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.

Spain’s Socialists fail to form government; Ukraine landslide for Zelensky’s party; Japan upper house elections

In a rare piece of good news for the left, the Spanish Socialists won the April 28 election. The Socialists won 123 of the 350 seats, the right-wing Popular Party (PP) 66, the right-leaning Citizens 57, the far-left Podemos 42 and the far-right Vox 24. Although the Socialists and Podemos, with 165 combined seats, did not reach the 176 needed for a majority, the assumption was that the Socialists would be able to govern with support from Podemos and left-wing separatist parties.

On July 25, Podemos abstained from a confidence vote in Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, causing the vote to be lost by 155 to 124 with 71 abstentions. There will be one more confidence vote in September, and if that is lost too, there must be an election. The disagreement between the Socialists and Podemos is due to assignations of cabinet positions between the two parties.

The lack of cooperation between the Socialists and Podemos means the left may have blown a rare triumph. Had Podemos voted with the Socialists, the confidence vote would have been won by 166 to 155.

Zelensky’s party easily wins Ukraine parliamentary elections

On April 21, Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who was best known for acting as the Ukraine president in a TV series called Servant of the People, defeated conservative incumbent Petro Poroshenko in the Ukrainian presidential election by a crushing margin of 73% to 24%.

In his inaugural address in May, Zelensky dissolved parliament for early elections on July 21; these had been scheduled to occur in late October. 225 of the 450 seats were elected by national proportional representation with a 5% threshold, and the remaining 225 by single member electorates. Owing to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, 26 electorates did not vote.

Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won 124 of the 225 seats from proportional representation, with the next highest party winning just 37 seats. Servant of the People won 130 of the 199 electorates that could vote, for a total of 254 of the 424 members returned. Even if the Crimean electorates are included, Servant of the People won a convincing majority. Zelensky supports the Ukraine becoming a member of the European Union and NATO.

Conservative majority slightly reduced in Japan’s upper house elections

Elections for 124 of the 245 Japanese upper house seats were held on July 21 for a six-year term. The conservative LDP won 57 of these 124 seats and their Komeito allies won 14 seats, for an overall LDP/Komeito total of 71 seats. The centre-left Democratic Party was the next highest, but with just 17 seats.

Overall, the LDP and Komeito hold a clear majority of 141 of the 245 upper house seats, though this was down nine seats The Democratic Party holds just 32 seats. The LDP and Komeito combined hold 314 of the 465 lower house seats after easily winning the October 2017 election; the next election is due by October 2021.

Right wins Greek election; left wins Turkish Istanbul mayoral re-election

In Greek elections, 250 of the 300 parliamentary seats are awarded proportionally with a 3% threshold. The remaining 50 seats are given en bloc to the party winning more votes than any other party. This “majority bonus” system has been repealed, but this change will not occur until the next election, and the new government could undo the repeal.

At the election held on July 7, the conservative New Democracy (ND) won 158 of the 300 seats (up 83 since the September 2015 election), the far-left SYRIZA 86 (down 59), the social democratic KINAL 22 (up five) and the Communists 15 (steady). Two new parties – the pro-Russian Greek Solution and the far-left MeRA25 – won ten and nine seats respectively. ND will have a 16-seat majority in the new parliament.

The biggest loser was the extreme right Golden Dawn, which missed the 3% threshold and lost all its 18 seats.

Vote shares were 39.9% ND (up 11.8%), 31.5% SYRIZA (down 3.9%), 8.1% KINAL (up 1.7%), 5.3% Communists (down 0.3%), 3.7% Greek Solution, 3.4% MeRA25 and 2.9% Golden Dawn (down 4.1%). It is the ND’s highest vote share since 2007, and the first majority Greek government since 2009.

The majority bonus gave ND its majority. Without those 50 seats, ND would have won 108 of the 250 proportionally allocated seats, and would have been 18 seats short of a majority with other parties mostly left-leaning. As SYRIZA won the majority bonus in 2015, the ND and SYRIZA seat changes are much bigger than they would otherwise be.

Greek politics was once dominated by ND and the social democratic PASOK. In 2009, PASOK won 160 of the 300 seats on 44% of the votes. The global financial crisis ended this two party dominance, with PASOK winning just 41 seats and 13% in May 2012 as SYRIZA gained 12% to rise to 17%. SYRIZA then came second in June 2012 with 27%.

