Tag Archives: presidential run-off

Niger – Analysis of first-round results as President Issoufou prepares to face jailed opponent in run-off

A run-off was not what President Mahamadou Issoufou had hoped for. And Hama Amadou is probably the least favorite second round challenger for Issoufou whose slogan was “Un coup K.O.”, as he aimed to knock out his opponents in the first round of the February 21 presidential poll.

The incumbent president did come in first with 48.4 percent of the vote, against the runner-up, former chairman of the National Assembly Hama Amadou, who garnered 17.8 percent. Issoufou will now have to face an opponent in the second round who has declared himself a “political prisoner:” Hama alleges that the case brought against him and a number of other high-ranking Nigeriens for falsely claiming parenthood of babies born to women in Nigeria is politically motivated.

The election was a nail-biter, with Issoufou’s score at times hovering just around 50 percent, as the election commission (CENI) published results on its website little by little when they became available. The map of Niger gradually became pink – the color of Issoufou’s Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) – except for the region of Tillabery and Niamey, the capital, where blue – the color of Hama’s Lumana party – dominated. The CENI website breaks down the regions into departments, where more colors appear: green around Zinder, for former President Mahamane Ousmane who came in fourth, and lighter rose in the department of Banibangou for former prime minister Seini Oumarou who came in third. The department of Dogondoutchi is yellow, for Issoufou’s former deputy chief of staff Ibrahim Yacouba who parted ways with the PNDS last year and created his own party, the Patriotic Movement of Niger (MPN).

Results from the legislative polls that took place at the same time as the presidential election confirm the relative weight of the leading candidates and their respective parties. The number of deputies in the National Assembly was increased in October 2014 from 113 to 171; Niger uses a proportional election system where percentage of votes closely correlates with percentage of seats won. According to the CENI’s provisional results, the seat distribution is as follows:

  • PNDS – 75 seats (44.1 percent of the vote, up from 33.0 percent in 2011)
  • Lumana – 25 seats (14.7 percent of the vote, down from 19.7)
  • MNSD – 20 seats (11.8 percent of the vote, down from 20.6)
  • MPR – 12 seats (7.1 percent of the vote – the MPR is a splinter party from the MNSD, created in 2015) [the MPR did not present a candidate and supported Issoufou]
  • MNRD/PSDN alliance – 6 seats (3.5 percent of the vote, up from 0) [the MNRD and the PSDN are two small parties that didn’t win any seats in 2011; the MNRD nominated Mahamane Ousmane as its presidential candidate, after Ousmane lost control of his former party, the CDS, last year]
  • MPN – 5 seats (2.9 percent of the vote, not bad for a newly created party)
  • 22 seats more go to 7 smaller parties, leaving 6 seats to be allocated as of the evening of March 1st, according to the CENI’s website.

An analysis of the vote distribution compared to 2011 indicates that the PNDS has done well, increasing its vote share by 11 percentage points and achieving 44 percent of seats, compared to 33 percent of seats in 2011. Issoufou’s personal score, though short of securing him an outright win in the first round, is also up by more than 12 percentage points compared to 2011 (when he got 36.2 percent of the vote in the first round). Issoufou’s ruling coalition, the Movement for the Renaissance of Niger (MNR), has secured more than a comfortable legislative majority with at least 105 seats out of 171, a majority which under Niger’s semi-presidential constitution will enable Issoufou and his allies to appoint the next prime minister and government.

The big loser is the MNSD whose candidate, Seini Oumarou, came in second in 2011 with 23.2 percent in 2011, in contrast to only 12.1 percent of the vote this year. The MNSD also lost votes and legislative seats to the break-away MPR party created following a leadership struggle within the MNSD, after some leading members joined Issoufou’s government in 2013 [see previous post on shifting political alliances in Niger here].

Though Hama Amadou overtakes Seini Oumarou to run against Issoufou in this year’s second round, his personal score is actually down compared to 2011, from 19.8 percent to 17.8 percent of the vote. Similarly, his party, Lumana, lost 5 percentage point of the popular vote in the legislative polls, compared to 2011.

The period leading up to the polls was tense, but election day was peaceful. Despite significant logistical challenges, voter turn-out was an impressive 66.8 percent according to the CENI, well above the 48.8 percent average voter turn-out for past elections. Due to severe delays in the opening of polling stations in many areas, voting had to go into a second day. The leading opposition parties accused the CENI and the government of fraud and threatened to reject the results. However, when a second round was confirmed, the 23 parties that make up the opposition alliance COPA 2016 (the Coalition for Alternation) announced that they would participate and stand by their pre-election agreement to back the opposition candidate who made it to the second round – in this case Hama Amadou. The major parties that form the core of COPA 2016 are Lumana, MNSD, Ousmane’s new party the MNRD and Boubacar Cisse’s UDR (Cisse came in 9th in the presidential election).

As Niger’s 7.5 million voters head to the run-off scheduled for March 20th, there will be intense maneuverings by the two contenders to secure the support of unsuccessful candidates. Ibrahim Yacouba who came in fifth (with 4.4 percent of the vote) is thus courted by both sides. Kassoum Moctar who came in 6th (with 2.9 percent) has already pledged allegiance to Issoufou. This promises to be a hotly contested election that is likely to again mobilize Nigerien voters in unprecedented numbers.

Central African Republic – President-elect Touadéra’s surprising mandate

This is a guest post by Grant Godfrey, Senior Program Manager at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Washington, DC.

On February 21, the National Elections Agency announced preliminary results in the Central African Republic’s runoff election, which showed Faustin Archange Touadéra the runaway winner with 62.71 percent of the vote.  His opponent Anicet Georges Dologuélé accepted the outcome and announced he would not challenge the results in court, while also claiming that fraud was organized and widespread. The campaigns had each deployed 730 pollwatchers, trained with assistance from the National Democratic Institute, MINUSCA, UNDP and the NED. This provided a needed measure of confidence in the returns after the Transitional Constitutional Court had annulled the chaotic first round of legislative polls. While some problems persisted in the runoff, during which the legislative elections were re-run, Dologuélé may have concluded that it would be difficult to overcome Touadéra’s whopping 25-point margin of victory in court. However imperfect the process may have been, the next president will take office uncontested and with a popular mandate.

Touadéra will not, however, have many resources with which to fulfill his mandate. The list of priorities begins with providing security to the population but also includes building physical infrastructure and stronger state institutions. This will require re-establishing the country’s armed forces, which were dismantled during the crisis, and deploying state officials to—and maintaining them in—areas the government does not necessarily control. In many places offices, records, and communications may be destroyed. Reconciliation must be a priority, so that grievances over the recent conflict do not become the seeds of a new one. To face these challenges, the country will require significant international aid and support. Touadéra says that to obtain this aid, his government will have to attack corruption and strengthen accountability and the justice system.

Recognition of his accomplishments as prime minister (2008 – 2013) and as a university mathematics professor helped Touadéra gain a surprise win against Dologuélé. During his tenure, civil servants were paid regularly, through direct deposit to their bank accounts. The security and economic challenges of his tenure may have appeared minor, compared to the destruction and violence that followed the Séléka overthrow of former president François Bozizé. In addition to name recognition, Touadéra’s ability to build a coalition—most of the eliminated presidential candidates rallied to him, despite a first round finish behind Dologuélé with less than 20 percent of the vote—also played a key role. Touadéra also carried strongholds of former President Bozizé’s Kwa Na Kwa party, even though its leaders backed Dologuélé. Moreover, he achieved all this while running as an independent, and with a relatively small campaign budget.

To institute his platform of security, investment, reforms and social services, Touadéra will have to overcome a history of weak institutions and a fractured polity. The new National Assembly will hopefully enjoy more legitimacy than the last, which famously included numerous relatives of Bozizé and was chosen in elections that were widely perceived as flawed. The new constitution calls for the creation of a senate, to be elected by local governments in a country that has never held local elections. Before he can effectively address the country’s pressing needs, Touadéra will have to form a governing coalition out of the many parties and numerous independent legislators expected to sit in the new legislature, for which runoff elections are still needed in 95 (almost two-thirds) of the constituencies.

The country’s new political framework seeks to prevent the use of arms for political gain (Const. of the CAR, Title II, Art. 31), a recognition of how armed groups—and attempts to co-opt them—have disrupted past efforts to build sustainable democratic institutions. For armed groups to lose their influence, however, the new president and new institutions will have to deliver on their promises of security, reconciliation, accountability, and meeting people’s basic needs. Despite the magnitude of the challenges, the new leaders must show progress, and communicate it, quickly.  With hundreds of thousands of Central Africans still displaced and much of the country still at the mercy of armed groups such as Séléka, the Lord’s Resistance Army and anti-balaka gangs, the honeymoon is likely to be short.

