“What to look for in the autumn”

“What to look for in the autumn”

Millais “Autumn Leaves” (Wikimedia Commons)

A round-up of the international scene

It’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 “to look out for” as the autumn unfolds.

Australia (voted 21 August)

There are still 143 seats to officially declare their results after the election, but there doesn’t seem to be any doubt now that the final tally will be Coalition 73, Labor 72, Independents 4 and Green 1, and Australia’s first hung parliament for 70 years (with every “Westminster model” country now having an HP). With the Greens’ 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 – but it’s not over until Katter, Oakeshott, and Windsor have made up their minds – 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 – but the downside is protracted coalition negotiations and a political scene that’s currently rather unstable. The VVD’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 “purple-plus” 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 Wilders’ PVV (the PVV would support the government from outside Cabinet) – 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 “forbidden” combination of the traditional “big three”, the VVD, PvdA, and CDA. Current call: the three parties will swallow their differences and put a centre coalition together – if it’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 didn’t keep changing as in the Netherlands – but on the downside the country’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 Belgium’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

Upcoming elections

Many of these will be covered in more depth on PB, especially the midterms, and we have several guest articles in the pipeline, but here’s a whistle-stop of what’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 – 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 Lula’s massive popularity, now looks set to see off the right’s candidate Jose Serra of the PSDB and secure a third presidential term for the left. Current call: Rousseff to win comfortably – 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 Governors’ mansions, in a major electoral test, with Obama’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.

And finally…

There are a few “possibles” to keep an eye on. Italy, where Gianfranco Fini has formed a breakaway movement out of Berlusconi’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, he’d make the better leader.

That should be plenty to be getting on with – can I wish everyone a happy autumn, and successful betting.

Double Carpet

Editor’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

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