International Elections Digest: After stunning election, British prime minister hangs by a thread

The Results

In the end, the Tories took 42 percent of the vote nationwide and emerged with 317 seats, a loss of 13 from their previous total of 330. Labour, meanwhile, earned 40 percent of the vote and took 262 seats, a gain of 30, a pair of results that, given the polling, seemed unimaginable when May first called these elections. With no party winning an outright majority of the chamber’s 650 seats, the current state of affairs has yielded what’s known as a “hung Parliament” (more on what that’ll mean in a bit).

(For an excellent examination of how Labour ran such a strong campaign and why it was able to defy expectations and shock the Tories, you’ll want to read our pre-election analysis by David Beard.)

Labour surged almost everywhere in England and Wales. Only in North East England and the nearby Yorkshire area did Conservatives make consistent gains on Labour, but even those improvements were not enough to swing many seats. Labour wound up picking up 28 seats from the Conservatives and lost just five, for a net swing of 23 seats from their foremost rivals.

Under other circumstances, that might have been enough to win the election for Labour, but the Scottish Conservatives saved the day for their brethren to the south. Having held only one seat in Scotland since 1997, Tories picked up 12 seats thanks largely to their popular leader, Ruth Davidson, and her strong stance against a second Scottish independence referendum.

Those seats came at the expense of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which nearly swept Scotland in 2015, winning 56 of the country’s 59 seats in Parliament. A pullback from that extraordinary high was inevitable (the SNP had never before won more than a handful of seats), but the losses ended up being far larger than anyone had expected. The SNP lost seats to all three unionist parties (the Tories, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats)—21 in all—and saw a significant decrease in their vote percentage. Labour even won a seat back in Glasgow, one of the strongest pro-independence areas of Scotland, along with five other seats elsewhere.

The centrist (and vocally anti-Brexit) Liberal Democrats won three seats in Scotland, though their results in England were more mixed, losing four of seven seats while gaining five new ones. While the party took an unusual way of getting there (eight of their twelve MPs will be freshmen), they did increase their seat total. The Lib Dems appear to have regained their traditional ability to fight elections seat-by-seat, based on the individual strength of its candidates. However, their power is a shadow of what it was just a few short years ago, when it had more than 50 seats in Parliament.

The Green Party held onto their lone seat, though they lost more than half their national vote share as previous Green voters defected to Labour en masse. That collapse was nothing compared to the anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), though, which lost 3.3 million of the 3.9 million voters who supported it in 2015. The success of Brexit and the commitment of both major parties to seeing it through utterly robbed UKIP of its raison d’être. In the absence of some major unexpected development arising during the Brexit process, UKIP may soon cease to exist.

Finally, we come to Northern Ireland, where a completely different set of political parties runs for Parliament. The conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the left-wing nationalist Sinn Féin swept 17 of 18 seats, 10 for the DUP and seven for Sinn Féin (one seat was claimed by an Independent). The center-left nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) lost all three of its seats, and the center-right unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) lost both of its seats.

Unionists like the DUP favor Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom while nationalists like Sinn Féin reject the U.K.’s authority over their country and support reunification with the Republic of Ireland, with whom they share the Emerald Isle. As a result of this stance, Sinn Féin members have always refused to take their seats in Parliament, and even though they’d now have increased influence given how fragile the Tories’ grip is, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has reiterated that his party will not renounce its longtime policy of abstenionism.

The DUP, though, doesn’t share any of these concerns, and this little band is about to receive a lot more attention than usual.

The Conservative-DUP Alliance

The Conservatives have long been friendly with the DUP, and following her election night debacle, May was forced to turn to her much smaller allies to forge an arrangement known as “confidence and supply” in which the DUP will keep the Tories in power. But the DUP is not simply a Northern Ireland version of the Conservative Party—they have their own identity, and that’s already causing problems for May.

The DUP was founded by Protestant fundamentalist leader Ian Paisley in 1971 and made itself known as a hardline unionist party, particularly compared to the more moderate UUP. It opposed attempts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland by sharing power with the nationalists and even resisted the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that helped bring peace to the country. After becoming the largest unionist party in the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 2005, the DUP eventually assented to a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Féin. The two parties have, for the most part, jointly governed Northern Ireland ever since.

