Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘elections’

UK Election Analysis: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

Yesterday’s UK parliamentary elections are being spun in the media as a disastrous result for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, despite the face that the Tories remain by far the largest party in Parliament, losing 13 seats from their pre-election tally of 331. To understand what is really going on here, let’s look at the the difference between expectations and reality.

Elections are increasingly viewed not so much by the significance of the actual result, but by the difference between the result and what was expected going into the election. These expectations are themselves the product of media reporting and polling, which vary wildly in the accuracy of their predictions. In the case of this recent election, the Conservatives were originally expected to increase their majority, given the perceived unpopularity of Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Against this expectation, losing any number of seats seems like a failure for May and the Tories. They no longer have an absolute majority in the Commons, although May should be able to count on the support of the small DUP party of Northern Ireland to create a very slim majority. (It is also important to note that Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party refuses to actually take up their seats in Parliament, which reduces the practical number of votes on the opposition side.)

In reality, then, May will be operating in an environment similar to what has often prevailed in the US – a very narrow parliamentary majority in which a few defectors can derail the government’s initiatives. This forces the government to obtain at least some support among opposition MPs in order to get things done. It’s harder to pass legislation, but what does get passed usually ends up being better for having broader support. So the “disaster” for the Conservatives is really just business as usual in the US and many other countries.

Now, it’s certainly true that the result is a setback for May, particularly because the results suggest not so much a repudiation by the voters of Conservative values, but of May and her leadership team. A number of her ministers were among those who lost their seats, even while the Tories increased their percentage of the vote among working-class Britons. May is widely perceived to have run a poor campaign, alienating both older and younger voters with poorly explained social policy proposals. Meanwhile, Corbyn comes out as a winner despite his party still being in the minority. Not only did his leadership improve rather than worsen Labour’s numbers, he was particularly effective in motivating Labour turnout among students and young people. The results should bolster his position as Labour’s leader which had previously been on very shaky ground.

One bright spot for the Tories is in Scotland, where the party has been effectively reborn with its best showing since 1983. The Tories, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, gained at the expense of the previous dominant Scottish National Party. The SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, had been calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and will now probably have to shelve those plans for the time being.

A number of writers seem determined to try to interpret the results as being a referendum on Brexit. In fact, most voters seem to have been more concerned with domestic economic and social issues, understanding that whether “hard” or “soft”, some form of Brexit is now inevitable regardless of who resides at No. 10. It is also interesting that the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London do not seem to have greatly affected the results one way or another. My personal sense is that the typical gain that the “law and order” Conservatives would normally get among some voters was offset by the alternate view that the Tory government, being already in power, is responsible for not doing enough to prevent the attacks.

Speculation about Theresa May being unseated as Tory Leader and Prime Minister is probably extremely premature. This is not because May is beloved or will easily be forgiven by the party for the perceived election failure. Rather, there simply is no obvious choice to replace her, nor is there a significant ideological divide within the party from which a challenger could draw strength. Instead, May will have to make her leadership style more inclusive and put more effort into keeping her MPs happy.

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Iraqi election snapshots: Baghdad

Posted by sanityinjection on March 9, 2010

I recommend to you this piece in the New York Times by veteran Iraq journalist Bartle Bull. Mr. Bull’s interviews suggest that there is – at least in Baghdad – a movement in this election away from sectarianism. If that’s true, it’s the most positive sign yet of a potentially stable and peaceful future for Iraq.

One of the things that seems to stand out in the interviews is the Baghdadis’ sense of pride in their democratic elections as putting them far ahead of their Arab brethren or even their Iranian neighbors. Of course, Iraqis have long viewed themselves as being more educated and modern than other Arabs. But it bodes well if Baghdadis’ attitudes gradually spread across the rest of the country.

I’m not sure why this piece was buried by the Times in their Op-Ed section, unless it simply wasn’t anti-American enough to qualify as “news”.

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Iraq elections: Good news for Iraq and US

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2009

I’ve been waiting to post about this until the first official results were released today. Iraq has completed its first local elections since 2005. The elections were free of violence and certified free and fair by international observers. Security for the elections was handled entirely by the Iraqis themselves, a major accomplishment.

The big news is that of the 14 provinces at stake, more than half resulted in victory for the Dawa party of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. This represents a major political shift. al-Maliki had been a compromise choice for Prime Minister from a small Shiite party. The results will be a major boost to his power and credibility. The big losers were the two other Shiite parties which are widely seen as being under Iranian influence. Sunni parties did well in other provinces, adding legitimacy to the government among Sunnis that it lacked when Sunnis boycotted the elections in 2005. Overall, secular and nationalist parties did well; religious parties and those seen as dominated by foreign powers did poorly. 

All of this is very good for the US.  For the last five years, Iraq has been the centerpiece of our foreign policy, and arguably of our politics here at home too. President Bush told Americans that the goal of our occupation was to develop Iraq into a stable democracy that would become an example for the rest of the Middle East. For this he was roundly scorned and mocked by those who said such a goal was impossible. Iraq could never fucntion as a Western-style democracy, they said. Shiites and Sunnis could never cooperate, they said. The only way to keep them from killing each other is to partition the country, said then-Senator, now-Vice President Joe Biden. All agreed that Bush was an idiot.

So who turned out to be right? Well, it is still too early to say whether Iraq will become stable. But there is no question that Iraq has become a real democracy of the kind that was considered impossible in the Arab world. And that fact has not been lost on the authoritarian Arab regimes and their people, nor on the leaders of Iran, whose bid to dominate Iraq has, for the moment, failed, and who now have an example on their borders that must seem attractive to the massive youth population of Iran.

If you ask me, perhaps the biggest winner of all in this Iraqi election is George W. Bush. Oh, wait, except for, you know, the people of Iraq.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »