French legislative runoff elections live

Live commentary Monday morning. Also: two UK by-elections next Thursday, and Biden’s ratings are worse than Trump’s at the same point.

Live Commentary

8:30am Final French legislative results have a slightly bigger gain for National Rally than NUPES.

7:51am With nearly all seats in, Ensemble has 249, NUPES 135, National Rally 88, UDC 68 and left-wing overseas MPs 18. Ensemble and UDC will combined hold a majority of seats.

7:20am With 515 of 577 seats in, Ensemble has 219, NUPES 115, National Rally 86, UDC 66 and there are 18 overseas left-wing MPs.

6:49am There was also a Spanish regional election in Andalusia on Sunday. With 93% counted, the conservative Popular Party has increased from 26 seats at the 2018 election to 57 seats and an outright majority, so they won’t need the far-right VOX to govern.

6:42am While Ensemble has lost its majority, the far-right as well as the left are making big gains. Final results projections have 89 for National Rally and 149 for NUPES.

6:21am Going into this election, Ensemble held 347 seats, NUPES 58, UDC 120 and National Rally just seven. So National Rally has increased its seats already ten-fold.

6:11am Monday With 404 of the 577 seats in, Macron’s Ensemble has won 177, the far-right National Rally 73, the left-wing NUPES 69 and the conservative UDC 60. The last seats will be from urban France, and should favour the left and Ensemble. There are alsi 18 for left-wing overseas MPs.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The first round of the French legislative elections occurred last Sunday. President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance won 25.75% of the overall vote, with the left-wing NUPES alliance led by the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon just behind with 25.66%. The far-right Marine Le Pen’s National Rally had 18.7% and a conservative alliance (UDC) 11.3%.

To win outright in the first round, a candidate needed at least 50% of valid votes and at least 25% of registered voters. With just a 47.5% national turnout, only five of the 577 seats were decided in the first round – four NUPES and one Ensemble. Runoff elections are today, with all polls closed by 4am Monday AEST.

To qualify for the runoff, a candidate had to either make the top two in a seat, or receive at least 12.5% of registered voters for that seat. With low turnout, the second requirement would be difficult for third and lower candidates, and the vast majority of seats will be contested between the top two first round candidates.

Polls suggest that, while Ensemble will fall from its current 347 seats, they will go close to winning an overall majority (289 seats). If Ensemble falls short, they could ally with UDC. NUPES will increase from its current 58 seats to be easily the largest opposition party with around 170 seats.

June 23 UK by-elections: Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton

UK parliamentary by-elections will occur next Thursday in two Conservative-held seats. Both seats were vacated owing to misbehaviour by the incumbent MPs, with the Wakefield MP resigning after a conviction for child sexual assault, while the Tiverton & Honiton MP was caught watching porn in parliament.

Wakefield was held by Labour from 1932 until the Conservatives won it in 2019, while T&H has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1997. Labour will be the main challenger in Wakefield and the Lib Dems in T&H. Two polls in Wakefield have Labour winning by 20 and 23 points; I have not seen any polls in T&H.

If Labour wins Wakefield, I believe it would be their first gain at a by-election since Corby in November 2012. In a sign that by-election results are overread by the political class, the Conservatives regained Corby at the 2015 general election, and have held it since.

Boris Johnson won a confidence vote among Conservative MPs on June 6, but losses in both by-elections could put him back in danger. Labour nationally holds a high single digit lead, but I think this is because of inflation. UK inflation rose by 2.5% alone in April for a 12-month rate of 9.0%.

Biden’s ratings are worse than Trump at this point

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, US President Joe Biden’s ratings are currently 54.2% disapprove, 39.8% approve (net -14.4). He currently has the worst ratings of any polled president at this point in their presidencies, and that includes Donald Trump. Inflation is a major problem in the US too.

Last Tuesday, Republicans won a federal by-election in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley in Texas; it’s the first time Republicans have won a seat in this region since 2010.

US redistricting after the 2020 Census is nearly finished. There are 203 Republican-leaning Congressional Districts out of 429 completed CDs, 196 Democratic-leaning and 40 competitive, with changes from the previous maps of Democrats up six, competitive down six and Republicans steady. The final remaining state is Louisiana (six CDs), which will probably b 5-1 Republican.

A few months ago, Democrats were doing much better, but were undermined when their New York gerrymander was rejected by state courts, while a Republican gerrymander of Florida was sustained.