Argentina – Center-Right Challenger Mauricio Macri Wins the Run-Off

On the pages of this blog just over three weeks ago, Ezequiel González Ocantos and Luis Schiumerini, two great colleagues of mine here at Oxford, wrote an incredibly detailed post that deconstructed the first round of the recent Argentine presidential elections. Their insightful analysis suggested that the days of Peronism in Argentina could be numbered. They contended that the main non-Peronist challenger to the presidency, Mauricio Macri, as a result of a combination of factors, including his strategic move to the center and the deteriorating economic situation, combined with his morale boosting first round victory, may have been enough to lure discontented voters from the camp of Sergio Massa (the third placed candidate in the first round election) and win the presidential run-off election on November 22.

Their analysis has proven rather prescient. Last Sunday, Macri, the non-Peronist challenger of Cambiemos, a largely centrist coalition comprising the vestiges of the long-standing Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), Macri’s own political party, Propuesta Republicana (PRO), and the Coalición Cívica, defeated Daniel Scioli, the chosen successor of the current Peronist incumbent, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Macri, the outgoing Mayor of Buenos Aires and his vice-presidential running mate, Marta Gabriela Michetti, won the election with 51.4 per cent of the votes in the run-off. With a solid 80 per cent turnout (approximately 25 million voters), Macri has a mandate for change.

There are a number of reasons for Macri’s victory. A proper analysis can be found in the post by Ezequiel and Luis but in short, they suggest Macri’s electoral success is rooted in his emergence as a credible political challenger, which was only bolstered by his first round victory, and his pragmatic move to the center and promise to maintain the most popular statist policies of the incumbent, combined with “the increasing doubts about Scioli’s ideological commitment to either Kirchnerism or anti-Kirchnerism, corruption scandals, and a series of events that underscored the deterioration of the economic situation,” all of which enabled Macri to successfully persuade Massa voters to support him.

One thing is for sure. This is a change election. It is the first time since 1999 that a non-Peronist candidate has won the presidency and it will be the first time since 2001 that a non-Peronist has held the presidency. Of course, Macri faces a number of formidable challenges, not least of which include the legacies of Kirchnerist polarization and the current economic situation, but change does seem to be in the air. Shortly after his election, Macri gave a news conference, a practice that had largely disappeared under the presidency of Cristina Fernández.

For a proper and full analysis of this election and the electoral data however, I guess I will just have to very nicely ask Ezequiel and Luis to write a follow-up post.

The 2015 Presidential Race in Argentina: A “Change” Election?

This is a guest post by Ezequiel González Ocantos and Luis Schiumerini, University of Oxford

In October 2011 President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner monopolized the Argentine electorate, securing 54% of the popular vote and with it a second term in office. Her victory was in many ways overwhelming: she won in almost all of the country’s municipalities; the distance with the runner up was over 30 per cent; and her allies secured comfortable majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yet four years later, in October 2015, Fernández’s faction of the Peronist Party, in power since 2003, suffered a reversal of fortune. Not only did the government’s candidate and governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, fail to win in the first round, but his runner up, Mayor of the City of Buenos Aires and non-Peronist challenger, Mauricio Macri, finished the race dangerously close (36.86 vs. 34.33%). Macri won in 5 provinces, and put into question Peronists’ hegemony over some of their traditional bastions. Most notably, his coalition defeated Peronism in the strategic battle over the governorship of the largest, richer and politically influential province: the Province of Buenos Aires.

These results were unexpected. Kirchnerism had emerged from the primary elections held in August 2015 in relatively good shape, winning almost 40 per cent of the popular vote and defeating Macri’s coalition by nearly a 10 per cent margin.[1] These numbers made Scioli and his followers highly optimistic about their chances of victory in the upcoming October election; they were indeed very close to meeting the requirements of the less demanding of the two Constitutional paths to a first round win.[2] So what happened between August and October 2015? More importantly, what happened between 2011 and 2015 to reduce the odds of Peronist continuity? What are the implications of last Sunday’s election for the future of party politics in Argentina? Who will win the presidency in the November runoff?

The Emergence of Credible Challengers

The last four years of Kirchnerist rule in Argentina were very different from the first eight. After her resounding victory in 2011, President Fernández had to deal with much lower rates of economic growth, much higher levels of inflation, a pronounced devaluation of the currency, a partial default on the country’s foreign debt, and high profile corruption scandals involving the president’s inner circle. In times of economic decline or stagnation, voters asked to make evaluations of incumbent performance are more likely to distance themselves from the President. Moreover, it is in this type of context that corruption scandals are more likely to become a relevant factor in voters’ decision making functions. But as Figure 1 shows, even though voters became increasingly concerned about the economy, trust in Fernández’s government remained stable and at acceptable levels all throughout her second term. Although trust in her administration regressed to the mean after the October 2011 honeymoon, it never plummeted and even recovered in the months prior to Sunday’s election. Given this stability in the government’s popularity, it makes sense to ask why the impetus for change suddenly gained momentum during the first round of the 2015 presidential race.