Beyond its hardline unionism, the DUP is primarily notable for its socially conservative positions, which makes it much more akin to the Republican Party in the United States than to most European center-right parties. The DUP is anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage, and has a history of climate change denial—positions that have long been left behind by the Tory mainstream.

Indeed, one of the most heavily circulated stories immediately after the election was about the DUP’s anti-gay positions, and Ruth Davidson, the leader of Scotland’s Tories, is none too happy: She’s a soon-to-be-married lesbian, and were it not for the Conservative gains in Scotland, May wouldn’t even be in position to make this deal with the DUP. (Davidson says May gave her assurances that there “would be absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights” as a result of this alliance.)

Despite this, the Tories obviously need the DUP and the DUP doesn’t have any incentive to rock the boat too much. They really, really don’t like Corbyn, who has long been one of the few British politicians to outright support Irish nationalism (as opposed to unionism or a more generic pro-peace stance). So for the time being, the two parties are going to stick together.

Brexit (and other issues)

How will all this affect Brexit and other issues facing the United Kingdom? The U.K. will definitely still continue its departure from the European Union—that’s not in any doubt. Both major parties are committed to it, and most opponents have simply resigned themselves to the reality of it. However, May is now in a much weaker position and so will likely not have the ability to drive a hard bargain with the European Union for more favorable Brexit terms like many imagined she would with a large majority at her back. Given that a number of Tories don’t support a so-called “hard” Brexit, she may end up having to coordinate the departure deal with Labour to ensure its passage (if she even can).

But there could be much bigger changes in domestic policy, including the likely end of austerity that was put in place by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition that took office in 2010. The DUP is interested in more money for Northern Ireland, not less, and plenty of Tories are tired of politically painful spending cuts.

Many of May’s other priorities are also now probably doomed, most prominently the expansion of grammar schools. Grammar schools are somewhat similar to public charter schools in the U.S., but they fell out of favor in the U.K. and were all but eliminated in the 1980s. May, a grammar school graduate herself, wanted to bring them back over the objections of a small group of Tories. Obviously, the wishes of “a small group of Tories” can now be determinative of pretty much anything. More often than not, any sort of controversial legislation will be scrapped rather than risking the stability of May’s fragile governing coalition.

The Future

Given that this election was supposed to create five years of stability for May to negotiate and implement Brexit, the future is now suddenly cloudy. How long will May survive? It could be anywhere from a day to a couple of years. Already her two top advisors have resigned at the insistence of Tory cabinet members. May will certainly never lead her party in contesting another election, and the Tories will want a new leader in place well before the next go-round. One the other hand, Tories fear a bloody leadership contest and a new election if May departs.

How will the Brexit negotiations go? No one knows, even more so than before. The Scottish Tories want much closer ties to the EU than most of the English Tories (a “soft” Brexit versus a “hard” Brexit). The DUP, meanwhile, wants to maintain Northern Ireland’s frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland but without any sort of “special deal” that would treat Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the United Kingdom (they’re very touchy about NI being on the same terms as the rest of the union). There’s certainly a chance that May won’t be able to cobble together a majority of members of any group of parties to support a single version of Brexit.

And when will the next elections be? No later than 2022—that’s all we know—and quite possibly as early as this fall. Given the history of past hung parliaments (and even slim majorities), Westminster will be all but ungovernable. Pretty much the only certainty is that Jeremy Corbyn, of all people, is safe. Who’d have imagined?

Asia

Mongolia—president (June 26)

Mongolians will elect their next president later in June after President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of the center-right Democratic Party faces term limits. His party nominated former parliament member Khaltmaa Battulga, while the main opposition center-left Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) selected current legislative speaker Miyeegombyn Enkhbold. Finally, the small center-left Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party nominated ex-parliament member Sainkhüügiin Ganbaatar, who has struck populist, economic nationalist tones and hopes for an upset. There will be a runoff if no candidate wins a majority in the first round.

