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.

UK local and Northern Ireland elections live

Live commentary on results from Friday. Also: a major setback for US Democrats in redistricting and commentary on the draft abortion ruling.

Results summary

In England, while the Tories got a bloody nose, Labour didn’t benefit very much. The Tories lost a net 338 councillors, but Labour gained just 22, with the Lib Dems gaining 192, the Greens 63 and the far-left Aspire 23, all in Tower Hamlets. Labour gained control of a net four councils, with the Tories down ten and Lib Dems up three.

The last time these seats were up was in 2018, when Labour had a decent year. This year the BBC’s Projected National Share (PNS), that calculates as if the whole country held council elections, gave Labour a 35-30 lead over the Tories with 19% Lib Dems. In 2018, Labour and the Tories were tied at 35% each, while at the 2021 council elections the Tories led Labour by 36-29.

In Scotland and Wales, the last council elections were in 2017, which was an utter disaster for Labour in which they lost the PNS by 38-27. Yet five weeks later, the Tories lost their majority at the 2017 general election. So Labour made many gains at the Tories’ expense in both Scotland and Wales.

Labour’s five-point win is roughly what the current UK national polls are saying. In my opinion, cost of living and inflation explain the poor result for the Tories better than Partygate.

The Northern Ireland election was historic with the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein becoming the first nationalist party to win a plurality of both votes and seats since NI assembly elections started being held in 1998. But the unaligned Alliance was easily the biggest winner, gaining nine seats.

Live Commentary

10:35am Monday Labour lost control of Croydon council, the last to declare, but the Tories didn’t gain it owing to gains for the Greens and Lib Dems. There will be a directly elected Tory mayor. That reduces Labour’s English councillor gains to just 22, while the Tories are down 338, the Lib Dems up 192 and Greens up 63.

10:33am With all 90 Northern Ireland seats declared, results are 27 Sinn Fein (steady since 2017), 25 DUP (down three), 17 Alliance (up nine), nine UUP (down one), eight SDLP (down four) and four Others (steady). An Irish party is the largest for the first time in NI assembly elections.

7:21am In England, the far-left Aspire has GAINED Tower Hamlets from Labour by a 24-19 majority, with Labour losing 23 seats. Aspire won the mayor by 55-45 over Labour. Still no council results from Croydon, where the Tories narrowly gained the mayor from Labour.

7:14am Sunday With 88 of 90 seats from Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has 27 (steady since 2017), the DUP 24 (down three), Alliance 17 (up nine), the UUP nine (down one), the SDLP seven (down four), independents two (steady), the TUV one (steady), People before Profit one (steady) and the Greens zero (down two). So the 5.1% increase in the TUV vote to 7.6% hasn’t resulted in an increase in seats.

9:48pm Painfully slow in NI. Logging off now, and will see what happens tomorrow morning!

8:17pm With 50 of 90 seats declared in Northern Ireland, Alliance has made three gains, one from UUP and one from SDLP. Still no losses recorded for the DUP yet.

5:53pm I’m expecting more results tonight from Northern Ireland, where so far only 47 of the 90 seats have been declared. I’m also expecting the final two councils – Croydon and Tower Hamlets, both in London. The Tories GAINED the Croydon mayor from Labour, and Labour lost the Tower Hamlets mayor to a far-left party, so these are likely to reduce Labour’s England gains from the current 52.

7:53am The large losses for the Tories are explained by Labour winning the PNS by 35-30. That’s the biggest winning margin for Labour since 2012.

7:50am After 144 of 146 English councils, Labour has 2,212 councillors (up 52 since 2018), the Tories 1,041 (down 341), the Lib Dems 711 (up 191) and the Greens 113 (up 60). Labour has control of 65 councils (up five), the Tories 35 (down ten), the Lib Dems 16 (up three) and no overall control 28 (up two).

7:37am After 21 of 22 councils in Wales, Labour has 522 councillors (up 65 since 2017), Plaid Cymru 199 (down nine), the Tories 110 (down 82) and Lib Dems 69 (up 11). Labour controls eight councils (up one), Plaid four (up three), the Tories zero (down one) and no overall control nine (down one).

7:28am With all councils declared in Scotland, the SNP won 453 councillors (up 22 since 2017), Labour 282 (up 20), the Tories 214 (down 63), the Lib Dems 87 (up 20) and the Greens 35 (up 16).

7:22am Of the 34 of 90 seats so far declared, none have changed hands, but Sinn Fein should win a plurality of seats from a 7.7% point lead over the DUP.