Boris Johnson no-confidence vote: 3am to 5am Tuesday AEST

Will Boris Johnson be ousted as UK Prime Minister tonight? Can the left win the French legislative elections?

6:04am Tuesday AEST: Boris Johnson WINS the confidence vote by 211 votes to 148. Theoretically, he’s now safe from further challenge for a year, but this rule could be changed. In percentage terms, that’s a 58.8-41.2 victory for Johnson.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee, announced Monday morning UK time that at least 54 Conservative MPs (15% of the total number of parliamentary Conservative MPs) had sent letters to him expressing no-confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership.

A full vote of all Conservative MPs will be held between 6pm and 8pm Monday UK time (3am to 5am Tuesday AEST).  If Johnson loses, he will be replaced as PM once a new Conservative leader is elected.  If he wins, he’s theoretically safe for a year. Results will be announced soon after the vote finishes.

On May 19, UK police completed their investigation into Partygate and issued 126 fines, but Boris Johnson did not receive additional fines; he was fined once in April.  The Sue Gray report into Partygate was finally published May 25.

Parliamentary by-elections will occur in Conservative-held Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton on June 23.  Wakefield was Labour from 1932 until the Conservatives won in 2019, while T&H has been Conservative since its creation in 1997.  A poll in Wakefield gave Labour a 48-28 lead over the Conservatives (47-40 to Conservatives at the 2019 election).

National polls currently have Labour leading by high single digits.  UK inflation has risen 9% in the 12 months to April, the highest in 40 years.  I believe this is far more important in explaining the Conservatives’ polling woes than Partygate, and I don’t believe another leader would be doing much better than Johnson with inflation this high.

French legislative elections: June 12 and 19

In April, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected as French president, defeating the far-right Marine Le Pen by 58.5-41.5 in the runoff.  Legislative elections will be held in two rounds on June 12 and 19.  There are 577 single-member seats with Macron’s Renaissance party currently holding a clear majority.

To win outright in the first round, a candidate must win at least 50% of valid votes and at least 25% of registered voters in that seat.  If no candidate wins outright, the second round will include the top two first round finishers and any other candidate who won at least 12.5% of registered voters (note: not valid votes). 

The candidate who wins the most votes in the second round is the winner.  In practice, the large majority of second round contests will have just two candidates as it is hard to qualify from third given relatively low turnout.  Third candidates can also be pressured into withdrawing before the runoff.

At this election, four parties of the left (the far-left La France Insoumise, the Greens, the centre-left Socialists and the Communists) have united into NUPES, and will field only one candidate per seat.  Most polls have Macron’s Ensemble coalition leading or just behind NUPES. 

In the second round, most votes of excluded candidates (right-wing mostly) would go to Ensemble over NUPES, so Ensemble would retain its legislative majority if these polls are correct.  However, support for the far-left Jean Luc Mélenchonwas understated in the first round of the presidential election.  Are the polls understating NUPES?

Other developments

At the June 2 election in Canada’s most populous province of Ontario, the Conservatives were re-elected with 83 of the 124 seats, with the left-wing New Democrats winning 31, the centre-left Liberals eight and the Greens one.  Vote shares were 40.8% Conservative, 23.9% Liberals, 23.7% NDP and 6.0% Greens, so 53.6% for the combined left became just 32% of seats owing to split voting under first past the post.

At the May 15 election in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the conservative CDU won 35.7% (up 2.8% since 2017), the centre-left SPD 26.7% (down 4.6%), the Greens 18.2% (up 11.8%), the pro-business FDP 5.9% (down 6.7%) and the far-right AfD 5.4% (down 1.9%).  With 5% required for a proportional share of seats, the SPD and Greens combined won 95 of the 198 seats, three short of the 98 needed for a majority.

At the May 9 Philippine presidential election, Bongbong Marcos, the son of the former dictator, won 58.8% of the vote, and his nearest rival won just 27.9%.

I have been writing articles pro bono for The Conversation since 2013.  They have now offered me a job as an election analyst that began June 2.  Note the update to the bio info that comes with every article I do here.

French presidential runoff election live

Emmanuel Macron has a large poll lead over Marine Le Pen before today’s runoff election. Live commentary Monday morning. Also: a preview of the May 5 UK local elections

Live Commentary

10:42am Final results: Macron wins by 58.5-41.5; that 17-point margin is well down from his 32.2-point (66.1-33.9) margin against Le Pen in 2017, but better than polls expected. Turnout was 72.0%, with valid votes at 65.8% of registered due to people intentionally voiding their votes. Next in France: the June 12 and 19 legislative elections.