Mongolia’s mining-intensive economy is heavily dependent on Chinese trade, and weak demand for its exports following a global slump in commodities prices caused Mongolia’s growth rate to tumble in recent years. That helped the opposition MPP gain a lopsided supermajority in parliament in 2016 after the introduction of a more majoritarian electoral system, giving them more than enough votes to override any presidential vetoes. The MPP will be looking to regain total control in 2017’s presidential race, though one party potentially having such a firm grip on power raises the risk that Mongolia will see democratic backsliding following the end of communism just over two decades ago.

South Korea—president (May 9)

Center-left Democratic Party nominee Moon Jae-in won a landslide victory in South Korea’s early presidential election last month, bringing an end to one of the most tumultuous chapters in the country’s political history since it returned to democracy three decades ago. A former democracy activist and human rights lawyer, Moon earned 41 percent of the vote, far outpacing the 24 percent for right-wing hardliner Hong Jun-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party and 21 percent for Ahn Cheol-soo of the centrist People’s Party.

Moon’s victory ends nearly a decade of conservative rule after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached and removed from office earlier in March, which resulted in the election getting moved up by seven months. Park is currently on trial in a gargantuan corruption and influence-peddling scandal that sparked enormous protests and left her with a single-digit approval rating. Her conservative political party split into two factions; supporters stuck with the newly re-branded Liberty Korea Party, while those who opposed her joined the new dissident Bareun Party (whose candidate won just 7 percent last month).

President Moon’s inauguration ushers liberals and centrists back into power after they gained control over the country’s unicameral legislature in 2016, where the Democratic Party holds a plurality and can informally count on the small People’s Party to support many of its initiatives. On the domestic front, Moon has promised to provide fiscal stimulus and tackle economic inequality and corporate corruption in a country where business conglomerates known as chaebols, many controlled by particular families, dominate the economy. (Former President Park had come under fire for her ties to corporate leaders.)

The new president’s foreign policy views have received more Western media attention thanks to the global implications of how South Korea will now handle its bellicose neighbor North Korea. Park and many South Korean conservatives have taken a hard line toward the North, favoring isolation and strong military ties with the United States. Moon and many liberals, however, support greater diplomatic and economic engagement to resolve tensions with its nuclear-armed counterpart, since many Koreans of all ideological stripes at least nominally favor the idea of eventual reunification.

Consequently, Moon’s presidency could find South Korea asserting itself more against America’s foreign policy desires, especially as Donald Trump has shown no signs of favoring diplomacy over the potential use of military force against North Korea. Moon’s first break with the U.S. was to suspend deployment of America’s controversial THAAD missile defense system, which Trump had set up shortly before the May election in a move that Moon saw as an unnecessary provocation against the North and its ally China. Another major foreign policy change was Moon’s rejection of Park’s controversial settlement agreement with Japan over the Japanese military’s savage sexual enslavement of women (known as “comfort women“) during World War II.

Middle East/North Africa

Lebanon—parliament (TBD)

As we explained in greater detail in our annual preview earlier this year, Lebanon has gone eight years without holding parliamentary elections as divisions and disputes over how to reform an electoral law designed to guarantee sectarian representation have paralyzed its political system. Parliament has twice extended its own term, but it’s set to expire on June 20. While it previously seemed like elections might take place this month, recent reports indicate that legislators are now likely to extend their term once more to give them time to pass a new electoral law, with elections to take place at least “six to seven months” later.

Iran—president (May 19)

The historical streak of Iranian presidents winning re-election to a second term has continued, as moderate President Hassan Rouhani cruised to a comfortable victory over conservative challenger Ebrahim Raisi. Rouhani won 57 percent of the vote to Raisi’s 38 percent, eliminating the need for a runoff. Two other minor candidates received the other 5 percent.

Rouhani was powered by a coalition of reformists and moderate conservatives who have supported his push for better international relations and Iran’s nuclear deal with the West. But while his foreign policy has generally been viewed as a success by his constituents, Rouhani has only inched forward many of the social reforms that his supporters crave (though Iranians can now have satellite dishes). The Iranian economy, meanwhile, is in better shape than when he was first elected in 2013, but that has not yet been felt by everyday Iranians. A major test of Rouhani’s second term will be translating his foreign policy successes into economic growth felt by the middle and working classes.

Raisi was supported by conservative “principlists” and the Revolutionary Guard, and he could possibly end up as Supreme Leader (the country’s highest-ranking political and religious authority). It was unlikely that Raisi would defeat Rouhani, but he sought a good showing to increase his future political prospects. In this he seems successful; Raisi won positive reviews for his campaign, primarily appealing to working-class and religious Iranians.

Europe

Albania—parliament (June 25)

Albania’s governing center-left Socialists and the main opposition center-right Democratic Party have reached a deal under international pressure to delay parliamentary elections by one week to end a threatened opposition boycott. The Democrats had boycotted the parliament itself since February and were poised to do so for June’s vote, but the deal saw the formation of a unity government to oversee the election. Albania’s democratic institutions have been fragile since the country turned from communism to democracy in the 1990s, and a boycott would have struck a damaging blow to the legacy of a political system struggling under the burden of widespread corruption.

The Socialists recently governed with the small center-left Socialist Movement for Integration led by Illir Meta, a former Socialist prime minister whom parliament elected to the mostly ceremonial presidency in April. His party had previously supported a Democratic-led government, though, so another alliance with the Socialists isn’t guaranteed. A new electoral law led many smaller parties to run separately instead of as part of a formal coalition, and they could consequently fail to earn the 3 percent of the vote needed to win seats, while the new center-left Libra Party, formed by Socialist dissidents, could gain seats. Most major parties are broadly supportive of European Union membership for the small Muslim-majority Balkan nation.

Austria—parliament (Oct. 15)

Austria will hold early elections on Oct. 15 instead of waiting until parliament’s term was set to expire in the spring of next year after the mainstream-conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) grew exhausted with its role as the junior partner in a grand coalition led by the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). This election will come less than a year after last December’s internationally watched runoff for the mostly ceremonial presidency saw the anti-immigrant far-right Freedom Party lose to the center-left Green Party by a 54-46 margin after both the SPÖ and ÖVP failed to make the runoff.

SPÖ and ÖVP have dominated Austrian politics since World War II, frequently forming grand coalitions, as they have since 2007 as the two largest parties. However, ÖVP had fallen to third place in the polls over the last year as the Freedom Party surged into first in large part thanks to the ongoing Middle East refugee crisis and dissatisfaction with the European Union.

Nevertheless, ÖVP sought to reverse its fortunes in May when it picked Sebastian Kurz as its new leader, a telegenic 30-year-old who is one of the country’s most popular politicians. Kurz has served as foreign minister since 2013 and developed a reputation as an immigration hardliner who could help appeal to the newer supporters of the more openly xenophobic Freedom Party. After tapping Kurz, ÖVP then called for early elections, which the Freedom Party has long favored.

The tactic appears to have paid off as ÖVP quickly surged into first place, but it’s too soon to tell for sure if this will be a lasting increase in support or merely a temporary bump. Not only did Kurz boost ÖVP’s standing in the polls, he also attained unprecedented power over the party itself, gaining the ability to choose all ministers in a prospective government and determine the placement of candidates on the party list—rebranded to include his name—that’s used to determine seats in the powerful lower house of parliament.

With Kurz’s ÖVP now polling above 30 percent and the Freedom Party and SPÖ both in the mid-20s, an ÖVP-led coalition with the Freedom Party has become a very real possibility. It wouldn’t be the first time—after finishing in third behind the Freedom Party in 1999, ÖVP formed a coalition with the far-right that drew international condemnation and sanctions from fellow European states. However, the responsibilities of serving in government and its support for right-wing economic policies proved disastrous for the Freedom Party, which alienated its working-class base, splintered, and lost nearly two-thirds of its seats in 2002.