Figure 1. Trust in Cristina Fernández’s Government (2011-2015)

Fig1Source: Índice de confianza en el gobierno. Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Voters do not make prospective or retrospective evaluations in a political vacuum. These calculations are only electorally relevant in so far as citizens are able to compare the incumbent with credible challengers. One of the reasons why Fernández obliterated the opposition in 2011 was that the latter lacked credibility, strength and political capital. It remained highly fragmented, fielded tickets with little downward integration (e.g. presidential candidates were not matched with strong gubernatorial ones), and lacked effective leadership. For example, the runner-up in 2011, Hermes Binner, belonged to a party with limited territorial reach, no political infrastructure in the all-important Province of Buenos Aires, few relevant coalition partners, and no parliamentary influence. It is likely that most voters did not even consider not voting for the government, or voting strategically to bolster the chances of one of the many opposition candidates.

The situation in 2015 was quite different. In addition to a continuing deteriorating economic situation, voters were now offered two alternatives to the incumbent, which were credible and counted with effective forms of partisan, territorial, and leadership capital. In this context, prospective and retrospective evaluations acquired a new meaning and electoral significance.

The main non-Peronist challenger was Cambiemos (Let’s Change), a coalition between the historic Radical Party, Macri’s PRO and the Civil Coalition, the latter two formed after the 2001 economic and political crisis. The Radical Party provided a nationwide territorial presence and subnational campaign resources such as militants, surrogates, candidates, and crucially, election monitors. Macri provided the Radical Party with what they lacked, i.e. a leader with a well-known record in office and reputation for managerial competence. Cambiemos was able to field competitive candidates in several gubernatorial and mayoral races, generating the potential for positive coattails up and down the ticket. Although the incentives to coalesce around Macri were obviously bolstered by economic decline and higher —though not high— levels of discontent with the government, in early 2015 it was by no means obvious that a broad opposition coalition would emerge. The fact that several key members of the non-Peronist camp overcame coordination problems, as well as personal and ideological differences to form Cambiemos was a crucial development leading up to a close first round result. The presence of Cambiemos in the ballot made it possible for citizens to express their discontent by voting for a credible alternative, one with governability potential.

The presence of Sergio Massa as a viable second challenger added nuance to what would otherwise have been a polarized election. Massa, Fernandez’s former chief of staff, also cultivated a reputation for managerial competence during his tenure as mayor of Tigre, a highly visible municipality in the the Province of Buenos Aires. Unlike Macri, Massa had the added value of being a Peronist, providing an alternative for his co-partisans disaffected with Kirchnerism. This position allowed Massa to defeat Peronism in the 2013 legislative elections in the strategic Province of Buenos Aires and placed him as a credible Presidential candidate. While Massa’s inability to differentiate himself from Macri and the defection of some key allies to Scioli’s camp weakened his candidacy, he remained an electorally relevant player, polling around 20 per cent. A crucial element in Massa’s bid for the presidency was the support of José Manuel de la Sota, the leader of Peronism in the second largest province, Córdoba.

Campaign Effects and Realignments

This three-way yet weakly polarized scenario opened space both for campaign strategies to shape voter choice and also for preferences to change over the course of the campaign. Given the government’s enduring popularity, and Scioli’s high approval ratings in the Province of Buenos Aires, Macri’s campaign avoided an outright ideological confrontation with left-leaning President Fernández. Instead he focused on occupying the center ground. His rhetoric deemphasized programmatic differences and highlighted instead valence issues such as the need for “another way of doing politics.” Backed by a strong record governing the City of Buenos Aires, the message offered disenchanted voters technocratic competence in the face of bad performance in several key areas of the national administration, and a different, more moderate style of government. Given the centrist strategy adopted by Macri, Massa opted for more polarizing rhetoric. To do so, he moved to the right on security issues and politicized corruption in Fernández’s administration that had become a very visible issue in the public debate.

