Millais “Autumn Leaves” (Wikimedia Commons)
A round-up of the international scene
Itâ€™s been a busier August than usual, with the Labour leadership contest and the Australian election, but things will step up a couple of gears this month as politicians return from holidays, parliaments reconvene, and politics returns in earnest for the autumn. Taking its cue from the iconic Ladybird books series (more at bottom), these are a few things â€œto look out forâ€ as the autumn unfolds.
Australia (voted 21 August)
There are still 143 seats to officially declare their results after the election, but there doesnâ€™t seem to be any doubt now that the final tally will be Coalition 73, Labor 72, Independents 4 and Green 1, and Australiaâ€™s first hung parliament for 70 years (with every â€œWestminster modelâ€ country now having an HP). With the Greensâ€™ Adam Bandt and Indpendent MP Andrew Wilkie now having signed up to Labor (and Wilkie securing A$340m for Hobart hospital), Julia Gillard just needs two of the three remaining independents to secure a majority in the House of Representatives, while Tony Abbott and the Coalition need all three. With Wilkie on board, Labor are a strong favourite to provide the new PM at 1.56 on Betfair â€“ but itâ€™s not over until Katter, Oakeshott, and Windsor have made up their minds â€“ and Katter has said he may back neither side. Current call: Labor to secure power with the “outback independents” putting them over the line
Netherlands (voted 9 June)
With its very pure form of PR, every vote really does count â€“ but the downside is protracted coalition negotiations and a political scene thatâ€™s currently rather unstable. The VVDâ€™s 31 seats was the lowest winning haul for decades, the latest round of formation talks has just collapsed, there have been five informateurs, and Balkenende has been a caretaker PM for over 6 months now. Of the major talks, Round One featured the â€œpurple-plusâ€ combination (VVD, PvdA, D66, Greens) which foundered over economic policy, while Round Two has been the initially mooted, on-off-on rightwing option with the VVD, CDA, and Wildersâ€™ PVV (the PVV would support the government from outside Cabinet) â€“ but CDA MPs and ex-PMs have had cold feet over Wilders, who has now pulled the plug. The next option to try, and possibly the last before new elections, will be the previously â€œforbiddenâ€ combination of the traditional â€œbig threeâ€, the VVD, PvdA, and CDA. Current call: the three parties will swallow their differences and put a centre coalition together â€“ if itâ€™s fresh elections, Wilders could get an even better result
Belgium (voted 13 June)
Neighbouring Belgium has also been having lengthy talks which was hoped would (eventually) lead to the formation of a government. On the upside, the parties involved didnâ€™t keep changing as in the Netherlands â€“ but on the downside the countryâ€™s linguistic fracture in addition to the normal party political differences makes forming a new government very difficult. The big winners in the election were the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the Francophone socialists (PS). PS leader Elio Di Rupo was the pre-formateur, leading talks involving no fewer than seven parties (Flemish & French Socialists, Christian Democrats, Greens, plus the N-VA). The parties were discussing funding arrangements for Belgiumâ€™s regions as a precursor to the formation talks themselves, but the talks have collapsed and Di Rupo has resigned his role. Current call: Choppy times ahead – a new government may still eventually be formed, but if not, breakup looks a big step closer
Many of these will be covered in more depth on PB, especially the midterms, and we have several guest articles in the pipeline, but hereâ€™s a whistle-stop of whatâ€™s coming up and the current assessment.
Sweden (19 September) Recent polls have been close, but have shown the centre-right Alliance for Sweden ahead, led by PM Frederik Reinfeldt of the Moderate party, helped in part by the unpopularity of Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin. Current call: the centre-right to return to power â€“ but a possible hung parliament if the rightwing Sweden Democrats clear the 4% threshold
Brazil (3rd October) Polling had been neck and neck for much of the year, but the PT candidate Dilma Rousseff, riding on the coattails of President Lulaâ€™s massive popularity, now looks set to see off the rightâ€™s candidate Jose Serra of the PSDB and secure a third presidential term for the left. Current call: Rousseff to win comfortably â€“ maybe without even needing the second round on 31st October
US midterms (2nd November) No further introduction needed, the whole House, 37 seats in the Senate races, and 37 Governorsâ€™ mansions, in a major electoral test, with Obamaâ€™s rating now in the 40s. Effectively the curtain-raiser for 2012 with candidate declarations likely in early 2011 once the midterm dust has settled, will this be another 1994 for the Democrats? Current call: GOP to gain the House, with the Democrats narrowly holding the Senate, and taking significant gubernatorial losses.
There are a few â€œpossiblesâ€ to keep an eye on. Italy, where Gianfranco Fini has formed a breakaway movement out of Berlusconiâ€™s governing coalition, holds a confidence vote this month to cover a handful of key issues, but my guess is the government will survive. The revolving door that has become the Prime Minister of Japan faces another possible change this month, as Ozawa challenges Kan (only PM for a couple of months!) for the DPJ leadership.
In the UK, will the Election Court order a re-run in Oldham East and Saddleworth? And on the 25th, the new Labour leader will be unveiled. Probably David Miliband, but can Ed win through on the lower preferences? – in my opinion, heâ€™d make the better leader.
That should be plenty to be getting on with â€“ can I wish everyone a happy autumn, and successful betting.
Editorâ€™s note: Some of you may remember the Ladybird books, from which this piece takes its title.
Our Genial Host will return to PB later this week