As the radical right has advanced across Europe over the last two decades and grown increasingly normalized, mainstream Austrian conservatives might once more give in to the temptation to bring it into the fold so that they can implement conservative economic policies that their social democratic rivals oppose. Even if the Freedom Party doesn’t ultimately end up in a governing coalition, its ascent has seen both the center-right and center-left adopt positions increasingly hostile to immigrants and refugees just to hold it at bay, raising the question of just what sort of victory the mainstream parties will have won if they block the far-right from power again.

France—parliament (June 11 & 18)

This month, France will elect all 577 seats in its National Assembly, the all-important lower house of parliament. After pro-European Union social-liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron scored a landslide 66-34 victory over far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in May’s presidential runoff, Macron’s nascent En Marche! party (yes, it officially includes the exclamation mark) is looking to win a majority in the Assembly so that the new president can actually implement his agenda.

Shortly after winning office, Macron named his cabinet, which included a prime minister and economy minister from the main conservative Republicans party while other cabinet members came from center-left parties. Many ministers, though, belong either to En Marche! or are independents, and lack experience in elected office. In a positive development, women make up half of the cabinet, although most of the top ministries still went to men. These picks signal that Macron’s economic policy agenda will follow a pro-business, market-oriented course that has angered many on the left.

The Socialists and their center-left allies currently hold an outright majority of seats, but are poised for a brutal wipeout according to every poll. En Marche! and its centrist ally MoDem appear set to surge from almost no seats to a dominant majority, possibly even winning over two-thirds of the Assembly. This would mark a stunning shakeup of a party system that has always seen the center-left Socialists and various mainstream center-right parties dominate for over half a century.

French legislative elections operate under a two-round system in single-member districts where any candidate who wins votes equivalent to 12.5 percent of registered voters (often closer to 18 to 20 percent of votes cast) can choose to advance to the second round. That means runoffs could theoretically see three or even four parties advance, with the winner only needing a plurality. The first round for French citizens abroad took place on June 3 and 4, with En Marche! dominating and the center-left suffering major losses. In mainland France, the first round will take place on June 11, and the runoffs for all districts will take place on June 18.

The National Front has historically had trouble winning any seats in the Assembly because of how hard it is for the far-right to win the most votes in individual districts. (It only won two in 2012.) One factor that has contributed to this is that, in past 3-way runoffs where the National Front has had a strong chance of winning a plurality of the vote, one of the more mainstream candidates would withdraw to consolidate the anti-National Front vote. It remains to be seen if that will consistently happen again in 2017, as the party is otherwise positioned to make modest gains.

Meanwhile, the left’s troubles are compounded by its fracture into several factions that are all running separate candidates. Even though radical-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon won nearly 20 percent of the vote in April’s presidential first round, his Unsubmissive France party couldn’t even retain the support of the Communist Party, which had backed it in the presidential race. The risk is that, in many winnable districts, the left will be far too fragmented for any of its candidates to reach the vote threshold necessary to make the runoff. (Daily Kos Elections covered this same dynamic in the 2015 local elections.)

Most of En Marche!’s roster of candidates have not held elected office before, and it includes defectors from establishment parties on both the left and right as well as those who were previously unaffiliated. There is also rough gender parity as well, meaning the party’s success could see France dramatically increase the proportion of women in the National Assembly, which currently stands at 26 percent.

Polling has shown En Marche! surging to first place with roughly a third of the vote in the first round as the mainstream left has collapsed into utter disarray. The conservative Republicans will likely take second place, well ahead of the other parties, but they too face the prospect of major losses. Thanks to its place in the center of the ideological spectrum, En Marche! is well-positioned to pick up the supporters of whichever side gets eliminated in the first round, whether on the left or right, making a majority government the most likely outcome and cementing Macron’s ability to implement his agenda.

Germany

After two big victories in state elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is once again in the driver’s seat for this fall’s federal elections. The poll bump that the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) saw when they nominated Martin Schulz as their candidate for chancellor early this year has almost completely dissipated, with the CDU once again ahead of the SPD by double digits.

