A swarm of June primary elections in the United States recently subsided, allowing Split Ticket to turn its attention once more to the rest of the globe. This is the Return Edition of World Report, an article series devoted to covering foreign elections and politics.
Since the majority of the primaries in the U.S. have already occurred or will soon be decided, Split Ticket will try to publish new World Reports on a more regular basis going forward.
The next edition later this week will cover the latest news from the last two weeks, including ex-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s assasination, the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and PM in the UK, and uproar in Sri Lanka.
What did we miss?
Multiple foreign elections took place in May and June that are worth mentioning despite our lack of initial coverage.
In Colombia, left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro won his country’s Presidential runoff 50-47%. The Senator and former Mayor of Bogota defeated ex-Mayor and real estate developer Rodolfo Hernández. Petro, leader of Humane Colombia, had previously lost 54-42% in 2018 to incumbent President Iván Duque.
Petro’s coalition was quite interesting, if not pro forma for modern-day Latin America. He performed well in the cities of Bogota and Cali, swept the country’s coastal provinces, and overwhelmingly-won the rural indigenous vote in the southeastern backcountry.
Hernández, from Bucaramanga, won the nation’s central provinces and ran well in the suburbs and exurbs of its larger cities. Petro’s domination of the urban vote did not extend to Medellin, which broke uniformly for his opponent.
When he assumes office next month, Petro will be the first ever left-wing President of Colombia. His victory contributed further to the growing “Pink Tide” that has welled up throughout Latin America over the last few months.
Notable left-wing victories include those of Presidents Castillo (Peru) and Boric (Chile). Brazil could soon join that list, assuming opinion polling is accurate. Former President Lula da Silva remains a favorite to defeat incumbent Jair Bolsonaro this October.
Lula has been steadily polling in the upper 40s, just shy of the 50% threshold. While it’s possible that enough undecideds break for him to ensure an outright victory, Split Ticket considers a second round win far more likely. It is unclear whether Bolsonaro will accept the results of his election should he lose.
Major action also occurred in France, where the composition of the country’s 577-seat National Assembly was decided through two rounds. President Macron, re-elected over Marine Le Pen earlier this year, watched these legislative elections with particular interest to see if the voting population would reaffirm the En Marche political alliance Ensemble.
Instead of a victory, the electorate delivered the President a significant setback. His legislative coalition Ensemble, led by Richard Ferrand, lost over 100 seats, finishing with a plurality of 245. Les Republicans, formerly the mainstream right-wing party in France, also suffered, losing 56 seats.
But while the center and center-right struggled, France’s left and right-wing movements prospered. The NUPES alliance, led by La France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, gained 67 seats. That increase gave the left’s bloc 131 seats, a good enough figure for 2nd place in the chamber overall.
On the other end of the spectrum, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National netted 82 seats. Prior to this year’s elections, the right’s faction had only 7 seats. RN’s rapid legislative rise is yet another indication that France’s historical Republican-Socialist dichotomy has given way to a tripolar plane balanced between the center and fringe movements on both the right and left.
Le Pen’s 58-42% loss in this year’s Presidential race was significantly less brutal than the 67-33% trouncing that she underwent in 2017, further suggesting her movement’s growing appeal.
Because Ensemble fell well short of the 289 seat threshold needed for a majority, a governing coalition must be formed. Draft negotiations imply that an Ensemble-UDC (Les Republicans) band is the most likely solution to the present gridlock. That government, were it to eventually go into effect, would only further divide the fringes from the center.
As of this writing, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne was sustained in her role at the urging of President Macron. The other chaotic highlight of the election’s aftermath, a NUPES-led vote of no confidence in the present government, also foundered. Even if Macron’s Ensemble ultimately secures a 20 seat majority through a partnership with UDC, his 2nd term legislative agenda will not be ensured.
In the Philippines, incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte was term-limited this year. This constitutionally-mandated retirement opened the door for Bongbong Marcos, the son of Ferdinand, to run for the Presidency under the Federal Party. He won 59% of the vote, finishing well ahead of Vice President Leni Robredo, who took just 28% as his nearest challenger.
Marcos swept most of the country geographically, including Manilla proper. Robredo won the center of the island nation, including her home in Bicol. This is the first time that the Philippines will be governed by a member of the Marcos family since 1986, when Ferdinand was forced to step down after 21 years in office. While Duterte is no longer President, his legacy lives on through his daughter Sara, who recently became the youngest elected Vice President in the country’s history.
