Today, voters are going to the polls in runoffs to decide two elections that I covered here in their first rounds: Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Both linked posts have lengthy and interesting comment threads, thanks to the propagators.)
In both cases, the leading candidate was sufficiently close to a majority in the first round, and (especially in Congo) sufficiently ahead of the closest challenger, that a victory by the leading first-round candidate is almost assured. In Brazil, incumbent president Lula obtained 48.6% of the vote in the first round against 41.6% for Geraldo Alckmin. In Congo, incumbent president Joseph Kabila won 45%, and his closest challenger was very far behind, at only around 20%.
This does not mean, however, that the runoff campaign was superfluous. In each case, the runoff may encourage coalition concessions that might not otherwise be made, and that may be necessary for stable governance after the election. This advantage is especially relevant to the Congo, for two reasons: (1) The system there, unlike Brazil, is premier-presidential, meaning that the president has to construct a cabinet that can obtain majority confidence from the legislature; (2) The Congolese party system is absurdly fragmented and regionally divided, such that there can be little presumption that the plurality winner really reflects the majority.
In both countries, legislative elections were held at the same time as the first round of the presidential election.
UPDATE: BBC reports that a partial count has Lula reelected with 60%.
I was going to link to Fontaine’s blog, Yebo Gogo, as he always follows African elections closely. However, the blog appears to be defunct, and even the older posts are gone. That’s unfortunate.