SYRIZA formed its first government after the January 2015 election and retained office in September 2015 as PASOK almost disappeared. PASOK is now part of the KINAL alliance.

The Greek economy grew 1.3% in the year to March 2019 as it recovers from the financial crisis. But the unemployment rate is still 18%, and this probably explains why SYRIZA was defeated: although the economy is recovering, it has not recovered enough.

Left wins Istanbul mayoral election after re-vote

Local government elections were held in Turkey on March 31. The conservative AKP and its ally, the far-right MHP, combined won 50.0% of the national vote. The social democratic CHP won 29.8%, the secularist IYI won 7.8% and the Kurdish HDP 4.5%.

Overall, this election was a strong performance by the AKP under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been either the PM or President since 2003. However, the AKP lost mayoral elections in the cities of Ankara and Istanbul to the CHP. In Ankara, the CHP’s winning margin was 3.8%, but it was just 0.16% in Istanbul.

Owing to the closeness of the Istanbul vote, the AKP challenged in court, and the result was annulled, with a new election scheduled for June 23. At this re-election, the CHP mayoral candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, won by a far larger margin than originally (54.2-45.0, a 9.2% margin).

This election was seen as a blow to Erdoğan, who had begun his political career by winning the Istanbul mayoralty in 1994. In general, voters dislike new elections caused by a party’s unwillingness to accept a close defeat, and will punish parties requesting such elections.

Recent elections have shown a pattern of cities trending towards the left, while regional areas tend to the right. In that light, the losses of Ankara and Istanbul are not a shock, and there is a great deal of Turkey outside the big cities.

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.

National Essential poll: 52-48 to Labor

In last week’s Essential poll, conducted from a sample of 1,085 on March 21-25 — the weekend of the NSW election — Labor led by 52-48, a one-point gain for the Coalition since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Coalition (up two), 36% Labor (down two), 10% Greens (up two) and 7% One Nation (steady).

58% thought the budget would be good for people who are well-off, and just 9% bad. For Australian business, this split was 50-13, and for the economy overall 35-24. Average working people had a 33-27 bad split, older Australians 38-25 bad, people on lower incomes 42-24 and you personally 34-19.

All spending priorities surveyed had far more saying the government should increase rather than reduce spending, except providing tax reductions for corporations (46-12 reduce) and foreign aid (49-11 reduce).

Essential asked for opinions on various world leaders. New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern was easily the best perceived with a 71-11 favourable rating (54-11 in July 2018). Scott Morrison had a 41-40 favourable rating, German Chancellor Angela Merkel a 36-22 favourable rating (43-18 previously), United Kingdom PM Theresa May was tied at 31-31 (42-19 favourable in July 2018), and US President Donald Trump had a 68-19 unfavourable rating (64-22 previously).

NSW Galaxy seat polls and national Greenpeace ReachTEL poll

The New South Wales election will be held on March 23. YouGov Galaxy has taken seat polls of East Hills and Ryde for The Daily Telegraph, with both polls conducted February 28 from small samples of just over 500 per seat.

In good news for the Coalition, East Hills was tied at 50-50, barely any swing to Labor from the 2015 election, when the Liberals held it by a 50.4-49.6 margin. Primary votes were 44% Liberals, 42% Labor, 7% Greens and 4% Christian Democrats.

There was better news for Labor in Ryde, where the Liberals led by 53-47, but this represents a large swing to Labor from a 61.5-38.5 Liberal margin at the 2015 election. Primary votes in Ryde were 43% Liberals, 36% Labor, 10% Greens and 5% Christian Democrats.

Respondents in both seats were asked whether the “performance of the Scott Morrison-led federal government” made them more or less likely to vote Liberal. In East Hills, 35% were more likely to vote Liberal, 31% less likely and 28% said there was no influence. In Ryde, the figures were respectively 30%, 37% and 28%. There was also a large difference in most important issue in the two seats, with migration easily winning in East Hills, while urban development led in Ryde.

Seat polls have been very unreliable in many recent elections, but East Hills was a major problem for Labor at the 2015 election. At the 2011 Coalition landslide, East Hills was won by the Liberals for the first time in its history going back to 1953. Despite an overall statewide swing of almost 10% to Labor in 2015, the Liberals marginally increased their vote in East Hills from 50.2% to 50.4%. Demographic changes could be compensating for an overall swing to Labor.

National Greenpeace ReachTEL: 53-47 to Labor

A national uComms ReachTEL poll for Greenpeace, conducted February 27 from a sample of 2,130, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent allocated preferences. After a forced choice question for voters who did not initially give a party, primary votes were 38.8% Coalition, 36.7% Labor, 9.7% Greens and 6.1% One Nation.

In this poll, Labor benefited from respondent preferences. On 2016 election preferences, Labor would have had a 52-48 lead. Ipsos polls since Scott Morrison became PM in August 2018 have shown no difference between respondent and previous election methods. One Nation voters’ preference for the Coalition is likely being cancelled by a greater flow of Greens and non-One Nation Others to Labor.

24% thought climate change and the environment most important in deciding their vote, followed by 23% for the economy, 18% health and hospitals and 11.5% immigration.

“No deal” Brexit more likely after Theresa May’s crushing loss in Brexit deal vote

On January 15, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union was voted on by the House of Commons. The Commons rejected the deal by 432 votes to 202; the 230-vote loss is the biggest loss by a government since universal suffrage began. In 1924, a Labour minority government, which had just 191 of 615 seats, suffered three defeats by 140-166 votes.

On December 12, Theresa May won a confidence vote within her party by 200 votes to 117. In the Commons vote, 118 Conservative MPs rebelled, with 196 in favour of the deal, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which usually supports the government, also defected. Labour MPs voted against the deal by 248-3, and the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and Liberal Democrats unanimously opposed the deal.

On January 16, May’s government won a parliamentary vote of confidence by 325-306, with no defections from the Conservatives or DUP.. So while May’s hugely significant Brexit deal was heavily defeated, her government survives. This vote shows there is no majority for a general election.

On March 29, the UK will leave the European Union, with or without a deal. It is very unlikely that any Brexit deal will be acceptable to both the EU and the vast majority of the Conservative rebels and DUP. May will need substantial Labour support to win a Commons majority for any deal that is acceptable to the EU.

However, it is likely in Labour’s political interest to oppose any deal offered by May. Many Labour voters strongly oppose Brexit, and would object to Labour facilitating Brexit by dealing with May. A YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign had Labour’s support slumping to 26% if it supported or abstained from a Brexit deal vote. This poll was conducted for an anti-Brexit lobby group, but it is likely to contain some truth.

If the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, it is likely most voters will blame the Conservatives for the economic chaos that ensues. So Labour may simply oppose anything the Conservatives offer, and run down the clock til March 29.

While Labour may end up officially supporting the campaign for a second Brexit referendum, a minority of Labour MPs oppose such a campaign, so it is unlikely to win backing from the Commons. Revoking Brexit without a referendum is even more unlikely.

While a large majority of the Commons oppose a “no deal” Brexit, that majority must agree on something by March 29 to avert the no deal scenario. Too many people disagree with each other on how to avoid no deal, and that is why no deal could plausibly happen.

A delay to the Brexit date could give MPs more time to agree, but the EU will probably not accept such a delay unless there is a real prospect of an agreement. A delay would be granted if a deal had passed the Commons, but legislation required to implement that deal had not yet passed. Delays would also be granted if there were a second referendum or a general election.

A source for this article is Stephen Bush of the New Statesman’s Morning Call email (though it is more like Evening Call in Melbourne).

UK’s Brexit debacle could lead to Labour landslide; Greens, not far right, surge in Germany

UK PM Theresa May has done a deal with the European Union regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit).  However, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned on November 15 as he disagreed with the deal, and other ministers have also quit the government.  The deal will be finalised at a special European Summit on November 25, and will then need to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The Conservatives govern in minority, with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  The DUP will not support the Brexit deal as they disagree with the Irish backstop arrangement.  Hard Brexiteers think the deal a betrayal of Britain, and are also likely to vote it down.

The major opposition parties – Labour, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats – will also vote against the deal.  In Labour’s case, they want to force an immediate general election.  The Lib Dems and SNP will oppose because they do not accept the premise of “no deal” vs May’s deal, and want Brexit called off.

There may be a few Labour rebels who will cross the floor to vote for May’s deal as they fear a “no deal”, but these will be more than compensated for by Conservative hard Brexiteers, hard Remainers, and the DUP.  The UK House of Commons is likely to reject May’s deal.

However, while Conservative rebels will vote against May’s deal, they are unlikely to vote for a formal no-confidence motion, the only way an early election can be held without the government’s consent.  Any Labour proposal to change Brexit would run into the same problem.

On March 29, 2019, the UK will leave the European Union, with or without a deal.  A no-deal Brexit is likely to greatly damage the UK economy, and the Conservatives are likely to be blamed for this damage.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was written off before the 2017 election, but forced the Conservatives into a minority government.  If a no-deal Brexit crashes the UK economy, Corbyn is likely to lead Labour to a landslide victory at the next general election.

The next election is not due until 2022, but, if the economic damage from a no deal Brexit is great enough, moderate Conservatives may consider a “socialist” government better than the UK’s economic collapse.  In such a circumstance, Labour could win a no-confidence motion, and force an election.

A source for this section is Stephen Bush of the New Statesman’s Morning Call email (though it is more like Evening Call in Melbourne).

The Greens are surging in Germany, not the far-right AfD

At the September 2017 German election, the combined conservative Union parties won 32.9%, the Social Democrats 20.5%, the far-right AfD 12.6%, the pro-business Free Democrats 10.7%, the Left party 9.2% and the Greens 8.9%.  In March 2018, the Social Democrats and Union parties formed a grand coalition government, the third time in the past fourterms such a right/left government had been formed.

Both major parties have lost support, with the Union parties falling to 26.4% in Wikipedia’s poll aggregate, and the Social Democrats to just 14.4%.  However, the Greens have been easily the biggest benificiary, not the AfD.  Greens’ support has surged to 21.0%, while AfD support has increased much less to 15.0%.

The Social Democrats’ 20.5% in 2017 was already the lowest they had polled at a general election since the Second World War, and their support has continued to drop, probably due to the grand coalition.  The Greens are likely to be the biggest left-wing party at the next German election.

At the October 2018 Bavarian state election, the Greens were second with 17.6%, up 9.0% since 2013.  Both the Social Union and Social Democrats suffered drops of over 10%.  The AfD, which did not contest the previous Bavarian election, won 10.2%.

Wentworth ReachTEL poll, and left vs far right contest in Brazil

The Wentworth byelection will be held on October 20.  A ReachTEL poll for GetUp!, conducted September 17 from a sample of 860, gave the Liberals’ Dave Sharma 35.8% of the primary vote, independent Kerryn Phelps 20.9%, Labor’s Tim Murray 15.3%, the Greens 12.6%, all Others 5.7% and 9.7% undecided.

After assigning undecided using a forced choice, primary votes were 39.3% Sharma, 22.5% Phelps, 17.4% Murray and 12.6% Greens.  Since a late August ReachTEL poll for The Australia Institute that also included Alex Greenwich, who is not running, Sharma is up 4.7%, Phelps up 10.7%, Murray down 2.9% and the Greens up 3.7%,

Sharma led Murray by 52-48 in the latest ReachTEL, a two-point gain for Sharma since August.  But if the primary votes are accurate, it is likely the final two would be Sharma and Phelps.

A major caveat is that, while this poll was released September 30, it was taken on September 17.  That is four days before Phelps announced that she was recommending preferences to the Liberals ahead of Labor, backflipping on her previous policy to put the Liberals last.  We do not yet know the impact of this decision.

Brazil presidential election: a contest between left and far right

The Brazil presidential election will be held in two rounds, on Sunday October 7 and 28.  If no candidate wins over 50% in the October 7 first round, the top two proceed to a runoff.  Polls will close on Monday morning Melbourne time.

The left-wing Workers’ Party has won the last four presidential elections from 2002 to 2014, but incumbent President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016, and replaced by conservative Vice President Michel Temer.

