New Zealand election minus seven-and-a-half weeks

Right likely to win October 14 NZ election. Also: right likely to win October 22 Argentine election and a UK by-election in an SNP-held seat.

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 New Zealand election will occur on October 14. The 120 MPs are elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins one of the 72 single-member seats; these single-member seats include seven seats for electors on the Māori roll.

The 48 “list” seats are used to ensure proportionality; parties that win many single-member seats win few list seats. Electors have two votes: one for their electorate and one for their party, and it is the party vote that matters most. There can be more than 120 MPs (an “overhang”) if a party wins more single-member seats than their total entitlement given their party vote.

Current polls give the two main right-wing parties (National and ACT) high 40s support, and they are well ahead of the two main left-wing parties (Labour and the Greens), who have high 30s to low 40s. Three recent polls have the populist NZ First above the 5% threshold needed to win seats, while the Māori party is expected to win seats even if below the threshold by winning Māori-roll electorates.

A National and ACT government is the most likely outcome, but the right may need support from NZ First. Support for Labour has dropped recently, with the July 24 resignation of Labour MP Kiri Allan as Justice Minister after being arrested for careless driving and resisting police unhelpful.

Far-right candidate tops vote in Argentine primary

Legislative and presidential elections will be held in Argentina on October 22, with a November 19 presidential runoff if no candidate wins at least 45%, or at least 40% and is at least 10% ahead of their nearest opponent. Primary elections to choose the parties’ candidates occurred on August 13. As voting is compulsory, the overall vote shares for the parties are seen as good guides to the outcome of the October vote.

Far-right candidate Javier Milei’s party topped the primary poll with 30.0%, followed by the conservative Together for Change with 28.3% and the centre-left incumbent Union for the Homeland with 27.3%. Milei is an admirer of Donald Trump and has called climate change a “socialist lie”.

Argentina has been suffering from over 100% inflation. If these results were repeated in October, the centre-left candidate would finish third, and the runoff would be between two right-wingers. Even if the centre-left candidate makes the runoff, it’s likely a right-winger will win.

UK by-election to come in SNP-held seat

Former Scottish National Party MP Margaret Ferrier broke COVID rules in 2020 and was suspended from parliament for 30 days. An MP can be recalled if suspended for at least ten days. It takes at least 10% of registered voters in a seat for a successful recall. The recall petition closed on July 31, with 14.7% signing it, so Ferrier was recalled.

Ferrier won’t contest the resulting by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. As parliament is in recess until September, the by-election won’t be before October 5. In 2019, the SNP defeated Labour in Rutherglen by 44.2-34.5 with 15.0% Conservatives and 5.2% Liberal Democrats.

Briefly: US, Spain, Ecuador and Guatemala

Despite his indictments, Trump remains way ahead in the Republican national presidential primary polls. The primaries will begin in early 2024, and a general election rematch between Trump and Joe Biden in November 2024 remains very likely. I covered the US elections for The Conversation in June, and little has changed since.

There’s still no resolution to the July 23 Spanish election, in which the two main right-wing parties (People’s and Vox) won 170 of the 350 seats and the two main left-wing parties (Socialists and Sumar) won 152. With the right short of the 176 needed for a majority, mostly left-wing regionalist hold the balance of power. The Junts party (seven seats) is seen as the kingmaker.

At Sunday’s Ecuadorian presidential first round election, the left-wing González (with 33.6%) and the son of a tycoon, Noboa (with 23.4%) advanced to the October 15 runoff. This election was called early by the current conservative president to avoid impeachment, and the winner will only serve 1.5 years before a regular election in early 2025.

An anti-corruption campaigner won Sunday’s Guatemalan presidential election by more than 20 points over his runoff opponent.

UK by-elections and Spanish election minus eight to 11 days

Three UK by-elections in Conservative-held seats on July 20, and right expected to win July 23 Spanish election. Also covered: New Zealand polls and Greek election results.

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.

Boris Johnson resigned from the UK House of Commons on June 9. In this June 21 article for The Conversation that was mainly about Donald Trump’s post-indictment US polls, I said Johnson resigned as he would have been forced out by a recall petition after an unfavourable report from the privileges committee.

