Friday, May 11, 2018

Psephology Rocks: Four Elections You May Have Missed (And One You Didn't)

There have been plenty of elections since the last time I did a really deep dive into an election worth talking about- so many that I couldn't just pick one. Or if I did pick one, John Oliver would come along and do a far better job than I do and summing it all up. But the elections kept piling up and piling up and finally, it left with me no choice. Here are four elections you may have missed and one you (obviously) didn't:

1. Armenia: So, while the American media was obsessing over the President's lawyer, the porn star, his bowel movements and his latest Tweet, Armenia had a straight up people's revolution that got like zero coverage from any American news network that I could see.

So, what happened? Well, in March of 2018 members of the Republican Party of Armenia did not exclude the idea of nominating President Serzh Sargsyan for the post of Prime Minister. He for his part, had amended the constitution to abolish term limits which would have allowed him to continue in office for over a decade.

The Armenians didn't warm to the notion and took to the streets headed by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, first rejecting the nomination of Sargsyan to continue as Prime Minister and then calling for his ouster altogether. Pashinyan insisted on the protests being non-violent and his tactic worked, as the movement spiraled outward to include all areas of society.  There was a lot of dancing as well, so really, instead of a Velvet Revolution, perhaps Armenia could be the world's first Dance, Dance Revolution? Ultimately it worked and Sargsyan resigned and Pashinyan became the new Prime Minister of Armenia.

The groundwork for this Revolution (or at least for Sargsyan's attempted power grab) was sparked by a December 2015 referendum which changed Armenia's form of government from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary republic. The Presidency is becoming a more ceremonial head of state and a lot of the governing powers are going to be vested in the Prime Minister. The President can't be a member of any political party and is going to be limited to one, seven year term. (Hence, Sargysan's attempt to become Prime Minister.)

2. Malaysia: Okay, so Malaysia just had kind of a big election which saw former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sweep back to power at the ripe old age of 92 to become the world's oldest elected leader. What's special about his comeback? Well, he ran under a new party banner the Pakatan Harapan which ousted the Barisan Nasional (the National Front) coalition that's ran the country since 1957. What's interesting about Malaysia? Well, it's a federal constitutional elective monarchy- it's modeled closer on a Westminter-style British parliamentary democracy, but with a twist. The head of state is a monarch, but it's an elected monarch chosen from the nine hereditary rulers of the Malaysian states that have them. (The other four states have Governors.)

3. UK Local Elections: There wasn't really much of a story to tell here. On the local level, everyone kind of held serve, but that that Conservatives limited so many of their expected losses was largely due to the collapse of UKIP's vote on the national level. Not sure what, if anything the tea leaves foretell off of these results.

4. Karnataka: do a Google search and keep half an eye on the election results as they roll in over the next couple of days. This sizable southern Indian state is largely considered a bellwether for national elections that are set for early next year. If the ruling BJP doesn't do well, then that could be bad news for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If, on the other hand, they do, then it'll probably be seen as a good sign of the BJP's strength heading into the national polls next year. (Here's a good article from The Economist give you the 4-1-1 on why it all matters.)

5. 'Merica!: This is pretty much all you need to know about the various state primaries that sprinkled early May. Just this.

(This guy lost, thankfully.) Were there any tea leaves worth talking about in this round of primaries? Not really. Except, I think that the media's obsession with impeachment and the Mueller investigation is crowding out any Democratic attempts to craft a cohesive message for the voters. I have no idea how much if anything can be read into generic Congressional ballots, but the Democratic advantage is down to 1.5% now. Doesn't bode well.

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