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula), who had been president from 2003 to 2011, attempted to run as the Workers’ Party candidate, but was jailed for corruption.  Many assumed that the corruption charges and Rousseff’s impeachment were politically motivated.

With Lula’s endorsement, the new Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad has surged from the mid single digits to the 20’s in the polls in the last month, and is very likely to make the runoff.

Haddad’s opponent in the runoff is almost certain to be far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro.  Bolsonaro has made sympathetic comments about Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship.  He has led first round polls that did not include Lula for a long time, and is currently in the 30’s.  Bolsonaro has replaced the conventional right-wing PSDB party.

Polling for the Haddad-Bolsonaro runoff is currently close to tied.  The key question is whether Bolsonaro’s far-right views create a ceiling for him, in which case Haddad could win over undecided voters in the final three-week runoff campaign.

Conservatives win in Quebec, Canada for first time since 1966

At the October 1 Quebec provincial election, the conservative CAQ won 74  of the 125 seats (up 52 since the 2014 election), the centre-left Liberals 32 (down 38), the separatist and left-wing Quebec Solidaire won ten seats (up seven) and the separatist Parti Quebecois won nine seats (down 21).  This is the first time since 1966 that a party other than the Liberals or the Parti Quebecois has won a Quebec election.

Popular votes were 37.4% CAQ (up 14.4%), 24.8% Liberals (down 16.7%), 16.1% Quebec Solidaire (up 8.5%) and 17.1% Parti Quebecois (down 8.3%).  Although first past the post helped the CAQ, they led the Liberals by 12.6%, and would probably have won under any single member electoral system.

Polls in Quebec greatly underestimated the CAQ’s support and overstated Liberal support.

53% of Australians approve of constitutional amendment to separate government and religion

This article has been paid for by the Rationalists Association of NSW

The NSW Rationalists commissioned YouGov Galaxy, which also does Newspoll, for a poll question about separation of government and religion.  The survey was conducted from August 30 to September 3 from a national sample of 1,027.

The question asked was, “Australia has no formal recognition of separation of government and religion. Would you approve or disapprove of a constitutional amendment to formally separate government and religion?”  Full results are available for download in the attached spreadsheet.


Overall, 53% approved of such an amendment, just 14% disapproved and 32% were unsure; these numbers do not sum to 100% due to rounding.  60% of men and 48% of women approved.  Younger age groups were most likely to approve, but 48% of those aged over 65 also approved.  Majorities approved in NSW (55%), Victoria (52%) and Queensland (59%), but not in SA or WA (both 45% approve).  There was little difference in approval between the five capital cities (54%) and the rest of Australia (53%).

In the eastern seaboard states, 218 to 285 people were polled.  These are small samples, so the estimates of approval in these states are error-prone.  It is unlikely that Victoria really has a lower approval of this amendment than Queensland.  The samples for WA and SA are just over 100, and the estimates for these states are more error-prone than for the eastern seaboard states.

PM Scott Morrison advocates new laws to protect religious freedom, but this poll question does not suggest there is any yearning within Australia for more religion.  The same-sex marriage plebiscite, in which Yes to SSM won by 61.6% to 38.4%, was a huge defeat for social conservatism.

It is not surprising that 32% were undecided on this question, as it is not an issue that has had any media attention.  In Australia, amending the Constitution requires a referendum that must be carried by both a national majority and majorities in at least four of the six states.  Only eight of the 44 constitutional referendums have been carried.

If a major political party could be convinced to support a referendum on the separation of government and religion, it would be best to hold such a referendum concurrently with a general election.  Analyst Peter Brent has argued that midterm referendums are much less likely to succeed as voters dislike being dragged to the polls, and such referendums become a chance to kick the government without putting the opposition in.

In an Ipsos poll for the National Secular Lobby, conducted in January 2016 from a sample of 1,032, 57.5% said it was very important to separate personal religious belief from the business of government, 21% somewhat important and 13% said it was either not very important or not at all important.  43% said it was very important to formally separate religion and government, 29% somewhat important and 18% said it was either not very important or not at all important.

In April, Newspoll conducted a survey for The Australian on whether Australia should become a republic.  50% were in favour of a republic, and 41% were against.  The same demographic patterns were replicated in the republic question as in the separation of government and religion question: higher support among men and the young.