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.