7:18am Saturday Sinn Fein has topped the Northern Ireland first preference vote with 29.0% (up 1.1% since 2017), followed by the DUP on 21.3% (down 6.7%), the Alliance on 13.5% (up 4.5%), the Ulster Unionists (UUP) on 11.2% (down 1.7%), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) on 9.1% (down 2.9%) and the Traditional Unionists (TUV) on 7.6% (up 5.1%). The UUP is more moderate than the DUP while the TUV is more pro-union. Alliance is unaligned, while SDLP is Irish.

11:30pm The BBC’s Projected National Share (PNS) is out. Labour won by 35-30 over the Tories with 19% Lib Dems. That five-point lead roughly matches current national polls. In 2018, the last time these English seats were contested, PNS was tied at 35-35 each. In 2021, the Tories won by a 36-29 margin.

11:20pm Some very bad political news for Labour and Keir Starmer. Durham police will reinvestigate an incident involving Starmer called “Beergate”. They originally decided not to fine him, but if he does get fined it will completely undermine Labour’s attacks on Boris Johnson over Partygate.

10:15pm After 92 of 146 English councils, it’s 1,316 Labour (up 39), 627 Tory (down 154), 310 Lib Dem (up 70) and 51 Greens (up 26). Labour has control of 42 councils (up four), the Tories 24 (down ten), the Lib Dems four (up one) and no overall control 22 (up five).

10:11pm No Northern Ireland or Wales results yet. In Scotland, it’s so far 124 SNP (up three), 77 Labour (up nine), 58 Tory (down 18), 20 Lib Dems (up seven) and 10 Greens (up six). Remember that whereas England is measured against 2018, when Labour had a decent year, Scotland is against a woeful Labour performance in 2017.

4:57pm Outside of London, it’s not looking so rosy for Labour. But all London boroughs are up for election this year, so London makes up a large proportion of total councillors up.

4:46pm Labour’s gain of Westminster could portend similar things at our federal election in wealthy inner city electorates. If you’ve played Monopoly, the most prized estates are Park Lane and Mayfair, and both are in Westminster!

4:05pm It’s been confirmed that Labour has GAINED both Westminster and Barnet from the Tories. It’s that first time the Tories have not won Westminster since its creation in 1964.

2:05pm After 61 of 146 English councils, Labour has 867 councillors (up 19), the Tories 409 (down 87), the Lib Dems 159 (up 41) and the Greens 30 (up 20). Labour has control of 27 councils (up one), the Tories 17 (down four), the Lib Dems two (up one) and no overall control 15 (up two).

1:55pm Labour GAINS Wandsworth from the Tories, who are also expected to lose control of Barnet and Westminster, all these are in London. If my recent article about how Australia’s big cities could help Labor at our federal election is correct, it would explain the Tories’ London losses. Labour is also expected to gain Southampton from the Tories.

12:25pm The Lib Dems have GAINED Kingston-upon-Hull from Labour, the first council to change parties.

11:53am When Scotland and Wales come in, Labour should make many gains as these were last contested in 2017, a horrible year for Labour. Yet five weeks after those dismal council results for Labour, the Tories lost their majority at the 2017 general election.

11:44am With 38 of 146 English councils declared, Labour has 351 councillors (down five), the Tories 199 (down 37), the Lib Dems 89 (up 22) and the Greens 17 (up 13). Still no changes in control.

11:39am We’ll only get English council results this morning and early afternoon. Scottish and Welsh councils and the Northern Ireland assembly count will start tonight AEST.

11:35am Polling expert John Curtice says that in key wards counted so far, Labour is down one from 2018, the last time these seats were contested, the Tories down three and the Lib Dems down four. Compared with 2021, Labour is up four, the Tories down six and the Lib Dems up three.

11:17am Friday Sorry about the late start; I go to gym on Friday morning. Anyway the BBC’s council scorecard has Labour on 244 councillors (down nine), the Tories on 160 (down 21), the Lib Dems 63 (up 14) and the Greens 16 (up 12). That’s with 27 of 146 councils declared. No changes in council control so far, with the Tories controlling 12, Labour 8 and 7 with no overall control.

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.

Polls for today’s UK local and Northern Ireland assembly elections close at 7am Friday AEST. I previewed these elections here. UK national polls currently have Labour leading the Conservatives by about six points.

In Northern Ireland the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin leads with about 26%, followed by the Democratic Unionists on 19%, the unaligned Alliance on 16% and the Ulster Unionists on 13%. NI has 18 five-member electorates for a total 90 seats elected by the Hare-Clark system.

The Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton resigned last week after being caught watching porn in parliament, so by-elections will be needed in T&H and Wakefield, where the Conservative MP resigned after being convicted of child sexual assault. While Wakefield was Labour-held from 1932 to 2019, T&H has been Conservative since its creation in 1997. The Conservatives won it in 2019 by 60.2-19.5 over Labour with 14.8% Liberal Democrats.

US: New York state courts reject Democratic gerrymander

In New York Democrats control the governor and legislature. They had gerrymandered NY’s 26 Congressional Districts in an attempt to obtain a 22-4 Democratic split. But NY’s highest court rejected this gerrymander, even though all judges were appointed by Democratic governors. A remedial map must be drawn by May 20 with the assistance of a neutral expert. Democrats will lose seats from their gerrymander.

With a Republican gerrymander approved in Florida (subject to court challenges), and the NY Democratic gerrymander rejected, Democrats are down to a net seven-seat gain on the FiveThirtyEight tracker, with Republicans up one and competitive down seven.

On Monday, Politico revealed a draft majority decision of the US Supreme Court to strike down federal abortion rights, so that each state would set their own abortion rules. This shows the importance of Donald Trump choosing three Supreme Court judges to make the Court 6-3 right, including the right-wing replacement for left-wing icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Ginsburg’s death shortly before the 2020 election.

Joe Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 52.5% disapprove, 42.3% approve (net -10.2). The US economy surprisingly contracted 1.4% in the March quarter annualised (0.35% in Australia’s quarter on quarter terms).

Left wins in Slovenia

At the April 24 Slovenian election, a newly formed green party won 41 of the 90 seats, defeating a right-wing populist government. The Greens can reach the 46 required for a majority with one of two other left-wing parties. Several parties’ vote shares were below the 4% threshold needed to win 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.

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.

US Democrats continue to gain in redistricting

But Joe Biden’s ratings remain poor. Also: Boris Johnson is still Prime Minister, Socialists win a majority in Portugal and Macron likely in France.

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.

Redistricting of the 435 Congressional Districts for US federal House elections occurs once a decade based on the Census. Some states use independent commissions, but in most a party that has control of the legislature and governor can gerrymander. Sometimes state courts reject gerrymanders.

In the FiveThirtyEight tracker, there are 160 Democratic-leaning seats, 141 Republican-leaning seats and 26 competitive seats in new maps. Changes from the previous maps are Democrats up 11, Republicans down three and competitive down eight.

Democrats in New York used their control of the state legislature and governor to impose a likely 22-4 Democratic gerrymander of NY’s CDs, up from the current 19-8 delegation. Republicans still controlled the state Senate in 2010, the last redistricting year. In other good redistricting news for Democrats, the North Carolina state courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, joining Ohio in doing this.

A three-judge federal court with two Trump appointees required a second Black opportunity seat in Alabama. But the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 right majority, put a stay on this decision in a 5-4 judgment until they hear the case. The 6-1 Republican map passed by the legislature will stay for at least the 2022 elections.

Joe Biden’s ratings remain poor, with 53.1% disapproving and 41.9% approving in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate (net -11.2). He has almost overtaken Trump in having the worst net approval of any president at this stage in their term since approval polling began with Truman (1945-53).

Inflation increased 0.6% in January for a 12-month rate of 7.5%,, the highest since 1982, as 12-month real weekly wages dropped 3.1%. Given the Afghanistan fallout, it’s unlikely a Russian invasion of the Ukraine will boost Biden’s ratings.

UK: Boris Johnson still PM

In my previous article in late January, it had appeared likely that the 54 no-confidence letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger a full confidence vote in Boris Johnson would be submitted soon. But they were not submitted in the next three parliamentary weeks, and there is a parliamentary recess this week, giving Johnson respite until at least February 21.

There are still dangers for Johnson. The first is being fined by the police over the parties held during lockdown he attended. But an aspect that has angered the public is that Johnson and his colleagues have got away with clear rule breaches, when the police would have jumped on ordinary people who held lockdown parties. If Johnson is seen to be punished, that could assuage public anger.

A second danger for Johnson is if the Conservatives get thrashed at the May 5 local elections. Electricity and gas bills will rise 54% for a typical household in April – terrible timing for Johnson and Conservative councilor candidates.

Previously, I suggested voters could move on from the “PartyGate” affair. The last three UK polls have had Labour’s lead over the Conservatives dropping to 3-5 points from the high single digits polls previously gave Labour.

The Conservatives retained Southend West at a February 3 by-election with 86% of the vote. Owing to the murder of the previous MP, no other party with a national profile contested.