Nowhere has this surge been more evident than in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany (in terms of its share of the country’s population, NRW is almost twice as big as California) and a longtime SPD stronghold. The state had been led by an SPD chancellor for forty years from 1966 to 2005 and again since 2010. But the CDU finished in first, 2 points ahead of the SPD.

Now the CDU will be able to govern with their preferred coalition ally, the classically liberal center-right Free Democratic Party (FDP), which had its best showing ever in the state at 13 percent. With the far-left Die Linke (literally “The Left”) just barely missing the threshold for entering the state parliament (they needed 5 percent of the vote and received a painful 4.9 percent), a CDU-FDP coalition wound up with 100 of 199 seats, even with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) newly entering parliament.

A similar result occurred in Schleswig-Holstein, a northern German state that borders Denmark. The CDU also overtook the SPD for first place, with the FDP up, the Greens down, AfD again entering parliament for the first time, and the Left also missing out (though they increased their vote share). However, a CDU-FDP coalition did not receive a majority here, so the CDU was forced to form a different coalition. In this case, they’re pursuing a three-way coalition with the Greens and FDP, instead of a “grand coalition” with the SPD, which is the arrangement they have at the federal level and in a number of other states. These were the last state elections in Germany before the federal election takes place on Sept. 24.

Kosovo—parliament (June 11)

After muddling through for the past three years with a coalition of the two largest parties, Kosovo is headed to early elections following a successful motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. The center-right Democratic Party (PDK), the junior member of the coalition, supported the motion, leaving the right-wing Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) far short of the votes needed to sustain the government.

Both parties have formed electoral coalitions with centrist or center-left parties, making the exact left-right dimensions of the elections less than clear. PDK has the more robust coalition, with fellow center-right Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and center-left Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA). Meanwhile LDK has allied with the small classically liberal New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), and a new party called The Alternative.

The PDK coalition appears to be more open to negotiations with neighboring countries while the LDK coalition has taken a more confrontational stance. Additionally, there’s the radical nationalist Vetëvendosje, which while being left-wing also supports increased direct democracy and the possibility of political union between Kosovo and Albania. (There’s sort of an analogy to the political setup in the Republic of Ireland, with two main parties on the right divided on the details of peace while a left-wing party pushes for a more radical solution).

Beyond these three major groups, 20 of the 120 seats in parliament are reserved for ethnic minorities, 10 for Serbian parties, and 10 for other minorities such as Turks. Most polls have shown the PDK alliance ahead of the LDK coalition, with Vetëvendosje coming in third with a healthy percentage of the vote. The election’s outcome will therefore likely lead to long and complex negotiations over the formation of the next government.

Macedonia—government formation

Six months after December’s election produced a parliament with no clear majority, Macedonia finally has a new government. The opposition center-left Social Democratic Union created a coalition with several small parties that support the rights of ethnic Albanian minorities, ousting the right-wing nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party after nearly a decade in power. The new government aspires to usher Macedonia into NATO and the European Union, two goals that have long been stalled by the country’s long-running name dispute with its southern neighbor Greece.

VMRO-DPMNE had provoked a crisis by using the mostly ceremonial presidency to try to block the Social Democrats from taking over, stoking ethnic tensions, and inciting rioters to violently storm parliament, only to finally back down under international pressure. The outgoing government will likely now face serious investigations over its alleged abuses of power, which include wiretapping thousands of opposition, media, and public figures, charges that sparked mass street protests and have paralyzed Macedonian politics ever since.

Malta—parliament (June 3)

Malta’s center-left Labour Party won re-election with its best performance since the tiny Mediterranean island nation gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. Labour earned another majority under the only proportional representation system in use in Europe that has produced a stable two-party system. Thanks to strong economic growth and record-low unemployment, Labour easily defeated the center-right Nationalist Party in June’s early election despite Prime Minister Joseph Muscat facing allegations of corruption regarding his family, in connection with the 2016 Panama Papers leak. Muscat has promised to legalize same-sex marriage in the fervently Catholic microstate following his victory.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Lesotho—parliament (June 3)

Entirely surrounded by South Africa and plagued by high unemployment and political instability, the tiny enclave nation of Lesotho hosted early parliamentary elections in June using mixed-member proportional representation. The elections came after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of the Democratic Congress (DC) lost a vote of no confidence just two years into his five-year term. Former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) opposition party won a commanding plurality over the DC-led governing coalition. ABC announced it would form a new coalition with the nascent Alliance of Democrats (which is composed of DC dissidents), the Basotho National Party, and another minor party.