8:41am With 97% counted, Macron leads by 57.4-42.6.

7:27am Last 2% are big for Macron. He now leads by 56.3-43.7 with 88% counted.

7:07am With 86% counted, Macron leads by 55.7-44.3

5:59am With 66% counted in official results, Macron leads by 53.3-46.7. That gap will widen as more cities report.

5:55am Monday According to this final results projection, Macron wins by almost 59-41, a bigger margin than polls estimated.

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.

All polls will be closed by 4am Monday AEST for the French presidential runoff election between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen. Ten final polls have been released, ranging from a 53-47 Macron lead up to 57-43.

Unless the polls understate the far-right in France by nearly as much as they did in the April 3 Hungarian election, Macron will win, though well down from his 66.1-33.9 2017 margin against Le Pen. French polls overstated the far-right in both the first round of this election and in 2017.

Le Figaro has a graphic showing how supporters of eliminated first round candidates are breaking between Macron, Le Pen and abstain. Far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon had 22.0% in the first round, and Macron is getting 34% of his votes, Le Pen 21% and abstain 45%. Le Pen gets 82% from the more far-right Éric Zemmour (7.1% in the first round), with Macron doing well from the Greens (4.6%) and winning a plurality from conservative Valérie Pécresse (4.8%).

May 5 UK local and Northern Ireland assembly elections

UK local government elections will occur on May 5. All London borough councils will be up for election, as will all Scottish and Welsh councils. At the 2021 local elections, the Conservatives defeated Labour by 36-29 with 17% for the Liberal Democrats, according to the BBC’s projected national share (PNS) that estimates a national outcome from council results.

Most seats to be contested in England were last up in 2018, when Labour and the Conservatives were tied at 35% each with 16% Lib Dems according to PNS. Current national polls have Labour leading the Conservatives by about five points, so Labour should gain councillors. It should help Labour that a large number of councils up for election are in London. A very bad performance by the Conservatives could again threaten Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister.

The Northern Ireland assembly election will also be held May 5. There are 90 members, with the Hare-Clark system used in 18 five-member electorates. Some contentious matters require a majority within both the Irish nationalists and British unionist blocs as well as an overall majority. Current polls have the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party. If Sinn Féin wins more votes and seats than any other party, it would be the first time a nationalist party had done this since the first assembly election in 1998.

Other recent European elections

Tiny Malta has become something rare today – a stronghold for the centre-left. Labour won its third successive term on March 26, defeating the opposition Nationalists by a vote share of 55.1-41.7, and 38 seats to 29.

At the March 27 German Saarland state election, the centre-left SPD won 43.5% (up 13.9% from 2017), the conservative CDU 28.5% (down 12.2%), the far-right AfD 5.7%, the Greens 4.995% and the pro-business FDP 4.8%. As the Greens and FDP missed the 5% threshold required for a proportional allocation of seats, the SPD won a majority with 29 of the 51 seats. There will be a much bigger German state election in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 15.

At the April 3 Serbian elections, the populist SNS, which has governed since 2012, easily retained the presidency, but lost 60 parliamentary seats to be left short of a majority with 120 of the 250 seats.

French presidential runoff election minus two days

Emmanuel Macron has a large poll lead over Marine Le Pen before Sunday’s runoff election. Also covered: US and UK developments

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.

The French presidential runoff election will occur Sunday, with all polls closed by 4am Monday AEST.  Incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen will contest this election after finishing top two in the first round.  Polls have Macron leading by about 56-44, up from 52-48 before the first round.  An almost three hour TV debate between Macron and Le Pen occurred early Thursday morning AEST; polls don’t yet account for any debate impact.

In the April 10 first round, Macron was first with 27.8%, with Le Pen winning the second runoff spot with 23.2%.  The far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon was a close third with 22.0%, followed by the more far-right Éric Zemmour with 7.1%, conservative Valérie Pécresse with 4.8% and the Greens’ Yannick Jadot with 4.6%.

In my results commentary, I said that polls understated Mélenchon (by about five points) and overstated the other right-wing candidates (Zemmour and Pécresse).  On this basis, it’s more likely that the polls are understating Macron than overstating him; he was understated at the 2017 election.

