Left could win September German election, but performs badly in Dutch election

German state elections were held on March 14 in Baden-Württemberg (BW) and Rhineland-Palatinate (RP). In the RP election, the centre-left SPD won 39 of the 101 seats (steady since 2016), the conservative CDU 31 (down four), the Greens ten (up four), the far-right AfD nine (down five), the pro-business FDP six (down one) and an independent alliance six (up six).

In Germany, parties need at least 5% to qualify for a proportional share of seats. The FDP and independents narrowly cleared that threshold with 5.5% and 5.4% respectively, while left votes were wasted on the Left party (2.5%) and an animal rights’ party (1.7%). As a result, the SPD and Greens, with 49 combined seats, are short of the 51 required for a majority.

At the BW election, the Greens won 58 of the 154 seats (up 11 since 2016), the CDU 42 (steady), the SPD 19 (steady), the FDP 18 (up six) and the AfD 17 (down six). The Greens and SPD, with 77 combined seats, were one short of the 78 required for a majority. As in RP, this was due to wasted left votes, with the 3.6% for the Left party short of the 5% threshold.

The next German federal election is expected to be held on September 26. Angela Merkel, who has been the CDU’s leader and German Chancellor since 2005, will not contest this election. The CDU’s leader will be the moderate Armin Laschet, who defeated the conservative Friedrich Merz in a January leadership election by a 52.8-47.2 margin.

When the COVID crisis hit, the CDU/CSU had a big surge in their support, going from the high 20’s to near 40%. However, possibly due to frustration with the slow pace of vaccination, support has slumped below 30% recently. Current vote shares are about 30% CDU/CSU, 18% Greens, 16% SPD, 11% AfD, 9% FDP and 8% Left.

Right-wing parties currently have 47% and left parties 42%, but if the CDU/CSU’s slump continues, the left parties could be in a combined winning position by the election in September.

An overall win for the left may not be enough for a left government, however. After both the 2005 and 2013 elections, the overall left seats were enough for a majority, but the SPD refused to cooperate with the Left party, preferring to be the junior partners in a CDU-led grand coalition with Merkel as Chancellor. As a result, support for both the traditional major parties crashed at the 2017 election.

Dismal result for the left in Dutch election

Owing to COVID, the Dutch election was held over three days, from March 15-17. The combined governing coalition, that includes the conservative VVD, socially liberal D66 and two Christian parties, won 78 of the 150 seats,, retaining its majority. The VVD won 35 seats (up two since 2017), D66 23 (up four) and the two Christian parties a combined 20 seats (down four).

The major left-wing parties performed dismally. In 2012, Labour won 38 seats, but were reduced to their worst ever result with nine seats in 2017. They failed to regain any support, winning nine seats again. The Socialists also won nine seats (down five) and the Greens eight (down six). An animals’ rights party won six (up one).

On the far-right spectrum, while the Party for Freedom won 17 seats (down three), the Forum for Democracy won eight (up six). The Netherlands uses national proportional representation.

Colmar Brunton: NZ Labour leads National by 47-33

Seventeen days before the October 17 New Zealand election, a new poll has Labour short of a majority in its own right.

A New Zealand Colmar Brunton poll, conducted September 23-27 from a sample of 1,005, gave Labour 47% (down one since last week), National 33% (up two), the right-wing ACT 8% (up one), the Greens 7% (up one) and NZ First just 1% (down one).

PM Jacinda Ardern had a net approval of +51; this is very good, but down from +76 in May.  72% approved and 22% disapproved.  Opposition Leader Judith Collins had a net approval of +12, down from +27 in July.  50% approved and 37% disapproved.  Rounding explains the one-point difference compared with subtracting disapprove from approve.  Ardern led Collins as better PM by 54-23 (54-18 last week).

If this poll were the result on October 17, Labour would win 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority.  National would win 43 seats, ACT ten and the Greens eight.  Labour’s seat number has slipped by three since last week, partly because the combined votes of all parties below the 5% threshold has dropped to 5% from 8%.  More effectively wasted votes helps the bigger parties.

The Greens will be relieved that their vote in this poll is two points above the threshold.  If the Greens failed to clear the threshold, Labour would win a majority provided that their vote exceeded that for National and ACT combined.  Currently Labour leads National/ACT by 47-41, but that’s down from 48-38 last week.

A Reid Research poll was released on Sunday, but the fieldwork was taken September 16-23, about the same dates as last week’s Colmar Brunton poll (September 17-21).  The Reid Research poll gave Labour 50.1%, National 29.6%, the Greens 6.5% and ACT 6.3%.  Seat projections from this poll were Labour 65, National 39, Greens and ACT eight each.

PiS-aligned Duda wins Polish presidential election; right wins in Croatia

At the October 2019 Polish parliamentary elections, the economically left, but socially conservative and anti-immigrant Law and Justice party (PiS) retained its majority in the lower house with 235 of the 460 seats. However, PiS lost its Senate majority, winning 48 of the 100 Senate seats. The lower house is more powerful.

The Polish president can veto legislation, so it is not just a symbolic role. In the June 28 first round of the presidential election, the incumbent Andrzej Duda, who is aligned with PiS, won 43.5%, followed by the Civic Platform’s candidate, Rafał Trzaskowski, on 30.5%.

The Civic Platform is a member of the European People’s Party, the conservative European parliamentary faction. It is more socially liberal than PiS, but to the economic right of PiS.

Genuine left-wing parties have performed badly in Poland recently. They won just 49 of the 460 lower house seats at the October parliamentary elections after being left with zero seats following the 2015 election. In the first round of the presidential election, the only left candidate won a mere 2.2%.

At the July 12 runoff election, Duda defeated Trzaskowski by a 51.0% to 49.0% margin. Duda’s victory means that PiS will maintain control of the Polish government.

Conservatives win easily in Croatia

The Croatian election was held on July 5. Croatia uses proportional representation with multi-member constituencies. The governing conservative HDZ won 66 of the 151 parliamentary seats (up five since 2016), while the centre-left Restart won 41 seats (down four). The far-right DPMS won 16 seats, another conservative party (Most) won eight seats (down five) and the Green-Left party won seven seats.

This was a very disappointing result for Restart, which appeared to narrowly lead in pre-election polls. Popular votes were 37.2% HDZ, 24.9% Restart, 10.9% DPMS, 7.4% Most and 7.0% Green-Left.

76 seats are required for a majority, and HDZ is ten seats short, but they will be able to form a coalition with either the DPMS or Most and other parties.

German political crisis in Thuringia and Italian regional elections

At the October 2019 Thuringian state election, the far-left Left party won 29 of the 90 seats, the far-right AfD 22, the conservative CDU 21, the centre-left SPD eight, the Greens five and the pro-business FDP five. As covered here, the FDP barely entered parliament, just beating the 5% threshold.

With 46 seats needed for a majority, the former Left/SPD/Green government was unable to continue with only 42 combined seats. But alternative governments also appeared unviable as the CDU would not work with the Left. Any government that did not involve the Left would have needed the AfD’s support, but the AfD has been frozen out by all other German parties.

At the February 5 opening of parliament, Left leader Bodo Ramelow announced he would attempt to lead a minority government. The state president is elected by a secret ballot of MPs. The first two votes require an absolute majority of all MPs (46 votes). If this threshold is not met, a third vote is first-past-the-post.

Ramelow easily won the first two votes against the AfD’s candidate, but was short of the 46 required with many abstentions. On the third ballot, FDP leader Thomas Kemmerich entered, and defeated Ramelow by 45 votes to 44.

While it was a secret ballot, it was clear that Kemmerich could not have won without the support of both the CDU and AfD. It is the first time a German state president has been elected with AfD support.

After much condemnation, including from federal CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kemmerich resigned on February 8. A new election is likely to be needed, but a two-thirds majority of the Thuringian parliament is required to approve it. Polls suggest large gains for the Left at the CDU’s expense, and a Left/SPD/Green coalition would likely win an election.

The Thuringian crisis has had federal consequences. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) was elected federal CDU leader, replacing Merkel in December 2018, and was expected to run as the CDU’s candidate for chancellor at the next German election. But AKK resigned on February 10, owing to the failure of the Thuringian CDU to heed her calls not to support a government propped up by the AfD. A new CDU leader will need to be elected, and the party could shift to the right.

Since the Thuringian crisis, there has been a slight dip for the CDU/CSU and a slight rise for the Greens in German federal polling. The AfD and SPD are unchanged, while there has been a rise for the Left and a fall for the FDP. Current standings are about 27% CDU/CSU, 22% Greens, 14% AfD, 13% SPD, 9% Left and 8% FDP.

Italian regional elections: left holds Emilia-Romagna, but right gains Calabria

Italian regional elections were held in Emilia-Romagna and Calabria on January 26. In Emilia-Romagna, the left-wing candidate for president defeated the far-right candidate by a 51.4-43.6 margin, with just 3.5% for the Five Star Movement’s candidate. Since 2014, the left vote was up 2.4%, the right vote up 11.4% and the Five Stars down 9.8%. This region was considered an important hold for the left as it has been governed by the left since World War 2.

In Calabria, the right crushed the left by a 55-30 margin; this was a 23% swing to the right and a 31% drop for the left since 2014.

Latest federal Italian polling has the far-right League just above 30%, followed by the centre-left Democrats at over 20%, the Five Stars at 14%, the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI) at 12% and the conservative Forza Italia at 7%. Since the Five Stars joined a governing coalition with the Democrats in August 2019, their polling has slid, with the Democrats and FdI the main beneficiaries. Previously, the Five Stars governed with the League.

Centre-left wins in Taiwan

At the January 11 Taiwanese presidential election, centre-left incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen crushed her conservative challenger by a 57.1-38.6 margin. Since the 2016 election, this was a 1.0% increase for Tsai and a 7.6% increase for the Kuomintang party’s candidate.

Left wins Spanish confidence vote and Croatian presidency; Austria forms conservative/green government

At the November 10 Spanish election, national left-wing parties won 158 of the 350 lower house seats, and national right-wing parties 151. The remaining 41 seats went to mostly left-wing regionalist parties. This election was required because the major left-wing parties (the Socialists and Podemos) were unable to agree to form a government after the April election. This time there was an agreement between these two parties.

In Spain, a first round absolute majority is required (176 votes) at the PM’s investiture vote. If there is no absolute majority, a second vote is held at which only a simple majority – more Ayes than Noes – is needed.

Owing to abstentions from two regionalist parties, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez had 166 votes in favour of him becoming PM and 165 opposed at the January 5 first round vote. As the Aye votes were short of the 176 absolute majority, a second round was held January 7. Sánchez won this second vote by 167 to 165.

Sánchez is now officially Spain’s PM, but his situation is precarious. He needs the regionalist parties to keep behaving to stay in government

Left wins Croatian presidency

The Croatian presidential election was held over two rounds – December 22 and January 5. In the December 22 first round vote, the centre-left Zoran Milanović won 29.6%, the conservative incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović 26.7% and the far-right Miroslav Škoro 24.5%. As right-wing candidates won a majority of the overall vote, Grabar-Kitarović was expected to win the runoff.

However, despite his low winning vote share in the first round, Milanović won the January 5 runoff by a 52.7% to 47.3% margin. It is likely that Škoro voters strongly supported Grabar-Kitarović, but that voters for all other first round candidates resoundingly backed Milanović.

While this is a good outcome for the left, the Croatian PM is far more important than the president. A parliamentary election is due by late 2020. A conservative government is currently in office.

Austria: conservative/green coalition government formed

Austria uses national proportional representation with a 4% threshold. At the September 29 election, the conservative ÖVP won 71 of the 183 seats, the centre-left SPÖ 40, the far-right FPÖ 31, the Greens 26 and the liberal Neos 15. To exceed the 92 seats needed for a majority, the ÖVP required any of the SPÖ, FPÖ or Greens to form a coalition.

The FPÖ was blamed for the breakdown of the previous conservative government, which resulted in this election being held three years early. It also lost 20 seats at this election, while the Greens re-entered parliament after falling below the 4% threshold in 2017.

On January 1, three months after the election, the ÖVP and Green leaders announced they had agreed to form a governing coalition. The agreement includes a pledge for Austria to become carbon-neutral by 2040, but also a tough stance on illegal immigration and cuts to corporate and income taxes.

On January 4, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by Greens delegates. On January 7, the new government was sworn in. While this election was not good for the left, the far-right is not part of the Austrian government.

Israel: Netanyahu easily wins Likud primary

As no Israeli government could be formed after either the April or September 2019 elections, there will be a third election in a year on March 2.

After the most recent failure to form government, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu was challenged for leadership of his Likud party by Gideon Sa’ar. The primary was held on December 26 among Likud members. Netanyahu crushed Sa’ar by 72.5% to 27.5%, and will lead Likud into the March election.

Polling for the election suggests that the opposition Blue & White is ahead of Likud, but will not have enough support from other left-wing parties to form a government. With Yisrael Beiteinu unwilling to work with either Likud or Blue & White, the deadlock may not be broken.