North America

Canada—Conservative Party leadership election (May 27)

Canada’s federal Conservative Party finally got around to replacing their former leader, Stephen Harper, almost two years after the party’s crushing 2015 defeat, and they decided to go with a guy who’s anything but a household name: a 38-year-old member of Parliament from Saskatchewan named Andrew Scheer. In a stunning upset, Scheer, a former Speaker of the House of Commons but otherwise little-known outside of Ottawa, edged out presumptive front-runner Maxime Bernier by a 51-49 margin on the 13th ballot of the Tories’ ranked-choice contest.

For months, the Conservative Party leadership race was mostly a two-way affair between blustery businessman and reality TV star Kevin O’Leary and Bernier, a suave but hardline libertarian MP from Quebec. However, O’Leary dropped out of the race in late April, conceding that he had little hope of beating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s centrist Liberal Party in the next general election. O’Leary promptly endorsed Bernier, believing him to be the party’s best hope at making inroads in Quebec and giving Trudeau a run for his money.

Bernier, with his chief rival vanquished and believing that victory was in the bag, was ultimately blindsided by Scheer’s narrow win. Scheer’s candidacy drew few headlines throughout the race but offered something of a compromise choice for the party’s fiscal and social conservative wings in the face of Bernier’s unrelenting laissez-faire orthodoxy and personal hubris.

Canada: British Columbia—provincial legislature (May 9)

After 16 years in power, it appears that the British Columbia Liberal Party (a center-right party unaffiliated with the more centrist federal Liberals headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) has been defeated in a spectacularly narrow fashion. The Liberals, under the leadership of Christy Clark, captured 43 of the provincial legislature’s 87 seats, a four-seat loss that left them just one short of a majority. BC’s long-suffering center-left New Democratic Party won 41 seats, while the centrist Greens crested to an all-time high of 3 seats (and 17 percent of the province-wide popular vote).

Following the vote, both the Liberals and the NDP courted the support of Green leader Andrew Weaver in order to provide their caucuses with a numerical majority in the legislature. After days of negotiations and pressure from supporters who were aghast at the possibility of the Greens propping up the incumbent Liberals, Weaver struck a deal with NDP leader John Horgan to support an NDP minority government.

However, the NDP-Green alliance must pass one immediate hurdle in order to govern: The Liberal government must lose a confidence motion in the legislature. Why would this be a complication, you ask? The answer is confounding. The legislature’s first action, prior to any confidence vote, must be to elect a speaker. In Canadian parliamentary convention, the speaker, while elected by the public as a partisan like any other member of the assembly, takes on a decidedly non-partisan role as an officer of the legislature.

As such, the speaker does not vote on legislation, except to support the government in the event of ties. So even though speakers normally are members of the governing party—in this case, the NDP—it would, at least in theory, be contrary to tradition for that speaker to vote to defeat a sitting government (i.e., the outgoing Liberal government), despite the fact that they’re on opposite partisan sides.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem, but if the NDP or Greens puts forth a speaker, that would leave their alliance with 43 members—the same as the Liberals’. So if this hypothetical NDP speaker were to abstain in the confidence vote, the old Liberal government would remain in place due to the tie. For that reason, the NDP and Greens would like a member of the Liberal Party to serve as speaker (since that would give the NDP-Green alliance a 44-42 voting majority), but the Liberals are a bit too clever to fall for that and have so far refused to put forth one of their own.