The first round was a terrible result for the two former French major parties, with Pécresse a distant fifth and barely ahead of the Greens, while the Socialist candidate won just 1.7%.  If Macron wins this election, he will be term limited in 2027, so can the former majors recover, or will 2027 be a contest between far-right and far-left candidates?

US and UK developments

Joe Biden’s ratings remain in negative double digits in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, with 52.6% currently disapproving and 41.9% approving (net -10.7).  US inflation was up 1.2% in March alone, and up 8.5% in the 12 months to March.  As a result, real weekly earnings dropped 1.1% in March and are down 3.6% in the 12 months to March.

Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican legislature had disagreed over redistricting of Florida’s 28 Congressional Districts.  But the legislature yielded to DeSantis, and his map is likely to be approved this week.  This map would give Republicans 18 seats, Democrats eight and competitive two, with changes from the current 27-seat map of Republicans up four and competitive down three.  There’s speculation that DeSantis could run for president in 2024.

The Conservatives continue to drop in the UK polls, with Labour now leading by about eight points  Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by the police over Partygate, with those fines revealed April 12.  Neither has resigned.  Sunak, who was once very popular, had a 62-32 poor rating for being chancellor in a DeltaPoll while 69% said cost of living was an important problem facing them, far higher than the 31% for the next ranking economy.  UK local council elections will be held May 5.

A parliamentary by-election will occur in Wakefield after the Conservative MP resigned following a conviction for child sexual assault.  Wakefield had been Labour-held since 1932 before they lost it in 2019 on a 47.3-39.8 Conservative margin with 6.1% Brexit party and 3.9% Liberal Democrats.  At the 2016 Brexit referendum, Wakefield voted Leave by 62.6-37.4.

Australian electorate maps

William Bowe covered my electorate maps for The Conversation on Thursday.  They are different to most maps in that darker red or blue colours are used for safer Labor and Coalition seats.  The Conversation’s graphics editor created the maps, but it’s my commentary.

French first round presidential election live

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen likely to advance to April 24 runoff, as Macron’s runoff slide continues. Commentary on results Monday morning.

Live Commentary

9:21am Tuesday Final first round results: 27.8% Macron, 23.2% Le Pen, 22.0% Melenchon, 7.1% Zemmour and 4.8% Pecresse, who finished just ahead of the Greens’ Jadot (4.6%). Macron and Le Pen advance to the April 24 runoff, with Macron the clear favourite.

12:01pm Narrowing of the Le Pen Melenchon gap with 97% still in. Now 27.6% Macron, 23.4% Le Pen and 22.0% Melenchon. I believe this reflects late counting from Paris.

11:35am Very slow counting of the final votes, but with 97% in, Macron has 27.4%, Le Pen 24.0% and Melenchon 21.7%.

8:16am With 88% counted, Macron leads with 27.4%, Le Pen has 24.9% and Melenchon 20.5%. The Le Pen-Melenchon gap is expected to close further.

7:09am A new projection has Melenchon closing in on Le Pen; he now trails her by just 23.0% to 22.2%. These projections are of the final result.

6:55am Here are the official French results with 71% reporting. I don’t think Paris is in yet, so Macron’s lead over Le Pen will expand.

6:31am Hungarian results below updated to reflect final results, slightly improving the opposition’s position.

6:18am This is better for Macron than pre-election polls expected. He’s doing two points better (28% vs 26%), with Le Pen about as expected with 23%. Melenchon is about four points better than expected (21% vs 17%), Zemmour is on 7.3% vs around 9% expected, and Pecresse is on just 5.0% vs 8% expected. So the overall right-wing vote is far less than what the polls expected. On this basis, Macron is the clear favourite to win the April 24 runoff.

6:10am Monday This is a projection of final French results given current figures.

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.

The first round of the French presidential election is today, with all polls closed by 4am AEST Monday. The top two candidates will advance to an April 24 runoff. The abysmal polling at the April 3 Hungarian election could have implications for polling in other countries, so I will discuss Hungary first.

The far-right Fidesz crushed the united opposition by a 54.1-34.5 margin in the 93-seat proportional representation list. This 20-point margin far exceeded even the best polls for Fidesz, which gave it about a ten-point lead. The worst polls gave Fidesz just a 3-5 point lead, with a late poll tied.

