National Elections: A Global Round-up

Published October 9, 2017

During the past month, three parliamentary-style democracies held national elections: Norway, New Zealand and most recently Germany. In all three elections, center-right parties apparently won, although we will have to see what coalitions emerge from post-election negotiations.

Norway held its election on September 11th. The outgoing minority government consisting of the Conservative Party and the populist-libertarian Progress Party, and the two small parties on which they relied for support, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party, altogether won a majority of the seats. So, it is presumed that the current government will be continued.

In amiable talks following the election, these four parties looked to see if they could form a majority government, and that doesn’t appear possible. The Christian Democrats remain suspicious of the Progress Party. It looks as though Prime Minister Erna Solberg will continue to have to thread the needle and secure passage of the budget and other legislation by working on a case-by-case basis with parties not in government.

New Zealand held its election on September 23rd. As some mail ballots have yet to be counted, the final results are not yet known. It appears that the center-right National Party was returned to parliament with close to a majority, but will need the support of a new coalition partner since two of the three tiny parties on which it relied for support were not returned to parliament.

The populist New Zealand First Party seems to be in the role of king-maker. In the past, New Zealand First has worked with both National and Labour, in each case, joining with the larger party.

Germany held its election on September 24th. In this election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bifurcated Christian Democratic Party / Christian Social Union and her “preferred coalition partner,” the Free Democrats, ended up with close to a majority of the seats. The populist Alternative for Germany Party fetched a substantial number of seats, giving the center-right and right parties together a large majority; but, the Alternative Party is considered to be a pariah by all other parties.

On the night of the election, the leaders of the parties projected to enter parliament joined in a round-table discussion, the Elephant Debate, a uniquely German exercise. There, the leader of the Social Democratic Party said his party would not again form a “grand coalition” with Merkel’s parties, but would go into opposition. This seemed to give Merkel no choice but to try to form a majority coalition with the Green Party. But, it is not clear this is possible.

The Christian Social Union and the Free Democrats have intimated that they prefer a more explicitly conservative direction. And, some in the Alternative Party have indicated that their party or movement should play a constructive role in government, and not relegate itself to the opposition. Merkel says her preference is a stable government. While this is her preference, she, like Solberg in Norway, might be threading the needle.