Some academic commenters are therefore musing about the possibility that the province’s lieutenant governor could conclude that neither the Liberals nor the NDP could command the confidence of the legislature, meaning a writ for a new election would immediately be issued. We will soon find out how the NDP can handle this initial challenge, as British Columbia’s new legislature will hold its first sitting—and vote for its speaker—on June 22. Of course, it’s only hoary tradition that keeps the speaker from voting against governments in confidence motions, so the easiest approach for the NDP would be to simply ditch that old convention.

If they do oust the Liberals, one of the key parts of the NDP-Green deal involves switching to a proportional representation (PR) electoral system instead of the current first-past-the-post system in single-member districts, which has historically favored the Liberals and been a major roadblock for the Greens. British Columbia previously held two unsuccessful referendums on PR in 2005 and 2009. The first vote obtained nearly 58 percent in favor, but not the 60 percent needed to pass, while the second vote lost in a 61-39 landslide. Wary of these past failures, the NDP and Greens want to hold a fall 2018 referendum, but are considering mixed-member PR instead of the previous single transferable vote proposals.

Canada: Nova Scotia—provincial legislature (May 30)

Nova Scotia’s centrist Liberals, first elected in 2013 by ousting the center-left New Democratic Party, narrowly won a second term late last month, capturing 27 of 51 seats in the province’s legislature. Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil endured clashes with public sector unions over wage disputes and so-called “back-to-work” legislation, relatively austere budgets, and anxiety over the province’s handling of its public health care system. Ultimately, his party lost ground to both the center-right Progressive Conservatives, and the left-leaning NDP, but not enough to lose their outright majority.

Central America/Caribbean

The Bahamas—parliament (May 10)

The center-right Free National Movement Party (FNM) thoroughly demolished the incumbent center-left Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in the Bahamas parliamentary elections last month, winning 35 of the 39 seats in the Bahamian Assembly. While the popular vote was somewhat closer, at 57 percent to 37 percent, Bahamas’ first-past-the-post electoral system turned that advantage into almost a clean sweep for FNM. Former health minister Hubert Minnis will become the country’s fourth prime minister since independence from Britain in 1973. The former PLP government had been dogged by ethical questions, a sluggish economy, and the use of Chinese workers to construct Chinese-owned projects. Minnis has vowed greater transparency and a requirement to employ Bahamian workers.

Mexico: Mexico State—governor (June 4)

Earlier this month, the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won the election for Mexico State’s governorship, continuing nearly 90 years of PRI control. Mexico State surrounds Mexico City and is the country’s largest (roughly the Mexican equivalent of California). It’s also long been a PRI stronghold, but growing momentum for the leftist Morena party this spring made for an extremely competitive election. Over the last several years, the state has suffered from worsening violence, corruption, and stagnating economic growth. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is affiliated with PRI and has suffered from abysmally low approval ratings, also weighed down his party.

Polls right before the election showed PRI candidate Alfredo del Mazo Maza neck-and-neck with Morena nominee Delfina Gómez Álvare, but PRI ultimately prevailed 34-31 while Morena accused PRI of fraud. The governor’s race attracted a huge amount of media attention, money (it was the most expensive state-level election in Mexican history), and scandal. It’s also a bellwether for next year’s presidential election and a testing ground for Morena’s national ambitions.

Morena was created just three years ago by populist former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came in second under the left-wing PRD party banner in both the 2012 and 2006 presidential races, the latter of which was marred by accusations of fraud and prompted mass demonstrations. López Obrador, known by his initials as AMLO, has led many early presidential polls over the conservative National Action Party, but his party is still rooted in his personal popularity. It has yet to win any state governorships or seats in the Senate (Mexico’s upper legislative chamber) and holds less than 10 percent of the semi-proportional Chamber of Deputies (the lower house). A victory for Morena in Mexico State would have been a headline-grabbing upset.

But even with this loss, the party still appears to be on the rise, and Morena’s ascent has implications for Mexico’s neighbor to the north. AMLO’s leftist nationalist platform is based heavily on not giving in to Trump’s bullying: “No to the Wall” is painted on Morena billboards. A presidential victory for Morena could do much to shape the future of relations between the U.S. and Mexico, especially if NAFTA is re-negotiated under its tenure.

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