Switzerland: Greens fail to win seat on executive council

I wrote about the Greens surge at the October Swiss election previously. Switzerland uses a seven-member executive council, rather than a single PM or president who wields executive power. These seven members are supposed to roughly reflect the overall composition of parliament. But despite the Greens’ gains at the election, they failed to win a Council seat at the December 11 Council election.

Greens surge in Switzerland; left retains Bolivia presidency and wins Budapest mayoral election; far-right surges in German and Italian state elections

Switzerland uses proportional representation by canton (state). At the October 20 election, the right-wing People’s Party won 53 of the 200 lower house seats (down 12), the Social Democrats 39 (down four), the Liberals 29 (down four), the Greens 28 (up 17), the Christian Democrats 25 (down two), the Green Liberals 16 (up nine) and the Conservative Democrats three (down four).

Elections were also held for the 46-member upper house. While lower house seats are allocated to cantons on a population basis, the 20 full cantons have two upper house seats each, and the six half-cantons one seat each. Most cantons will have a second round election for the upper house on November 24, so we do not know upper house results yet.

Update November 30: After the November 24 upper house runoff elections, the Christian Democrats won 13 of the 46 upper house seats (steady), the Liberals 12 (down one), the Social Democrats nine (down three), the People’s Party six (up one) and the Greens five (up four).

Switzerland has a unique system of executive government. Rather than a directly elected president or a PM elected by parliament who wields executive power, Switzerland has a seven-member Federal Council. The Council currently has two People’s Party, two Social Democrats, two Liberals and one Christian Democrat.

Elections to the Council are held by both chambers of parliament sitting as one. The composition of the Council roughly reflects parliament’s composition. A Green may be elected to Council at the expense of a right-wing party.

Left-wing Marales wins fourth term in Bolivia (actually not)

Left-wing Bolivian president Evo Marales was first elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2014, winning over 60% in his first two re-election bids. At the October 20 election, Morales was held to 47.1%, while his principal opponent, Carlos Mesa, won 36.5%. As Morales had over 40% while finishing more than ten points ahead of his nearest rival, he was elected without a runoff.

There was controversy in this election, both regarding Morales running for a fourth term and the count. A preliminary count was paused with 83% counted; Morales led by seven points at that point, which would have required a runoff.

Update November 11: Morales announced on November 10 that he would resign as president, after a report from the Organisation of American States found “serious irregularities” in the vote count. A new presidential election will be required.

Left wins Budapest, but Fidesz wins overall in Hungarian local elections

Hungarian local elections were held on October 13. The opposition parties gained the Budapest mayoralty from the governing far-right Fidesz. However, across all local elections, Fidesz won 54.5% of the vote, to 41.0% for all opposition parties.

Fidesz has won three successive landslides at national elections since 2010. Although major cities are trending left, regions are trending right globally. If Fidesz continues to win a majority across Hungary, they will continue to govern.

Far-left and far-right largest parties after Thuringian (Germany) state election

At the October 27 Thuringian state election in Germany, the far-left Left won 29 of the 90 seats (up one since 2014), the far-right AfD 22 (up 11), the conservative CDU 21 (down 13), the centre-left SPD eight (down four), the Greens five (down one) and the pro-business FDP five. The threshold was 5%, and the FDP cleared it by just six votes (0.0005 points). I do not know whether there will be a recount. It is the first time since German reunification that the Left has been the biggest party in a state election.

46 seats are required for a majority. Although the Left has been in coalition governments before, only other left-wing parties have previously worked with it, while the AfD has been frozen out of government by all other parties. To reach a majority, the CDU will need to not actively oppose the Left. The previous Thuringian government was a Left/SPD/Green coalition.

Update November 10: In final results announced November 7, presumably after rechecking all votes cast, the FDP passed the 5% threshold by 73 votes.

Far-right crushes in Umbrian (Italy) regional election

At the October 27 Umbrian regional election in Italy, the far-right League candidate won 57.6%, to 37.5% for the centre-left candidate, who was backed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Since 1970, the Umbrian presidency has been held by the left. At the 2015 election, the centre-left candidate defeated the right-wing candidate by 3.5%.

In August, the League’s national leader, Matteo Salvini, broke his coalition with the Five Stars in an attempt to force new Italian elections, but they formed a coalition with the centre-left Democrats to reach a governing majority – details here. The Umbrian election was the first since the Five Star/Democrat coalition was formed, and will be a little revenge for Salvini and the League.

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.