Far-right Salvini loses power in Italy; Israeli polls; far-right surges in two German state elections

At the March 2018 Italian election, the anti-establishment populist Five Star Movement won 227 of the 630 lower house seats, with 125 for the far-right populist League, 112 for the centre-left Democrats and 104 for the centre-right Forza Italia. The Senate result was similar.

After the election, the Five Stars formed a coalition with the League. This coalition combined held 352 of the 630 lower house seats and 170 of the 315 Senate seats – clear majorities in both chambers.

In early August, League leader Matteo Salvini broke his coalition with the Five Stars. Polls had the League in the high 30’s, far ahead of any other party. With another far-right party, the Brothers of Italy, taking about 6%, Salvini thought that new elections would give him an outright majority in the Italian Parliament.

However in late August, the Five Stars unexpectedly formed another coalition, this time with the Democrats. The Democrats and Five Stars have 339 of the 630 lower house seats and 165 of the 315 Senate seats. The majority for the coalition parties is reduced compared with the Five Star/League coalition, but it is still a clear majority.

On September 3, the new coalition agreement was endorsed by Five Star members in an online vote by a huge margin of 79% to 21%. The new government must still win confidence votes in both chambers of the Italian Parliament.

Although the Five Stars were the majority party in the former coalition with the League, Salvini had appeared to be the most powerful figure in that coalition. By trying to seize outright power, he drove the Five Stars into an alliance with a left-wing party, and cost his party any role in government. Italy’s government has shifted to the left. The next Italian election is not due until May 2023.

Update September 11: On September 9-10, the Five Star/Democrat government easily won confidence votes in both chambers of Parliament: the lower house by 343-263 and the Senate by 169-133.

Israeli polls suggest another deadlocked Knesset

Right-wing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have won his fourth successive term at the April 2019 election when right-wing and religious parties won a combined 65 of the 120 Knesset seats. But Yisrael Beiteinu demanded conscription be introduced for the ultra-Orthodox, which the religious parties disagreed with. Netanyahu was unable to form a government, and new elections were scheduled for September 17.

Polls suggest a similar outcome to March 2019. Netanyahu’s Likud and its allies have 54-57 combined Knesset seats. The left-leaning Blue & White and other parties who could support it have 53-55 seats. So Yisrael Beiteinu, which is not a left-wing party, may well decide if there can be a new government after the election.

All 120 Knesset seats are elected by national proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold.

Far-right AfD surges in two German state elections

On September 1, elections were held in the German states of Brandenburg and Saxony. In Brandenburg, the centre-left SPD won 25 of the 88 seats (down five since the 2014 election), the far-right AfD won 23 (up 12), the centre-right CDU 15 (down six), the Greens ten (up four), the far-left Left ten (down seven) and a local party won the remaining five seats. An SPD/Green/Left alliance would have 45 of the 88 seats, a bare majority.

In Saxony, the CDU won 45 of the 120 seats (down 14 since 2014), the AfD 38 (up 24), the Left 14 (down 13), the Greens 12 (up four) and the SPD ten (down eight). While this was a strong performance for the AfD, they came first in Saxony at the 2017 German federal election. To secure a majority of 61 seats without the AfD, the CDU will need to ally with the Greens and the SPD.

Left wins Danish election; new Israeli election; German Greens surge to tie for lead; Left gains in Tas upper house

The Danish election was held on June 5. There are 179 parliamentary seats – 175 in Denmark proper, and two each in Faroe Islands and Greenland. All seats are elected by proportional representation with a 2% threshold.

In Denmark, the Social Democrats won 48 of the 175 seats (up one since the 2015 election), the conservative Venstre 43 (up nine), the far-right People’s Party 16 (down 21), the Social Liberals 16 (up eight), the Socialist People’s Party 14 (up seven), the Red-Green Alliance 13 (down one), the Conservative People’s Party 12 (up six) and the environmental Alternative five (down four). Two other right-wing parties won four seats each, and three more right-wing parties missed the 2% threshold.

