Election news from Zimbabwe, Western Australia, Bulgaria, Kenya and Venezuela.
There are no significant elections to come for a few weeks, but there was an interesting referendum at the weekend and some loose ends to tie up from recent polls. So here goes.
A referendum was held in Zimbabwe on Saturday for the adoption of a new constitution, in preparation for general elections to be held later in the year. There don’t seem to be any official results as yet (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission website is particularly unhelpful), but it’s hardly necessary to wait – since it was endorsed by both main parties it is expected to be approved overwhelmingly. Unofficial results reported by Voice of America show large majorities in favor.
You can read the proposed constitution here; its big selling point is the introduction of term limits, a somewhat sensitive point in a country that has had the same president for 33 years.
Since 2009 there has been a power-sharing agreement in place between president Robert Mugabe and prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe remains a country in very bad shape, but it’s fair to say that the agreement has been a success and has pulled Zimbabwe back from the brink of collapse. Certainly few would have expected four years ago that it would hold up this well or this long.
Counting for the Western Australian state election (held a week earlier) wrapped up on Saturday, at least as far as the lower house is concerned (one upper house seat is still in doubt between the Nationals and the Shooters – see Antony Green’s explanation here). Although the overall result was clear on the night, several seats remained in doubt, and two were very close: Labor held onto Collie-Preston by 59 votes and Midland by 23 votes. (Both will be recounted.)
The official results are available here, but you’ll probably find the ABC’s site a good deal more user-friendly. My colleague the Poll Bludger has also been posting regular updates on the late counting for both houses.
The Liberals ended up with a narrow but clear majority, 31 of the 59 seats, with 47.1% of the primary vote – not an unfair result for a preferential system. Labor’s 33.1% gave it 21 seats. The unfairness comes further down the table: the Greens came third with 8.4% but won no seats, while the National Party was back on 6.1% and won seven seats.
Imagine how different our political system would look if it gave the same unfair advantage to the Greens that it currently gives to the Nationals.
Bulgaria’s president last week named a non-party caretaker government to hold office until the election scheduled for May. Career diplomat Marin Raikov is prime minister and foreign minister; Kalin Hristov, deputy governor of the central bank, is finance minister.
Centre-right prime minister Boyko Borisov had resigned three weeks earlier following protests over high energy prices that were marked by unexpected police violence. The elections will be a further test of whether Europe’s economic troubles are finally producing a serious move to the left: the opposition Socialist Party refused to take office when Borisov resigned, but opinion polls put the two parties neck and neck.
As expected, losing presidential candidate Raila Odinga has filed an appeal against the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta in this month’s election. Most observers seem to think he doesn’t have much chance, since Kenyatta led on the final count by a comfortable 6.8%, or about 833,000 votes, although he only avoided a runoff by 0.1%.
Al-Jazeera’s Peter Greste has a very good analysis of the issues at stake in the appeal.
The next big election will be on 14 April, when Venezuela votes after a short campaign to choose a new president, following the death earlier this month of Hugo Chávez. Acting president and Chávez loyalist Nicolas Maduro will face off against centre-right opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
Regular readers will know that I’m no Chávez fan, but despite the habit of many opponents of referring to him as a “dictator” the reality is that Venezuela under Chávez continued to hold reasonably free elections. It’s reasonable to assume that next month’s poll will be a genuine test of popular opinion – albeit one that the government comes to with a distinct advantage due to its domination of the media.
The question will be whether the loss of Chávez gives the opposition a real opening, or whether by contrast the sympathy vote will propel Maduro to a term in his own right. Stay tuned.