Johnson won his former seat of Uxbridge at the December 2019 election by a 52.6-37.6 margin over Labour with 6.3% for the Liberal Democrats. By-elections will occur in Uxbridge and two other Conservative-held seats on July 20: Selby & Ainsty and Somerton & Frome. In Selby, MP Nigel Adams resigned in protest at Johnson’s ouster. In Somerton, MP David Warburton resigned owing to allegations of sexual harassment.

At the 2019 election, the Conservatives won Somerton by 55.8-26.2 over the Lib Dems with 12.9% Labour and 5.1% Greens. They won Selby by 60.3-24.6 over Labour with 8.6% Lib Dems. These large seat wins were from overall vote shares at the 2019 election of 43.6% Conservative, 32.1% Labour and 11.6% Lib Dems.

In national polls, Labour currently has about a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, in contrast to the 11.5-point Conservative win in 2019. Labour’s lead has increased since Johnson’s resignation. Seat polls give Labour an eight-point lead in Uxbridge and a 12-point lead in Selby. The Lib Dems had huge swings in their favour at by-elections earlier this term.  These by-elections will be the first since February, and the first in a Conservative-held seat since June 2022 (when they lost two seats).

Right likely to win Spanish election

At the July 23 Spanish election, all 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies and 208 of the 266 seats in the Senate will be up for election. In the Congress, proportional representation (PR) by region is used with a 3% threshold for each region. Higher-population regions are assigned more seats, so Madrid has 37 seats. This system favours larger parties over the results using national PR. The Senate is elected using First Past the Post, with each mainland region getting four seats and islands one to three seats.

At the November 2019 election, the centre-left Socialists formed a governing coalition with the left-wing Podemos that was supported by regionalists. Podemos is running at this election as Sumar. Polling indicates the conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox are leading the Socialists and Sumar by single digit margins.

A win for the right in Spain would make it the second major European country to fall to the right after Italy last year. And in Germany the far-right AfD has been surging in the polls recently after the centre-left SPD, Greens and pro-business FDP formed a government following the September 2021 election. The next German election is due by October 2025.

NZ election: October 14

New Zealand uses national PR to elect its 120 parliamentarians with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member seat. With three months until the October 14 election, current polling suggests that the conservative National and right-wing ACT are leading the governing Labour and the Greens. While the left parties had a boost in support after Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as Labour leader and PM in January, that boost has faded. The Māori party are potential kingmakers with a recent Morgan poll giving them a record 7%, and they can avoid the 5% threshold by winning a Māori-only seat.

Second Greek election another disaster for left

After no party won a majority in the May Greek election, a second election was held June 25. National PR with a 3% threshold was used, but with a bonus seat system that had been removed at the May election. The conservative governing New Democracy (ND) won 40.6% (down 0.2% from May), the left-wing Syriza 17.8% (down 2.2%), the centre-left PASOK 11.8% (up 0.4%) and the Communists 7.7% (up 0.5%). Three far-right parties cleared the 3% threshold.

Twenty bonus seats were awarded to the party winning the most votes and one bonus seat per half a percent between 25% and 40%. ND won 50 bonus seats and 158 total seats out of 300, enough for a majority. Syriza won 47 seats, PASOK 32, the Communists 21 and three far-right parties won a combined 34 seats.

US debt limit deal: passage through Congress

Will Congress pass the debt limit deal before next Monday’s deadline? Also covered: it’s not looking good for the left in either New Zealand or Spain.

2:29pm The Senate’s roll call vote is now available. There’s no party summary, but just five of the 36 Nays came from Dems. So Dems (including three indies who usually caucus with them) voted in favour by 46-5, while Reps were opposed by 31-17. One Rep missed the vote. So 90% of Senate Dems but just 35% of Senate Reps were in favour of this debt limit deal. That’s much worse for McCarthy than the House vote.

2:11pm The bill has passed the Senate by a 63-36 margin, and now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature. And that’s the end of the 2023 debt limit crisis.

11:42am Friday It looks as if the US Senate could vote for final passage of the debt limit bill about 2pm AEST today (midnight US eastern). Senate leaders have told their colleagues there’s no time for the Senate’s usual delays.

3:57pm There was some drama, with 52 Dems voting for the rule that set the parameters for the debate on the debt limit bill. It’s very unusual for the minority party to give the majority any support on rule votes, but they had to or the rule would have failed owing to 29 Rep defections. The rule passed by 241-187, and there’s speculation a deal was cut between McCarthy and Dem House leader Hakeem Jeffries.

12:15pm The full roll call is now available. Reps voted in favour by 149-71, a 68% “yes” vote, and Dems by 165-46, a 78% “yes” vote. The overall “yes” percentage was 73%. Four missed the vote: two Reps and two Dems.

11:33am Thursday In the end there was no late drama regarding McCarthy’s speakership in the House, and the debt limit compromise bill has been passed by the House by a 314 to 117 margin.

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 US House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a 222-213 majority, is expected to vote on the debt limit compromise bill Thursday morning AEST. If this vote is held, I expect it will pass easily as the bill is only being criticized by the right, and Democratic support will make up for Republican defections.

There are two ways right-wing Republicans could derail this vote, both involving the ousting of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. First, they could attempt to show that McCarthy no longer has the confidence of a majority of House Republicans. Second, they could initiate a “motion to vacate” to the full House. Democrats would then be in the odd position of needing to vote to save McCarthy. If McCarthy were ousted, the House could not consider other business until a new Speaker was elected.

Cooperating with the opposition on a no-confidence vote is much harder in a parliamentary system, as, if it succeeds, the most likely outcome is a new election, not a more right-wing leader. But neither chamber of the US Congress can be dissolved early.

If the bill passes the House, it must still be approved by the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority. The Senate can only act quickly if unanimous consent is provided. If even one of the 100 senators is bloody-minded enough to deny unanimous consent to every motion, it will cause major delays. This US ABC article says it could take a week to pass the Senate, and names Republican Mike Lee as someone who could deny unanimous consent. If that occurred, the Senate would not pass the bill until after next Monday’s deadline.

From a tactical perspective, I believe the right’s anger with McCarthy is justified. Democrats made a major blunder by not lifting the debt limit while they still held control of the presidency, House and Senate prior to January 3 this year. As I related on the previous debt limit thread, national polls showed support for spending cuts, that there was little difference in who voters would blame for a default, and that Joe Biden’s ratings were falling.

This was a massive opportunity for McCarthy to force a much worse deal on Biden that would have distressed the left. Instead he let Democrats off the hook for their earlier blunder. In the end, McCarthy was more like a pussycat than a tiger.

If Biden had been forced to agree to an ugly deal, he could have faced a primary challenge to his nomination from the left. As it is, Biden is virtually assured of renomination as the Democratic 2024 presidential candidate.

NZ polls suggest right-wing coalition ahead with election in October

The New Zealand election will be held on October 14. The 120 MPs are elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member electorate.

Most polls now have a possible right-wing coalition of National and ACT ahead of Labour (governing) and the Greens, although the gap is close enough in some polls that the Māori party could be decisive (they are likely to win at least one of the seven electorates for those on the Māori roll).

The Kantar Public poll that was taken after the May 18 budget was particularly good for the right, giving National and ACT a 48-42 lead over Labour and the Greens. The last Kantar poll in March had given Labour and the Greens a 47-45 lead.

Spanish election called for July 23 after poor regional results for left

Twelve Spanish regional elections were held last Sunday. The conservative People’s Party (PP) won control of eight regions, the centre-left Socialists two and two are unclear. PP made a total of six gains in control since 2019, five from the Socialists and one from regionalists. There were large vote share increases for PP and the far-right Vox. After these elections, the incumbent Socialist national government announced a national election for July 23, about four months early. Current polling and these regional elections indicate that Spain is likely to be another major European country after Italy last year to fall to the right.

UK local elections minus four weeks

Labour likely to win big at the local elections. Also covered: Trump’s improving chances to win the US Republican nomination, and upcoming New Zealand and Turkish elections.

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.

Local government elections will be held in England on May 4 and Northern Ireland on May 18. Most of the English seats up were last contested in 2019, at which Labour and the Conservatives tied on 28% each with 19% for the Lib Dems. Labour’s national poll lead is down a little since February, but they still have about a 17-point lead over the Conservatives.

