Later this week, voters will head to the polls in Canada and Germany to make their voices heard in national elections. Both contests are the first of their kind for each country since the onset of the coronavirus and each has drawn worldwide attention.
Over the next few months Elections Daily will be publishing more analytical articles covering foreign elections. Every release will focus on the important developments of prominent international campaigns: candidate declarations, debates, major issues, party platforms, election returns, and hypothetical coalitions for divided governments.
Canada (Monday – September 20th)
Today, Canada will hold national elections to determine the composition of its House of Commons. Voters across our northern neighbor’s 338 ridings last went to the polls in the fall of 2019, well before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. The stalemate that year followed a maelstrom of a campaign.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were unable to hold the 170 ridings needed to maintain their governmental majority, sidelining them for the first time since their pivotal 2015 victory that sent long-time Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of power after nine years; the Liberals also lost the nationwide popular vote, highlighting a decided decline in support after four years of control. Andrew Scheer, the new leader of the Conservatives, saw his party gain 26 ridings but ultimately fall short of attaining the majority. Bloc Québécois also made major upward moves, taking 22 ridings. The NDP that was dominant in the Jack Layton-era, now led by Jagmeet Singh, saw its stake fall by 15, with the party holding only 24 ridings after the election. Despite all of the bad tidings that befell the Liberals, the party still came out of the election holding a plurality in the chamber.
Owing to the hung parliament, the Liberals formed a minority government that allowed Trudeau to remain Prime Minister with the Conservatives continuing as the opposition party. Since the beginning of the new term, the coronavirus has drawn most of Trudeau’s attention. More recently, the Prime Minister has placed a heavy focus on procuring vaccines to immunize the Canadian population; so far 74% of the eligible public has received at least one shot, with 68% identifying as fully inoculated against the virus. Confident that his party could obtain a complete majority, Trudeau called for the dissolution of parliament on August 15th, 2021.
- Last summer, the Conservatives chose Erin O’Toole as the replacement for Andrew Scheer following his resignation. Since taking the reins for the party, O’Toole has sought to capitalize on favorable 2019 gains to lead the Conservatives to victory this year. Owing to conventional wisdom, a Conservative plurality now seems more likely than an outright majority.
- The other leadership change came for the Greens, who selected Annamie Paul to replace Elizabeth May. At the moment the Greens only represent two ridings, but the party aims to increase its share this week. Given the small nature of the Green party, any additional victories in the 252 ridings where it has fielded candidates would be significant. Nonetheless, gains for the Greens remain unlikely.
Check out this article discussing party promises in detail.
Given the relatively abrupt and late nature of the election call, the ensuing campaign season has been incredibly short. Party leaders have had little over a month to make their cases to the Canadian public.
Tight polls and aggressive campaign schedules have brought a heated resolution to the final days of what is likely to become another stalemate election. Trudeau and O’Toole are both fearful that lesser parties could split the electoral bases of their major counterparts, resulting in a swayed election outcome. In his final case to the voters, Trudeau urged progressives to stand behind the Liberals, an open acknowledgement of his party’s concern regarding a possible NDP rebound. Countering the Prime Minister, O’Toole encouraged voters that were tired of Trudeau and his party to stick behind the Conservatives and avoid defecting to the populist People’s Party Canada, which has witnessed a modest rise in polling over the course of the campaign. Check out this article for more information on the last week of campaigning.
Polling and Expectations
Check out the excellent CBC site for a conglomeration of interesting data on the race.
According to the polling aggregation, the Liberals remain in a dead heat with the Conservatives on the popular front, leading by just 0.5% on September 19th. As onlookers saw in the last election, though, winning the popular vote is meaningless. Despite achieving a poll-predicted victory by that statistic, the Conservatives still finished below the Liberals in raw seat count back in 2019. Experts seem to expect the Liberals to once again receive a plurality of ridings without acquiring an outright majority, though a Conservative plurality is also possible. Would a repeat outcome for the Liberals mean that Trudeau’s decision to call the election was futile? Quite possibly, but we will leave that judgement up to the Canadian people.
Here is a breakdown of the popular vote pursuant to the CBC aggregation.
Here is a breakdown of likely distributions pursuant to the CBC aggregation.
Germany (Sunday – September 26th)
On Sunday, Germany will hold its first federal election since 2017. Voters across all sixteen states will cast their ballots to determine the composition of the next Bundestag, results that will yield the next chancellor of Germany. Because the country utilizes a mixed-member proportional system of representation, its electoral system can seem bewildering at first glance. Make sure to read the Electoral System category in detail to assuage potential confusion.
The CDU/CSU and the SPD lost a combined 105 seats in the Bundestag in 2017, disrupting the Great Coalition that had sustained Merkel’s chancellorship. A second blow came when the SPD announced it would break the coalition and declare itself as the opposition party. After talks for a coalition with the FDP and the Greens fell through, the CDU/CSU sought out reconciliation with the SPD so another Great Coalition could be formed. By February 2018, the leadership of the two parties agreed to a newly-engineered GROKO, allowing Merkel to continue as Chancellor.
During the summer months of that same year, the binding between the CDU and the CSU appeared to be unravelling. Horst Seehofer (CSU) disagreed with Merkel (CDU) over allowing asylum seekers already registered in other EU countries to enter Germany. The party was nearly rent by heightened tension, but concert was eventually reached. By December, Merkel felt the party momentum moving against her and subsequently announced her resignation as CDU/CSU leader ahead of the next election.
The FDP and the AfD both saw significant gains in raw seat count and popular vote percentage in the 2017 election. Observers will be watching both closely this weekend to see if further gains are on the horizon.
- Every German voter casts two votes on his or her ballot: one vote to choose the victor in his or her constituency and a second vote to allow for the proportional partitioning of seats in the Bundestag.
- There are 299 one-person constituencies in the Bundestag with members chosen by the first vote pursuant to a first-past-the-post method of election.
- Further seats are appropriated to parties “if a party wins fewer seats in a state than its second votes would entitle it to” or “if a party wins more constituencies than its second votes would entitle it to, other parties receive compensation seats.” These are overhang seats.
- These compensation seats explain why the traditionally-598 seat Bundestag currently has 709 members. The full composition of the chamber will be determined after the voting has concluded.
- Earlier this year, the CDU/CSU named Armin Laschet as its new leader ahead of the election. The impact of Covid-19 had delayed the leadership election on multiple occasions.
- Despite losing the last leadership vote, the SPD decided to name Olaf Scholz as its chancellor candidate.
- In 2018 the Greens unified behind rising star Annalena Baerbock, naming her as their leader and chancellor candidate. The Greens have been polling well throughout the campaign season, with Baerbock’s fresh mindset attracting many new voters to the party.
The campaign has been quite contentious thus far. Covid-19 has remained an important issue for all parties involved as Germany seeks to change public regulations regarding vaccination status. 3G rules have been proposed by German politicians keen on encouraging the public to be vaccinated, recovered, or tested (geimpft, genesen, getestet). Costly flooding has also dominated the campaign cycle, bringing the climate change debate to center stage. Most of the major parties have accepted the impact of climate change, but each has proposed unique solutions to address it.
Polling and Expectations
Polling has been neck and neck for the entire campaign, but the SPD has seen a resurgence of momentum over the last week. Both the Greens and the CDU/CSU had summer peaks in the polls but have since seen their momentum bursts decline. All told, the German public remains very divided over prospective governments, most of which would almost certainly become unpopular. With the outcome in doubt, it will be interesting to see if the GROKO can live to fight another day.