Red bloc parties (Social Democrats, Liberals, Socialists and Red-Greens) won 91 of the 175 Denmark seats (up 15), while blue bloc parties won 79 seats (down 11). If the Alternative is counted with the left, left-wing parties won in Denmark by 96 seats to 79. Right-wing parties that missed the threshold slightly assisted the left.

Left-wing parties won three of four seats in Faroe Islands and Greenland, so the left overall has a 99 seat to 80 majority.

Major Danish parties (Social Democrats and Venstre) have adopted much of the anti-immigration rhetoric of the People’s Party, partly explaining that party’s steep fall. As a result, the Social Democrats may have difficulty forming a coalition government with the more left-wing parties that dislike anti-immigrant policies.

New Israeli election after Netanyahu fails to form a government

At the April 9 Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won 35 of the 120 Knesset seats, tieing for most seats with the left-leaning Blue and White. With right-wing parties that had formed the last government, the right had 65 seats, a clear majority. It was assumed that Netanyahu had won his fourth successive term.

However, there was a dispute over conscription for ultra-Orthodox Jewish students. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the nationalist far-right Yisrael Beiteinu, wanted this conscription, while the Orthodox Jewish parties, Shas and UTJ, were opposed. Netanyahu needed all three parties to reach a majority. Shas and UTJ had 16 seats combined, while Yisrael Beiteinu had five seats. But without Yisrael Beiteinu, Netanyahu had just 60 seats, one short of a majority.

As a result of this dispute over conscription, the deadline for Netanyahu to form a government expired on May 29. The Knesset was dissolved shortly after midnight May 30, and new elections will be held on September 17.

Polls so far show a close contest between the governing parties led by Likud, and the opposing parties including Yisrael Beiteinu. But Yisrael Beiteinu will never back a left-wing government.

German Greens surge to tie CDU/CSU after European elections

At the German European elections on May 26, the conservative CDU/CSU parties won 29 of the 96 seats (down five since 2014), the Greens 21 (up 11), the Social Democrats 16 (down 11), the far-right AfD 11 (up four), the far-left Left five (down two) and the economically liberal FDP five (up two).

Probably partly as a result of their strong performance at the European elections, the Greens have surged into a tie with the CDU/CSU in German federal polling. The two most recent polls, taken after the European elections, have the Greens one point ahead and one point behind the CDU/CSU. The Greens and CDU/CSU are in the mid to high 20’s, while the normal major left party, the Social Democrats, have slumped to just 13%, damaged by their continuing participation in the Grand Coalition government with the CDU/CSU.

Left gained a seat in Tasmanian upper house elections on May 4

Every May, two or three of Tasmania’s 15 upper house seats are up for election for six-year terms. This year’s elections, held on May 4, occurred in Pembroke, Montgomery and Nelson. Labor and the Liberals easily retained their seats in Pembroke and Montgomery respectively, with over 58% of the two party vote against the other major party.

Ten candidates stood in Nelson, and the Liberals were first on primary votes with 23.7%, followed by left-wing independent Vica Bayley on 15.9%, another left-wing independent, Meg Webb, on 13.8%, ex-Labor independent Madeleine Ogilvie on 12.6% and the Greens on 11.1%.

On Ogilvie’s preferences, Webb moved ahead of Bayley. When Bayley’s preferences were distributed, Webb defeated the Liberals by an emphatic 59-41 margin.

According to analyst Kevin Bonham, the retiring incumbent in Nelson was a moderate conservative independent who had been president of the upper house since his re-election in 2013. Webb is a prominent campaigner for poker machine reform. So this result was a gain for the left in Tasmania. That gave Labor and left-wing independents nine of the 15 Tasmanian upper house seats.

Both Pembroke and Nelson are urban fringe seats around Hobart, while Montgomery is a northern Tasmanian rural/regional seat. At the federal election, the Liberals gained the northern Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon from Labor, but struggled in the rest of Tasmania.