If Labour wins these council elections by the crushing margin polls currently give them, there would be a huge number of Conservative losses, and PM Rishi Sunak would be under pressure, with Boris Johnson a chance at a comeback. The next UK general election is not due until late 2024.

The Scottish National Party’s members elected Nicola Sturgeon’s successor, with the result announced on March 27. Humza Yousaf, who was viewed as the continuity candidate, defeated the socially conservative Kate Forbes by a 52.1-47.9 margin after preferences.

Trump polling strongly for the Republican nomination

Most of this section is based on last Saturday article for The Conversation. Former US president Donald Trump was indicted on March 30 over hush money payments made to a porn star before the 2016 election.

Republican primaries to select their nominee to contest the November 2024 general election start in early 2024. There is disagreement over the size of Trump’s lead, with recent polls rated B+ or better by FiveThirtyEight giving Trump between a five-point and a 30-point lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when other candidates are included. This polling was taken before the indictment, and Trump has surged further ahead since the indictment. No other potential Republican candidate polls higher than mid-single digits.

While the polls disagree on the current size of Trump’s lead, they agree there’s been a recent swing to Trump. A Fox News poll had Trump by 15 points in February, and it recently gave him a 30-point lead. A Quinnipiac poll gave Trump an eight-point lead in February; in late March he led by 14.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, he has a good chance of defeating Biden. Biden’s disapproval rating has been higher than 50% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate since October 2021. He will be almost 82 by the November 2024 election, while Trump will be 78.

On February 21, Democrats held a federal House seat in Virginia at a by-election by a 74.4-25.6 margin, up from 63.8-36.2 at the 2022 midterm elections. On Tuesday (Wednesday AEST), the left-wing Wisconsin Supreme Court judge candidate defeated the right-wing candidate by a 55.5-44.5 margin. The left now has a 4-3 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after long dominance by the right.

These results are encouraging for Democrats, but turnout will be much higher in a presidential election, and Trump is attempting to distance himself from hardline anti-abortionists.

Turkish elections: May 14

Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, with a presidential runoff on May 28 if nobody wins a first round majority. The right-wing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been PM or president since 2003, and his main opponent will be the social democratic Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Some polls show a large lead for Kılıçdaroğlu, but others have it much closer.

In the parliamentary elections, seats are allocated by proportional representation with a 7% threshold, down from 10% previously. Parties can join alliances and avoid this threshold provided the alliance gets over 7%. The main right-wing parties are Erdoğan’s AKP and the MHP. Erdoğan has formed the People’s Alliance, while his major opponents are either in the Nation Alliance or the Labour and Freedom Alliance.

NZ Labour and Greens were just behind National and ACT in early March

The New Zealand election will be held in October using proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member seat. There were three polls taken in early March, with all three giving Labour a lead over National. However, the right-wing ACT has been doing better than the Greens, so the overall right vote is still ahead of the overall left. If the election result is this close, the Maori party would be the key.

There’s a hint that support for Labour and the Greens has peaked since Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as PM. The March Morgan poll gave the right a 45-43.5 lead, after a 45.5-45.5 tie in February.

US debt limit, UK local and NZ elections

Democrats’ failure to pass a debt limit increase before Congress changed could bite them. Labour way ahead in the UK and gains some ground in NZ after Jacinda Ardern’s resignation.

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 US debt limit is a legislative limit on the total amount of debt the US government can incur. As the US keeps running deficits, the debt keeps rising. Congress could deal with this issue permanently by either removing the debt limit, or increasing it to an arbitrarily high number. But instead Congress has only raised the debt limit enough to give about one year’s grace before it needs to be raised again. The last time the debt limit was raised was in December 2021.

The US already hit the debit limit on January 19, but the Treasury is taking extraordinary measures to delay a default; these measures are expected to last until June. While the US has never defaulted, there have been previous debt limit crises in 2011 and 2013.

The key reason for the 2011 and 2013 crises was divided government; Democrat Barack Obama was president, but Republicans held the House of Representatives. This situation applies now, with President Joe Biden, but Republicans holding the House. Republicans have attempted to use the debt limit to demand spending cuts.