Fidesz won the 106 first-past-the-post seats 87-19, on a vote margin of 52.5-36.9. Overall, Fidesz won 135 of the 199 seats (up two on 2018), the opposition 57 (down eight) and an extreme right party six by exceeding the 5% threshold for the PR seats. This is the fourth successive term for Fidesz since they were first elected in 2010.

Vladimir Putin congratulated Prime Minister Viktor Orbán after this crushing victory. As I wrote last time, Putin and Orbán have been decade-long friends.  The US Conservative Political Action Conference will convene in Hungary in May – far-right comradeship.

French polls

For the first round, incumbent Emmanuel Macron leads with about 26%, with the far-right Marine Le Pen on about 23% and the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon on about 17%. The more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse have continued to fade to below 10%. It’s unlikely but possible for Mélenchon to knock out Le Pen, with one poll having him just three points behind her.

An AtlasIntel poll conducted April 4-6 gave Le Pen a 50.5-49.5 runoff lead over Macron, but all other recent polls still give Macron a runoff lead, with the average at around 52-48 to Macron. French polls in 2017 understated Macron, but Hungarian polls badly understated the far-right. If candidates under or overperform their polls in the first round, that’s likely a clue as to which candidates will under or overperform in the runoff. Macron still beats Mélenchon by about 57-43.

I think the most important reason for Macron’s recent slump against Le Pen is inflation; people hate seeing price rises on food and petrol. This is an anti-incumbent factor that is probably assisting Labor in Australia’s federal election.

Other matters: Ukraine, the US, the UK and Pakistan

After Putin invaded Ukraine, the Russian ruble plunged against the US dollar owing to Western sanctions. But the ruble has now rebounded to where it was before the invasion began. As long as Western countries continue to buy Russian oil and gas, the sanctions are proving impotent.

Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed Thursday by the US Senate to replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court when he retires by early July. The vote was 53-47, with three Republicans joining all 50 Democrats. Jackson is the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but she replaces a left-wing judge and will make no difference to the 6-3 right majority.

Inflation has likely caused the UK Conservatives to again drop further behind Labour after recovering from Partygate, with Labour’s lead in recent polls up from low single to mid-single figures. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has come under scrutiny after revelations that his wife used a loophole to avoid paying tax. UK local elections will occur May 5.

Former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan became Prime Minister, but was defeated in a parliamentary no-confidence vote Saturday. The current opposition leader is likely to win a parliamentary vote Monday to become Pakistan’s next PM.

French presidential elections: April 10 and 24

Emmanuel Macron slumps in runoff polls against Marine Le Pen. Also covered: the Ukraine invasion, this Sunday’s Hungarian election and US and UK polls.

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.

French elections

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.

Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus two weeks

If conquered, Ukraine could have a terrible future. Plus latest polls and elections from the US, France, Hungary, South Korea and New Zealand.

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.

If Vladimir Putin eventually succeeds in conquering Ukraine, it’s plausible he will commit massive atrocities.  Conquerors can do this for two reasons: out of frustration at greater than expected resistance and as a warning to other potential conquests.

The Nazis are the most commonly cited evil government, and there is relatively little knowledge of other governments that committed atrocities.  I will give one example: the man-made Soviet famine.  There are also many examples in fantasy books, such as The Hunger Games.

This would not be the first time Ukraine has been subjected to Russian atrocities.  In 1932-33 there was a horrific famine that is estimated to have killed 4 to 7 million Ukrainians.  This famine was man-made, involving rejection of outside aid and confiscation of food.  There is scholarly dispute over whether this was intentional genocide by Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin, or reckless disregard for human life in the cause of industrialization.

Western sanctions are already damaging Russia economically, so I don’t think Putin will be restrained by fear of further sanctions.  The one thing Putin may fear is a direct military confrontation between the West and Russia, but the West is unlikely to get involved in this way for fear of provoking nuclear war.

With voters strongly supporting Western sanctions, and Ukraine resisting so far, incumbents have increased their support in the second week of the invasion, particularly France’s Emmanuel Macron.  But the increase in oil prices due to the sanctions will add to inflation, and if Ukraine falls, voters may ask why more wasn’t done militarily. 

US, French, Hungarian, South Korean and New Zealand elections and polls

51.6% currently disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, and 42.5% approve (net -9.1).  Biden’s net approval has improved 2.5 points since last week to his best since early January.  In redistricting news, the US Supreme Court rejected a Republican challenge to state court-drawn maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The first round of the French presidential election is April 10, with the runoff April 24.  In the last two weeks, Macron has surged from the mid 20s to the low 30s in first round polling, with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen on about 18% and now clearly ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse in the race for the second runoff spot.  There has been no runoff polling since last week, when Macron led Le Pen 56-44.