Scioli had a more difficult terrain to navigate as he both needed to appeal to Kirchneristas and non-Kirchneristas. Support from the Kirchnerista coalition was lukewarm, as Scioli was perceived as too moderate and willing to compromise on key stances held by Fernández. In order to appease these concerns, he accepted the imposition of a Kirchnerist hardliner as a running mate, but also sought to signal that he was his own man. For example, he announced a cabinet dominated by non-Kirchnerists, and used his surrogates to indicate his intention to reach an agreement with holdout creditors. This ambiguity was also apparent in his campaign slogans, which combined non-ideological appeals to values such as ‘hope’ and ‘hard work’, with statements in favor of extending Fernández’s interventionist economic policies. It is likely that this ambiguous strategy backfired, as it cemented Scioli’s electoral ceiling by tying him to the government’s supporters and not bringing new voters to his camp.

When comparing the results of the primaries with those of the first round, it is possible to see that these campaign strategies were accompanied by critical shifts in voter preferences, leading to a greater concentration of opposition voters around Macri. At the end of the day, Scioli lost over two percentage points (36.86%), Macri gained almost 4 (34.33%), and Massa managed to add some decimal points to his non-trivial performance in the primaries (21.34%). These results prevented a first round Scioli victory, ended the momentum behind his candidacy, and transformed Macri into the new favorite.

Figure 2. Macri’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primary vs. First Round

Fig2Through a complex balancing act, Macri made inroads into two segments of the electorate. First, the pledge not to undo some of Kirchnerism’s most popular statist policies allowed Macri to lure voters who despite being unsatisfied with the performance of the government still support the main pillars of its economic policies. The second source of growth came from voters ideologically opposed to the government, who solved their coordination problem by shifting from Massa to Cambiemos. Both components can be illustrated by looking at changes in vote share across the electoral districts or departments that make up 6 provinces representative of Macri’s overall performance (Figure 2) [3] Observations above the dashed 45-degree line indicate that Macri improved his performance relative to the primaries, while observations below it suggest that his vote share declined.

The case of Córdoba stands out. Home to the second largest electorate in the country, Macri averaged a 15 percent vote share surplus in the province. This allowed him to improve his performance in every single district. Córdoba exemplifies two key components of Macri’s growth. First, this growth came at the expense of Massa, who suffered a net vote share loss in every provincial district.[4] Second, Macri’s success reflects the defection of the rural vote from Massa’s coalition. Ideologically opposed to Kirchnerism, the so-called gringos displayed a text-book example of strategic voting, abandoning Massa for Macri, who had a clearer shot at the presidency. Macri’s success with the rural vote went beyond Córdoba, and extended to provinces such as Santa Fé and Entre Ríos, where Cambiemos lost in the primaries but won in the first round.

Ultimately it was the Province of Buenos Aires, home to 40 percent of the electorate, that enabled Macri to translate his growth in the interior of the country into a higher national vote share. Out of the impressive 1,591,268 additional votes that Cambiemos received on Sunday’s first round, 520,870 (33 percent) came from the Province of Buenos Aires. Though not as big a gap as that observed in Córdoba, Figure 2 shows that Macri improved his vote share in most districts across the province.[5]

If Buenos Aires exemplifies how Macri was able to penetrate the metropolitan component of Peronism’s core constituency by winning key municipalities in the Greater Buenos Aires region, the Province of Tucumán illustrates his ability also to damage Peronism in its less developed Northern core. This was perhaps the least anticipated aspect of the dealignment process observed between August and October. Macri’s success in Tucumán is in part explained by the scandal surrounding the gubernatorial election held in September 2015, in which the Kirchnerist incumbent party won by a confortable margin. Allegations of fraud led to a sustained cycle of protest against the provincial executive and to a lower court ruling invalidating the election. These exceptional circumstances are likely to have persuaded opposition voters to coalesce around Macri, a phenomenon not observed in neighboring provinces such as Salta and Jujuy. But the fact that he did so well in the largest of the northeastern Peronist bastions certainly contributed to his nation-wide growth.

Figure 3. Massa’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primacy vs First Round.

Fig3Turning to Massa, Figure 3 confirms that Macri’s crucial growth in Córdoba is explained by Massa’s debacle. Yet, Massa managed to compensate the losses inflicted by Macri by making inroads in the two core constituencies of Peronism: the urban areas of the Province of Buenos Aires, and the Northern provinces. Indeed, Massa improved his performance in most sections of the province of Buenos Aires. His growth in the northern region was even more impressive. Unlike Macri, who only improved in Tucumán, Massa exhibited a substantial increase in this province as well as in Salta and Jujuy, where he won the race.

Figure 4. Scioli’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primary vs. First Round.

Fig4Macri and Massa’s growth obviously came at the expense of Scioli (Figure 4). The largest portion of his decline in vote share is accounted for by the results in the Province of Buenos Aires, where both of his challengers made substantial inroads. His reversal of fortune was particularly surprising in the northern provinces where extreme poverty, voters’ reliance on public employment, and other forms of clientelism normally create buffers that shield the incumbent Peronist vote. Interestingly, like Macri, Scioli also improved his performance in Córdoba, but this was not enough to counter losses in other provinces.

Political scientists often distinguish between two causal forces that shape vote choice during electoral campaigns. The so-called fundamentals are the structural variables that shape the preferences of voters regardless of campaign dynamics, such as economic performance, class, region, and partisanship. Campaign effects, on the other hard, include the processes that unravel as a result of the events and strategies deployed during the course of the campaign, and that end up influencing vote choice. The Argentine electoral campaign thus far has shown how fundamentals and campaign effects complement each other. Campaign dynamics meant that many voters were yet to be persuaded by Macri’s message when they cast a ballot in the primary elections. The fundamentals still biased them against the risks entailed by a change in government, opting either for Scioli or for less competitive opposition candidates. Come the first round of the general election, Macri’s move to the center, the increasing doubts about Scioli’s ideological commitment to either Kirchnerism or anti-Kirchnerism, corruption scandals, and a series of events that underscored the deterioration of the economic situation, persuaded many voters to jump ship.

Who will win in November?

Some may argue that, notwithstanding Macri’s successful balancing act, his chances of winning the runoff are slim. In this sense it is important to note that Massa stole votes from both core constituencies of the traditional Peronist coalition: the metropolitan low income voters of the province of Buenos Aires (and other big cities), and the state-dependent voters of the northern provinces. A phrase famously attributed to Perón comes to mind: “For a Peronist there is nothing better than a fellow Peronist.” This would suggest that those voters who left Kirchnerism for Massa will come back to Scioli once the runoff pits him against a non-Peronist like Macri. Meanwhile, Macri has exhausted his growth potential after stealing all the rural conservative voters that Massa had to offer.

Although this is an entirely plausible scenario, there is an alternative one, often overlooked in the post-election analysis. It is possible that the above interpretation of the nature and potential behavior of Massa supporters gives too little credit to voters, too much credit to the strength of Peronist party identification, and unwarrantedly assumes that the average Massa voter is a staunch Peronist. First, Massa’s emergence as a viable challenger in 2013, as well as his recent resilience, was based on the articulation of an anti-Kirchnerist message. This suggests that many of those attracted by this rhetoric are voters who strongly dislike the president, her policies and governing style. It would therefore make sense for them to support Macri in the runoff. And those who are Peronists and therefore might be in principle more reticent to vote for Macri are not obviously bound to vote for Scioli in November. It is unclear that on its own the Peronist identity, whatever its content and meaning, is strong enough to change the minds of these individuals who were initially enticed by Massa’s crisp anti-government message.

Figure 5 presents public opinion data collected by the Argentine Panel Election Study in July 2015. Of those who expressed support for Massa, 31% evaluated Fernández’s administration poorly or very poorly, and 33% thought it was neither good nor bad. This distribution is not very different from that observed among Macri supporters. Although somewhat dated, these figures suggest that Cambiemos has potential for growth among those who voted for Massa in the first round.

Figure 5. Evaluations of Fernandez’s Administration Among Macri and Massa’s Voters

Fig5Source: Argentina Panel Election Study 2015, First Wave.

There is also the issue of valence. On the one hand, the substantial and uniform growth of Macri in the most populated provinces suggests that being a credible, competent manager matters to voters. Moreover, Macri has also benefited from a valence shock by virtue of winning the narrative about the outcome of the first round and showing that he can credibly beat Kirchnerism. Cambiemos may have narrowly lost the war, but so far it has won the peace. This is not only due to Macri’s unexpected performance, but also to the fact that his coalition won the governorship of the Province of Buenos Aires, the quintessential Peronist bastion. In this context, it wouldn’t be surprising if non-Macri voters updated their valence evaluations after observing that many of their compatriots have already done so in favor of Cambiemos. This is true even for Scioli supporters. It is reasonable to assume that Scioli’s non-trivial 36.86% of the vote is not solely made up of hardcore Kirchnerists, but also includes voters who supported him because of his moderation and his experience governing the largest province in the country. It wouldn’t be surprising if a non-negligible portion of these voters were to re-think their vote ahead of the November ballot.

Given these two plausible scenarios, the outcome of the runoff remains uncertain. But regardless of who wins in November, the 2015 electoral cycle could have far reaching political consequences. In particular, it has enabled non-Peronist parties to make unexpected inroads into Peronist stongholds. Although Peronists still control most of the provinces and enjoy a considerable advantage in both chambers of Congress, their territorial grip over the most populous areas of the country is not as firm as it used to be in the years following the 2001 debacle, which led to profound imbalances between Peronists and non-Peronists. In 2015 the Radicals won two important governorships, a myriad of provincial capitals and many small municipalities. Similarly, Macri’s PRO, initially a highly personalistic party circumscribed to the City of Buenos Aires, will now control the two most visible and resourceful subnational executives, i.e. the Province and City of Buenos Aires. PRO candidates were also extremely close to winning the governorships of large provinces such as Santa Fé and Entre Ríos, further consolidating the party’s potential for territorial expansion and institutionalization. If Macri wins the presidency it is likely that this trend will continue, with important implications for the structure of Argentina’s party system. Because of these developments, this may well have been the last election of a political cycle dominated by the legacies of the 2001 crisis.

[1] According to Argentina’s electoral law, all candidates must participate in a primary, even if they face no internal competition. The party as a whole must surpass a vote share threshold in order to be allowed to compete in the Presidential race. In August 2015 Scioli participated in an uncontested primary, whereas the other two main presidential hopefuls, Macri and the leader of the anti-Kirchnerist faction of the Peronist Party, Sergio Massa, competed against their respective challengers to secure the nomination.

[2] Victory can be achieved by winning 40% of the vote with a 10% margin of victory, or by wining 45% of the vote, regardless of the margin of victory.

[3] Departamentos are aggregate electoral precincts comparable to US counties. Though in some provinces they overlap with municipal boundaries, in others they do not serve any administrative or institutional purpose. Here we use the words sections and districts interchangeably.

[4] In the primaries Massa competed against Córdoba’s incumbent governor, José M. De la Sota. In August their combined vote share in Córdoba was larger than that of Cambiemos and Scioli..

[5] Because Buenos Aires also exhibited a uniform increase in turnout, these vote share increases at the district level led to net increases in the national vote share.

The authors want to thank Andy Tow (http://www.andytow.com/), Pablo Celayes (@PCelayes), and Andréz Vázquez (@avdata99) for their generous help getting departamento level electoral results.

Ezequiel Gonzalez Ocantos (Ph.D. Notre Dame, 2012) is Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow in Nuffield College. His research focuses on the determinants of judicial behavior in cases of state repression. In particular, he studies how the diffusion of international legal ideas by local activists changes the way judges and prosecutors in Latin America perceive these cases and the legal viability of ruling against impunity. His book manuscript “Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America” is currently under advanced contract with Cambridge University Press. His work on this and other topics has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics and Comparative Political Studies and The International Journal of Human Rights. Gonzalez Ocantos received APSA’s 2013 Edward S. Corwin Award for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of Public Law.

Luis Schiumerini is a Post-doctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, and received a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 2015. His book project examines the causes of incumbency advantage and disadvantage in developing democracies. In other research, he studies preferences for redistribution and mass protests.

Romania – Prime Minister Victor Ponta to face Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis, in gripping presidential run-off

Presidential elections were held in Romania on 2 November. 14 candidates took part in the race to succeed President Băsescu, who will step down on 21 December after serving his two-term limit. Among them were the incumbent prime minister (Victor Ponta), the Senate speaker and former prime minister (Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu), the ethnic German mayor of Sibiu (Klaus Iohannis), an MEP and former justice minister (Monica Macovei), a former minister of tourism and regional development (Elena Udrea), and the head of the Romanian Intelligence Agency who resigned in order to contest the election (Teodor Meleşcanu).

As none of the candidates passed the 50% threshold, a run-off will be organized on 16 November between Victor Ponta, the social-democratic prime minister, and Klaus Iohannis of the centre-right alliance between the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL). The Central Electoral Bureau has announced a turnout of 53,16%, slightly lower than in 2009, and the following results:

  • Victor Ponta, (PSD-UNPR-PC Alliance) – 40,33%
  • Klaus Iohannis (PNL-PDL Christian-Liberal Alliance) – 30,44%
  • Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (Independent/Liberal Reformist Party) – 5,4%
  • Elena Udrea (People’s Movement Party, PMP) – 5,18%
  • Monica Macovei (Independent) – 4,46%
  • Dan Diaconescu (People’s Party Dan Diaconescu, PP-DD) – 3,99%
  • Kelemen Hunor (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, UDMR) – 3,5%
  • Corneliu Vadim Tudor (Greater Romania Party, PRM) – 3,66%
  • Teodor Meleşcanu (Independent) –1,1%
  • Szilagyi Zsolt (Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania, PPMT) – 0,56%
  • Gheorghe Funar (Independent) – 0,48%
  • William Brînză (Ecologist Party of Romania, PER) – 0,45%
  • Constantin Rotaru (Socialist Alliance Party, PAS) – 0,3%
  • Mirel Mircea Amariţei (Prodemo) – 0,08%

As usual in Romania, the presidential race has left its mark on the party system. While the social-democrats ran alone on the centre-left, the opposition centre-right was represented by four candidates in the contest. Centre-right parties underwent some important changes in the pre-electoral period and their transformation may continue even further after the presidential run-off.

The governing coalition between the social-democrats (PNL) and the national liberals (PNL) broke down in February 2014, as the social-democrats refused to accept the PNL leader as a joint candidate in the presidential race. Following their disappointing results in the European Parliament election, the PNL and the PDL decided to support a common candidate in the presidential contest, running under the Christian-Liberal Alliance (ACL).

The PNL-PDL merger and the nomination of Klaus Iohannis as a joint candidate in the presidential election led to split-ups in both parties. Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, a former PNL leader and prime minister under President Băsescu between 2004 and 2008, quit the PNL and formed the Liberal Reformist Party as a springboard for his own presidential candidacy. His defection was encouraged by PM Ponta, who also tipped him as a potential successor to the prime minister position.

Monica Macovei, an MEP and former minister of justice well known for successful anti-corruption reforms, resigned from the PDL and entered the presidential race as an independent candidate. Her electoral campaign targeted rampant corruption in the state administration and she is well positioned now to form an anti-system party.

President Băsescu also followed up on his promise to found a new political party after he broke with the PDL in March 2013. He supported Elena Udrea, the former minister of tourism and regional development in the PDL government (2008-2012), in setting up the centre-right Popular Movement Party (PMP). The newly established party won 6% in the European Parliament election and ended up nominating Udrea as a presidential candidate. Băsescu threw his support behind Udrea and announced that he will join the PMP at the end of his term. However, the low score obtained by Udrea, which is less than what PMP got in the European Parliament election, might alter these plans.

The results of the first presidential round confirmed the pre-election opinion polls, which constantly put the incumbent prime minister in a comfortable lead. Victor Ponta qualified in the presidential run-off with a ten-point lead over the centre-right candidate. This is the largest difference between the top-two presidential candidates registered since 1992 (see table below). The only other instance when a candidate was able to recover a similarly sizeable gap was in 2004, when Traian Băsescu of the PNL-PD alliance narrowly defeated PM Adrian Năstase of the PSD in the run-off despite the latter’s seven-point lead in the first round. The two races are indeed similar as far as the political alliances involved in the run-off are concerned. Both centre-right candidates also ran as mayors of major cities. Whether or not the centre-right will be able to mobilize the electorate again and bring more undecided voters to the polling booths remains to be seen.


Presidential elections in Romania, 1992-2014

Another peculiarity of the latest presidential race is the absence of a strong candidate on the third position. For the first time in the post-communist period, the third-placed candidate obtained a score below 10%. Thus, a lot will depend on the extent to which the two top contenders will be over to win over the electorate of several centre-right candidates.

Victor Ponta might gain a substantial share of the electorate supporting Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, whom he already indicated as a likely successor for the prime minister position. On the other hand, Klaus Iohannis, who obtained more votes than PNL and PDL did separately in the European Parliament election, should benefit from the support gained by the other two centre-right candidates, Elena Udrea and Monica Macovei.

Unanticipated events could still change the course of the electoral campaign in the next two weeks. Several corruption scandals involving former ministers and senior PSD members broke out during the electoral campaign. For example, the Microsoftgate scandal exposed nine ministers for taking bribes in the acquisition of IT licenses between 2002 and 2005. However, none of these scandals seems to have dented the prime minister’s popularity. Nor did President Băsescu’s accusation that Victor Ponta served as an undercover intelligence office between 1997 and 2001. Nevertheless, more high-level corruption scandals could be disclosed in the next two weeks.

Romanians living abroad might also influence the final results. The poor organization of the voting process in polling stations across Europe has sparked a number of protests that could lead to the mobilization of Romanians abroad in even greater numbers for the run-off. Time will show if their votes will end up tipping the scales again on 16 November, as they did in 2009.