Republicans only hold a 222-212 House majority, and it took 15 rounds of voting for Republican Kevin McCarthy to be elected House Speaker in early January. But right-wing Republicans extracted concessions from McCarthy, and the Speaker decides what comes to the floor. To keep the right happy, McCarthy is likely to deny a vote on any debt ceiling increase that does not include major spending cuts, and such cuts would be unacceptable to Democrats.

Democrats had unified control of the presidency, House and Senate until January 3 when the new House commenced. But they made no serious attempt to raise the debt limit, and avert a crisis until after the 2024 presidential election. If there is a default, the failure to raise the debt limit will come back to bite Democrats, the US generally and the world.

It currently appears unlikely that Biden will face a serious primary challenge for the Democratic nomination. Biden will be almost 82 by the November 2024 presidential election, and has had a disapproval rating over 50% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate since October 2021.

UK Labour retains huge poll lead with local elections in May

Over 100 days since Rishi Sunak became British PM, Labour has about a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, with Labour in the high 40s, the Conservatives in the mid to high 20s, the Liberal Democrats at 7-10%, the Greens at 4-6% and the far-right Reform at 3-8%. On February 9, Labour easily retained West Lancashire at a by-election by 62.3% to 25.4% over the Conservatives (52.1-36.3 at the 2019 general election).

Local government elections will be held in England on May 4 and Northern Ireland on May 18. Most of the English seats up were last contested in 2019, at which Labour and the Conservatives tied on 28% each with 19% for the Lib Dems. If Labour wins these council elections by the crushing margin polls currently give them, there would be a huge number of Conservative losses, and Sunak would be under pressure, with the Conservatives perhaps moving back to former PM Boris Johnson. The next UK general election is not due until late 2024.

Nicola Sturgeon resigned as leader of the Scottish National Party on Wednesday. A weaker SNP would make it easier for Labour to win seats in Scotland, giving them a better chance to win an overall Commons majority if their current lead shrinks to single digits.

NZ Labour improves, but National + ACT still ahead

The New Zealand election is in October, with proportional representation used with a 5% threshold unless a party wins a single-member seat. Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as Labour leader and PM on January 22. Polls taken since this change have shown Labour narrowly ahead of National or tied, but the right-wing ACT is ahead of the Greens. So the combined vote for National and ACT is still ahead of that for Labour and Greens.

Recent election results

In the January 27-29 Czech presidential runoff, the pro-Western Pavel defeated the populist Babis by a 58.3-41.7 margin. At the February 12 Cypriot presidential runoff, the centre-left and nationalist candidate defeated the far-left candidate by a 52.0-48.0 margin after the conservative candidate was eliminated in the first round.

Chris Hipkins to be New Zealand’s next PM

Hipkins will be elected unopposed by Labour’s parliamentary caucus Sunday, but faces a tough task to win at the October general election.

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.

Jacinda Ardern announced that she would resign as New Zealand Prime Minister on Thursday. A meeting of Labour’s parliamentary caucus was called for Sunday, with a two-thirds majority (43 of the 64 Labour MPs) required to win. If nobody had reached this majority, voting would continue.

However, only one candidate gained the seven MP nominations required to stand: Chris Hipkins. As a result, Hipkins will be elected unopposed by caucus on Sunday. Labour holds a clear majority of 64 of the 120 total parliamentary seats, so Hipkins will be New Zealand’s next PM.

Ardern led Labour to a narrow victory over the conservative National in 2017 on the populist NZ First’s support, breaking a nine-year run of government by National. Labour was re-elected in a landslide in 2020 owing to the popularity of measures to keep COVID out.

Ardern also announced that the next NZ election would be held on October 14. The NZ parliament is elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold, but parties can avoid this threshold by winning a single-member seat.

The combined vote for Labour and the Greens has fallen behind National and the right-wing ACT in the polls. National has led Labour since early 2022, soon after Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins as National leader in November 2021. The Wikipedia poll chart suggests a continued trend against Labour.

Hipkins is the education and policing minister, and has a high profile owing to COVID press conferences. He now faces a tough task to win a third successive term for Labour at the October election.

