. The two conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, that have dominated Irish politics, would respectively win just 17% and 18%. This would be a swing of over 10% to Sinn Féin. If replicated at an election, Ireland would have its first left-wing government.

German election discussion thread

A thread for discussion of tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Germany, where Angela Merkel’s conservatives look to be cruising to a fourth term.

Germany goes to the polls tomorrow, with all the polling evidence suggesting that the only point at issue is exactly what form Angela Merkel’s new government will take. Her Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union has persistently maintained a huge lead over the Social Democratic Party since a brief honeymoon for the latter’s leader, Martin Schulz, fizzled out earlier this year. The minor players should continue to include the Greens, the hard left Die Linke, the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party – and Germany’s relatively modest contribution to anti-immigration populist politics wave, Alternative für Deutschland. Beyond that I don’t have much to offer, but here’s a thread for discussion.

Deutschland wählt

A quick overview and a place to discuss today’s German national election, at which Angela Merkel seeks a third term as Chancellor.

Voting is in progress as we speak in Germany, where Angela Merkel seeks a third term as chancellor, an office she assumed in 2005. The election night timetable in Germany looks pretty similar to our own, with polling stations to close at 6pm (2am Australian eastern standard time), followed immediately by the publication of exit polls. The first results should come in within half an hour, with a clear picture to emerge a few hours later.

Germany’s elections are conducted under the “mixed-member proportional” system that has more-or-less been copied wholesale by New Zealand, the upshot of which is that representation will be proportional among parties which clear a 5% threshold. Voters elect local constituency representatives to the Bundestag, but these seats are “topped up” with party list seats so as to produce a proportional result. As in New Zealand, there is a slight element of messiness in the system in that it is possible for a party to win more constituency seats than its national support entitles it to, resulting in what is known to German as überhangmandaten and to English as “overhang seats”. Their effect is to create variability in the number of seats in the Bundestag, the number after the 2009 election being 622 from a base of 598.

The parties which will most certainly clear the 5% threshold are the ruling Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union; its main opponent, the Social Democratic Party (whose candidate is Peer Steinbrück); and two parties of the left, the Greens and “Die Linke” (The Left). Straddling the exclusion threshold is the Free Democratic Party, who as free-market liberals are natural allies of the CDU/CSU, and the new Euro-sceptic party Alternative for Germany. The FDP has crashed badly over the past term and appears set for its worst performance since its establishment after the war. Die Linke is in part the descendant of the ruling party of East Germany, which makes it too “linke” for an alliance with the Social Democrats.

A clear change of government would thus involve the Social Democrats and the Greens collectively achieving a majority or something close to it, which with the Social Democrats polling in the low to mid-20s and the Greens looking at about 10% is fairly clearly not in prospect. Realistic outcomes are thus either a continuation of the current centre-right coalition between the CDU/CSU and the FDP, or a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats such as was formed when Angela Merkel first came to power after the 2005 election, in which half of the sixteen cabinet seats went to the Social Democrats. With the CDU/CSU polling at around 40%, the clearance or otherwise of the threshold by the FDP could well decide the outcome between the two alternative scenarios. Given the state of the polling, it would take a big surprise for the Social Democrats to be in a position to assume seniority in a grand coalition.

My favourite online interactive toy in relation to the election is this effort from Der Spiegel, providing a constituency-level display of federal election results going back the first post-war election in West Germany in 1949. The best place to follow the results would look to be Deutsche Welle.