In the United Kingdom, two fascinating by-elections took place on June 23rd in the Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton constituencies. Conservatives failed to hold either seat, delivering two new blows to the governing party’s majority. As of this writing, four constituencies have left the Conservative column through by-elections since 2019.
The most historic of these losses came last December when Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan flipped North Shropshire. Besides posting one of the biggest swings in by-election history, Morgan became the first non-Conservative to win the constituency, in any form, in over 100 years.
Let’s briefly look at the most recent by-election results in detail.
In the West Yorkshire-based Wakefield constituency, a by-election became necessary after Conservative Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. Labour’s Simon Lightwood won with an 18% majority, contributing to a 17 point negative swing in Conservative vote share.
The other by-election occurred in Tiverton & Honiton, a constituency located in Devon, after sitting Conservative Neil Parish was *twice* accused of watching pornography inside the House of Commons chamber. Richard Foord, the Liberal Democratic candidate, won comfortably with 53% of the vote. Conservatives suffered a 22 point decline in vote share, an even worse figure than the one recorded in Wakefield.
Just like in U.S. House special elections, turnout tends to fall well-below general election averages in British by-elections. To some extent, that suggests that these off-cycle contests should be taken with a grain of salt. But the sheer magnitude of the anti-Conservative swings that have been observed force Split Ticket to consider these contests serious evidence of an underlying national trend in the opposition’s direction.
Deutschland – Landtagswahlen (Schleswig-Holstein & Nordrhein-Westfalen)
In May, two Landtagswahlen occurred in Deutschland. These contests are essentially miniature versions of the Bundestagswahlen that take place every five years at the national level in Germany. The term Landtag refers to regional assemblies in each of the Bundesstaaten overseen by Minister Presidents (leaders of the majority party or coalition). Much like in federal elections, parties must clear 5% of the popular vote to receive seats in a Landtag.* Terms generally last five years in each state.
Landtagswahlen recently happened in the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Nordrhein-Westfalen.* Unlike the Saarland results, which saw Anke Rehlinger’s SPD take the absolute majority necessary to sweep out the coalition government led by CDU Minister President Tobias Hans, May’s Landtagswahlen boded better for the CDU and the Greens than for the SPD.
In Schleswig-Holstein, the CDU actually posted an +11% gain in vote share that corresponded to a pickup of 9 seats. The CDU, led by Minister President Daniel Günther, currently governs under a coalition with the Greens, who enjoyed a +5% gain in vote share, and the FDP. Notably, the populist-right AfD fell below the 5% threshold to acquire Zweitstimmen seats.
The SPD fared better in Nordrhein-Westfalen, but still lost ground in terms of vote share and seat distribution. Greens were the real winners, posting a 12% gain in overall share combined with 25 new seats. In an interesting turn of events that is not too unusual in German politics, the CDU took its plurality of seats and formed a governing coalition with the Greens. Nordrhein-Westfalen is home to the former CDU/CSU Kanzler candidate Armin Laschet. The new Minister President is Hendrik Wüst.
On October 9th, a Landtagswahl will occur in Niedersachsen. The current Minister President is Stephan Weil of the SPD. He governs under an SPD-CDU coalition similar to the one that existed in Saarland before the SPD won an outright majority of Erst & Zweitstimmen seats (i.e., national Große Koalition). Polling shows both traditionally-prominent parties neck and neck, with the burgeoning Greens expected to make up significant ground.
*Abgeordnetenhaus (Berlin) and Bürgerschaft (Hamburg, Bremen) are other terms used to describe these elections.
*In March, the German Presidential Election and the Landtagswahl in Saarland also occurred*
Finally, expected political change occurred in the land Down Under. In the 151 seat National Assembly, Australia’s center-right Liberal-National Coalition suffered a net loss of 19 seats. In its place, the Labor Party was able to take a one seat majority.* The change catapulted Anthony Albanese into the Prime Minister’s office, pushing incumbent Scott Morrison out of power.
Despite losing the reins of government, the Liberal-National Coalition won a plurality of the popular vote. Labor, as expected, dominated among urban voters. Polling suggested Morrison’s government would be vulnerable, as it had been blamed for, among other things, botching Australia’s COVID-19 response.
*Ironically, the conservative government had won a one seat majority in the previous election*