The Hungarian election is April 3.  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).  Fidesz is leading by a few points, but no polls have been conducted since the Ukraine invasion.

At Wednesday’s South Korean presidential election, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol defeated the centre-left Lee Jae-myung by a 48.6-47.8 margin; FPTP is used.  The conservatives retook the presidency after one five-year term for the left.  Yoon is an anti-feminist who has pledged to abolish the ministry for gender equality. 

A New Zealand Morgan poll, conducted in February, gave the conservative National 38%, the highest since January 2020 and an 11.5% increase since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins as National leader in late 2021.  National and the right-wing ACT now lead Labour and the Greens by 49.5-43, with just 32% supporting Labour.

Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus one week

Commentary on the invasion that began last Thursday, and a look at the polls since the invasion in the US, UK and France, where there are elections in April.

12:29pm Friday UK Labour has retained Birmingham Erdington at a by-election by a 55.5-36.3 margin over the Conservatives, up from 50-40 at the 2019 election. The Lib Dems and Greens had about 1% each.

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.

Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Historically, attempts to conquer sovereign countries have not been unusual. Alexander the Great and Napoleon are still famed as conquerors. The Roman empire did much conquering, and European colonial powers were very cruel to native populations. The UK’s Queen Elizabeth is the descendant of William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066.

Occasionally invasions by more powerful countries are repelled. Two examples from the UK are Scotland repelling England in the 14th century, and the UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2. But in most cases, the only feasible protection for smaller countries is to be allied to bigger powers that will fight if the smaller ones are invaded.

Putin’s gamble was that the West would not send major military equipment, such as tanks, warships and aircraft, to support Ukraine. Without this support, it is likely that weight of numbers will eventually allow Russia to conquer Ukraine. While sanctions will damage the Russian economy, they won’t stop the Russian tanks or artillery. In a drawn-out invasion, civilian casualties will be high.

I am sceptical that Ukraine will continue to resist if conquered. Tyrannical regimes are effective at brutally suppressing dissent. There isn’t news anymore about Chechnya, which rebelled against Russia in the 2000s.

The polling is not like the reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The only leader who has received a massive jump is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose approval surged 59 points since December to 91%.

US: Biden’s ratings down, 62% say invasion wouldn’t have occurred under Trump

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, 53.0% disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance and 41.5% approve (net -11.5). Biden’s net approval has dropped about one point since the invasion.

In a poll conducted at the start of the invasion, 62%, including 38% of Democrats, thought Putin would not have invaded had Donald Trump still been president. 59% thought Putin ordered the invasion because he saw weakness in Biden, while 41% thought Biden was not a factor.

I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue. It also continues to affect his ratings on eg the economy because voters have lost confidence in his competence.

In US redistricting news, courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have finalised new maps. The new NC map was created after courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, while Pennsylvanian courts resolved a dispute between the Democratic governor and Republican legislature. In Ohio, Republicans used their majority on a redistricting commission to pass a gerrymander, but it is likely to be rejected by state courts.

Overall, there are currently 179 Democratic-leaning seats in the FiveThirtyEight tracker, 171 Republican-leaning and 33 competitive. Democrats are up 11 seats from the old maps, Republicans down six and competitive down six.

Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the US Supreme Court. If confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate, Jackson will be the first Black woman Supreme Court judge. But she will replace a left-wing judge, and the 6-3 right majority will be retained.

France: a Macron vs Le Pen runoff more likely

The first round of the French presidential election will occur April 10, with a runoff April 24 between the top two. Since the Ukraine invasion, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has gained to be in the mid to high 20s from the mid 20s. The latest polls suggest the far-right Marine Le Pen has moved ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse.

Pécresse had appeared to be the most competitive runoff opponent for Macron, but the latest two runoff polls have Macron winning by about 60-40. Le Pen is now closest, with Macron leading her by about 56-44.

UK: Little change as Labour faces by-election

The Ukraine invasion has not changed the polls very much in the UK, with Labour ahead of the Conservatives by a low single digit margin, reflecting a continuing recovery for Boris Johnson from “Partygate”.

Polls close at 9am AEDT Friday for a by-election in Birmingham Erdington, which Labour won by a 50-40 margin over the Conservatives in 2019.