I don’t know if the month that is now upon us (how did that happen, anyway?) is as big for election-watchers as September, 2005, was. But it is big.
I already covered the presidential election in Benin in the previous post. Also coming up this month are:
Colombia (legislative, on the 12th)
El Salvador (legislative/12)
Haiti (legislative second rounds/19)
That is a pretty good lineup of important elections.
I have already covered the legislative election in Colombia, and will be doing so again in the coming week. They are important for at least two reasons: They are the first elections under the new list-proportional electoral system, and they precede by about two months the first-ever reelection bid by a sitting Colombian president. As I noted previosuly, the new electoral system has produced the expected consolidation of political forces, and the elections are likely to be a measure of both how strong the new leftist alliance will be as well as the balance among the various parties supporting President Alvaro Uribe (who is running without a party label).
The legislative elections in Ukraine are very important, as they are the first legislative elections held since the Orange Revolution of late 2004 resulted in the recognition of the electoral victory of President Viktor Yushchenko. As I have noted before, Yushchenko’s need to govern with the old parliament elected in 2002 has greatly complicated his alliance building and policy success. The last year has been marked by Yushchenko’s firing from the premiership of his revolutionary ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, and later, parliament’s firing of her replacement. Under constitutional changes going into effect (but still challenged by Yushchenko), the parliament to be elected this month, and not the president, will determine the formation of the cabinet and the policy direction of the country. The elections are taking place under a new electoral system of closed-list PR in one district (replacing the former parallel MMM system). Ukraine will thus be the largest country ever to use a single nationwide district for legislative elections. Party labels are quite weak in Ukraine, and regional divisions are significant, but this electoral system is party-centered and lacks any regional component–and it will determine whether the “revolutionary” victory is confirmed or the old order regains greater influence.
Ukraine’s neighbor, Belarus, is sometimes referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship” and a living museum of the old USSR. The opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko has united behind one major candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, and is hoping for a local version of the Orange Revolution, though it appears far less primed for such a victory than was the Ukrainian opposition, which had a strong regional base and faced a corrupt and sometimes repressive government, but one that was less authoritarian than in Belarus.
Haiti‘s legislative elections are more important than one might expect, given all the attention in media coverage (and the Clinton administration’s military intervention) on the occupant of the presidency. However, Haiti for all practical purposes has a parliamentary system, notwithstanding the elected presidency. It also has almost no parties to speak of (which is the main factor in making the presidency more powerful by default than the constitution implies it should be).
In El Salvador, no significant change is expected in the close divide in a legislature in which neither of the major parties has much more than about a third of the seats. While the ARENA party, which has now held the presidency since 1989, led some polls by a huge margin just over a month ago, as I noted in a comment over a boz’s place, I never believed it. More recently, polls suggest ARENA and the former guerrilla movement, the FMLN, will again be close in votes. As I mentioned to boz:
Since 1997, the second election in which the FMLN particiapted, ARENA’s vote has never been greater than 36% (or lower than 31.9%). The FMLN’s vote has varied in an even narrower band from 33.0 to 35.2%.
So, in the absence of any overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it seems pretty safe to expect that both parties will again be close.
The importance of Israel‘s election is well known. Kadima, the party that Ariel Sharon founded when he bolted his Likud, continues to have a big lead. As Charles Franklin’s polling graph indicates, the party has slipped with Sharon remaining incapacitated and since the Hamas win in Palestine, but it is still far ahead. I am going to copy here my comment at Political Arithmetik:
Based on their current estimates, then, Kadima and Labor would be within striking distance of having on their own the seats needed to form a government (61). However, they are likely to bring in the [National Union/National Religious Party alliance] even if they are slightly over 61, and the trends for both Kadima and NU/NRP suggest the latter will be needed.
Assuming Likud is out of the coalition, the only other likely combinations would include several of the smaller parties that are not shown in the figure. If you add up the estimates shown in the post, they come to 92 seats. In other words, 28 seats remain to be divided among smaller parties.
In addition to the elections I noted above, some subnational elections are worth noting. In Germany, the states of Baden-Wurttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt all have assembly elections on 26 March. These are noteworthy in that they will be the first test of the relative strengths of the two parties in the federal grand coalition, as well as the main smaller opposition parties, since the federal election of that great month for election watchers last September.
There are state legislative and municipal elections in the state of Mexico, noteworthy only because Mexico state is one of the largest in the country and all three major national parties have strongholds in the state. It will be the last state election (at least that I am aware of) before the federal election of 2 July.
There were also elections in the Solomon Islands scheuduled for this month, but they are now set for 4 April. Solomon Islands is a small country most notable for having extremely fragmented local and clan-based elections–showing, along with its larger neighbor, Papua New Guinea, how plurality in single-seat districts works in the absence of any major national parties. (Take a quick look at the 2001 results to see what I mean.)
As long as we are spilling over into April, of course the snap election in Thailand is set for 2 April–if it is not delayed.
And let’s not forget the assembly election in that last remnant of the French North American empire: St. Pierre and Miquelon.
Electoral calendar from Maximiliano Herrera.