Majority for centre-left Socialists in Portugal

At the January 30 Portuguese election, the Socialists won 119 of the 230 seats (up 11 since 2019), the conservative Social Democrats 73 (down one), the far-right Chega 12 (up 11), the right-wing Liberal Initiative eight (up seven) and two far-left parties, who were blamed for the early election, won 11 combined seats (down 20).

Popular votes were 41.5% Socialists, 27.8% Social Democrats, 7.3% Chega, 4.9% Liberal Initiative and 8.7% for the far-left, with the Socialists outperforming the polls. Portugal uses proportional representation, but distributes its seats on a regional basis; this allows bigger parties to win more seats than using national PR.

French elections: April 10 and 24

The first round of the French presidential election will be held April 10, with a runoff April 24. Incumbent Emmanuel Macron is in a clear first place in the first round with about 24%, but the second runoff position could plausibly go to any of the far-right Marine Le Pen, the conservative Valérie Pécresse or the even more far-right Éric Zemmour. In runoff polls, Macron gets over 60% against Zemmour, about 56% against Le Pen and about 54% against Pécresse.

Will Boris Johnson be ousted as UK Prime Minister soon?

Speculation last week that Johnson would face a full Conservative confidence vote has so far come to nought. Also: US redistricting, French, Portuguese and Chile elections.

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.

For a UK Conservative leader to be ousted, the first step is for 15% of the party’s MPs to send letters expressing no confidence to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady. As there are currently 359 Conservatives in the House of Commons, 54 letters expressing no confidence in Boris Johnson are required.

If this first threshold is met, there is a secret ballot of all Conservative MPs. If the leader wins this confidence vote, they cannot be challenged for another year, although this rule could be amended. If the leader loses, they would be expected to be a caretaker PM until the next leader is elected.

Last week there was speculation that an announcement that Brady had received the 54 letters was imminent, but it did not occur. Johnson’s danger is due to the parties that were held while the UK was in COVID lockdown at Downing Street. This caused a slump for the Conservatives in the polls in December. The Conservatives regained some ground in early January, only for even more party revelations to crash their vote again. Some Conservatives may be waiting for Sue Gray’s report into the parties, expected next week, before moving against Johnson.

It was bad timing for Johnson that these party revelations came when the UK was suffering another COVID wave due to Omicron. This made people’s memories of past lockdowns more vivid, and so the parties resonated more than they would otherwise. In good news for Johnson, the Omicron wave is subsiding, with cases way down from their peak and hospitalisations also starting to fall.

I am dubious that ousting Johnson would be in the Conservatives’ electoral interests. While Johnson is very unpopular now, voters tend to move past non-recurring issues. The parties occurred in the last two years, and are unlikely to cause voters additional pain in the future. As the UK COVID situation improves, voters are likely to move past the parties.

Another argument against removing Johnson is that he “got Brexit done”. At the 2019 election, non-uni whites swung strongly to the Conservatives over Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” – see my Conversation article last May. Will these voters remain Conservative under another Conservative PM?

Democrats gain in US redistricting, but Biden’s ratings remain poor

A US Census is held every ten years, with the boundaries of Congressional Districts set for ten years by that Census. Most states have completed redistricting of their CDs from the 2020 Census. The FiveThirtyEight tracker says that there are 129 Democratic-leaning seats, 124 Republican-leaning seats and 21 highly competitive seats in the new maps so far. The changes from the old maps are Democrats up seven, Republicans up one and competitive down six.

While some states use nonpartisan commissions to draw their maps, in most states redistricting is up to politicians. If one party holds the governor and both chambers of the legislature in a state, that party can gerrymander. Republican-controlled Florida (28 CDs) and Democratic New York (26) are the two biggest states still to complete redistricting. A Republican gerrymander in Ohio was rejected by the state courts, and this could also occur in North Carolina.

Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 53.5% disapprove, 41.9% approve (net -11.6). They have worsened recently owing to the recent COVID surge. There has been no recent progress with the Democratic legislative agenda. Inflation over the full 2021 year was 7.0%, the highest since 1982. A recent CBS YouGov poll indicates voters think Biden is not focussed enough on combatting inflation.

French, Portuguese and Chile developments

The first round of the French presidential election is on April 10, with a runoff between the top two on April 24. Conservative Valérie Pécresse has slipped behind the far-right Marine Le Pen in the race for second with incumbent Emmanuel Macron well ahead in first. Macron easily beats Le Pen, but it’s closer against Pécresse.

A Portuguese election will be held on January 30, with 230 seats elected by proportional representation. Polls indicate a close contest between the overall left and overall right. Portugal currently has a left government.

At the December 19 Chilean presidential runoff election, left-wing Boric defeated the far-right Kast by 55.9-44.1.