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.

UK North Shropshire by-election minus two days

Conservatives slumping in polls over sleaze scandals. Also: coverage of developments in the US, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Live Commentary

3:55pm The Lib Dems have GAINED North Shropshire by more than a 15% margin over the Conservatives. This will be very bad for Johnson’s standing among Conservative MPs, but it was hardly a good result for Labour; their vote was down over 12% from 2019.

1:28pm Friday: Turnout in North Shropshire is 46.3%, down 21.6% on the 2019 general election. A Lib Dem source is claiming they will win by at least 1,000 votes.

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.

A UK parliamentary by-election will occur in Conservative-held North Shropshire, with polls closing at 9am AEDT Friday. This seat has voted Conservative at every election since the 1830s, and voted Leave at the 2016 Brexit referendum by 60-40. In 2019, the Conservatives won by 63-22 over Labour with 10% for the Liberal Democrats. Despite finishing third, the Lib Dems are seen as bigger threats in the by-election.

Local MP Owen Paterson resigned in early November after it was found he breached paid advocacy rules by working for two companies. The Conservative government initially protected him by overruling the independent commission, but was forced into a u-turn by a public backlash. The initial protection was a blunder as it drew attention to other shady practices by Conservative MPs.

The 2020 Downing Street Christmas party, held during lockdown, has further damaged the Conservatives. Even normally pro-Conservative newspapers savaged Boris Johnson. An Opinium poll had Johnson’s net approval crashing 14 points to -35, from what was already a record low approval in late November, and 57% said he should resign.

From January, the Conservatives held a significant lead, but fell into a tie with Labour after the Paterson fiasco. The Christmas party scandal has given Labour a high single-digit lead, with ten polls in the last week having Labour ahead by 4-9 points. Nigel Farage’s Reform UK is up to 7% in two polls owing to opposition to vaccine mandates.

A by-election was held in Old Bexley last fortnight, with the Conservatives retaining by a 51.5-30.9 margin over Labour, down from 64.5-23.5 in 2019. 99 Conservative MPs rebelled against vaccine mandates for entry to large venues in a Commons vote Tuesday, and it was only carried with Labour support. Left-wing Labour MPs and the Lib Dems were also opposed.

US: Democrats make legislative progress, but Biden’s ratings still poor

Shortly after Democrats’ dire performance in the November 2 Virginia and New Jersey elections, the US House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIB) by 228-206, with 13 Republicans supporting while six left-wing Democrats were opposed owing to decoupling from the Democratic infrastructure bill (DIB). The BIB had already passed the Senate, so it became law with Joe Biden’s signature.

Later in November, the House passed the DIB, and this can pass the Senate with a simple majority using “reconciliation”. While Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are concerns for their party in a 50-50 Senate, it’s likely the DIB will pass by early next year. Congress has also averted an early December government shutdown and a mid-December debt limit default.

Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate have improved slightly in the last fortnight to 50.7% disapprove, 43.3% approve (net -7.4). His ratings are poor owing to US inflation, which was up 0.8% in November for a 12-month rate of 6.8%, the highest since 1982. As a result, real wages were down 1.9% over the last 12 months.

French, German and New Zealand developments

The first round of the French presidential election will be held April 10 with a runoff between the top two candidates on April 24 in the likely event nobody wins a first round majority. After winning the nomination for the conservative Les Republicains on December 4, Valérie Pécresse has surged in the polls to be just ahead of the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, behind incumbent Emmanuel Macron. In runoff match-ups, Macron easily leads Le Pen, but is barely ahead of Pécresse.

On December 8, more than two months after the September 26 German election, a new government was formed. The government will be a coalition of the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the pro-business FDP, and will have a combined 416 of the 736 parliamentary seats. The conservative CDU/CSU had been a party of government for the previous 16 years under former chancellor Angela Merkel.

A New Zealand Morgan poll, conducted during November, had Labour and the Greens trailing National, ACT and Maori by a combined 47-46.5, the first time Labour plus Greens have trailed since before COVID hit. The right-wing ACT won just 0.5% of the party vote at the 2017 election, but surged to 7.6% in 2020, and was up to a record 17.5% in this poll.