2017 has been a year packed full of important elections. There have been some significant elections and referendums across the world and now that 2017 is coming to an end, we are taking a look at some of the most significant elections and referendums of the year.
Mixed Messages in Europe
While 2016 brought us Brexit (and Donald Trump…) 2017 was feared to bring with it the death knell for the EU. Right-wing populism has risen in dramatic fashion in the Netherlands, France, the UK, Austria and interestingly in Germany.
With elections coming thick and fast 2017 has been one of the tougher years that the EU has had to survive.
In one of the most anticipated elections of the year, the Netherlands was supposed to act as a barometer for the political climate across Europe. In a closely contended election, the incumbent party (VVD) lead by Prime Minister Mark Rutte fought off Geert Wilders’ PVV. The PVV ran on a platform of “de-Islamification” and while receiving a significant of media attention, it came in second winning twenty seats – 13 less than the VDD.
The EU breathed a sigh of relief and shifted it’s attention to France.
France had both it’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017. The rise of Marine Le Pen’s populist party had many worried about a similar upset to that of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton and the establishment.
Instead, we had a similarly populist candidate rise to the fore in the shape of Emmanuel Macron and his newly founded party “En Marche”. He won the presidency in convincing fashion – 66% of votes, and gained a majority in the French parliament ousting the incumbent Les Républicains.
Popular support for Macron has seemed to quell fears of a “Frexit” happening in the near future. However, the main aspect that has us worried is the low turnout in the parliamentary elections – a record low of 42%. Whether due to election fatigue or something deeper, we will have to wait and see.
This election was called to help the in power Conservative party negotiate a better deal with the EU in regards to Brexit. However, the snap election dramatically backfired. The conservative party lost their majority and are now in power with an uneasy alliance with the DUP – a northern Irish “Pro-Union” and anti-EU party.
Campaigning parties failed to address the question of how Brexit should be handled. Indeed, many experts claim the task is a tall order within the limited time frame. Instead, issues such as the National Health Service, education, welfare and the poor state of Britain’s infrastructure were key issues of contention.
Angela Merkel and Germany have been at the centre of attention in recent years. Managing to weather all storms that have been presented to her, Angela Merkel fought a campaign based on stable leadership.
That her CDU/CSU party gained the most seats in parliament should surprise no one. However, there have been three aspects of the German election that have kept us glued to our screens:
- The rise of the populist, right-wing AFD (Alternative for Germany) and their entrance into the German Parliament
- The collapse of “Jamaica coalition” talks (The Jamaican flag being the same colours as those of the three parties involved)
- SPD’s (Social Democratic Party of Germany) refusal to form a Grand coalition (we’ll see how this resolve holds up in 2018…)
Austria’s main right-wing party, the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party), was narrowly defeated in the previous election. This time they achieved victory with a 7.4% increased vote share. The success of the ÖVP is largely regarded to be due to significant changes in leadership. Sebastian Kurz – now the youngest leader of any EU member state – fought an energetic campaign, managing to limit the damaged caused by the rise of the populist FPÖ (Freedom party of Austria).
Both the ÖVP and FPÖ are currently in talks to form a coalition government.
More Power to Erdogan – the Turkish Referendum
One of the most controversial events of 2017 was the referendum in Turkey. President Erdodan managed to convince 51.3% of voters to support the granting of new powers to the Turkish President.
Continuing with Referendums, Australia conducted a controversial “survey” to see if the Australian people would support same-sex marriage. While other countries have conducted similar referendums, Australia raised controversy with the sheer expense and botched management of what should have been a simple questionnaire.
Spain and Catalonia – What happened?
A local referendum on the question of the Basque independence quickly gained international publicity. A referendum announced that 90% of Catalonians voted to leave Spain to form their own country. While the turnout only received 43% of turnout, local Catalan MPs voted to transfer power from the constitutional monarchy that is Spain to an independent republic and to no longer recognise the Spanish constitution.
International coverage focused on the vote and the brutality with which demonstrators were met by police. How the question of Catalan independence will proceed will be an interesting topic for many around the world.
Trump withdrew his support of the multilateral agreement with Iran. However, the nature of the agreement makes this more of a domestic publicity stunt than a change in actual policy. The incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, won on a platform of a relaxation of religious law and economic growth spurred on by a relaxation of international sanctions.
Closer to home – The Liberals Ousted in BC
Meanwhile, closer to home in British Columbia, the incumbent Liberals were ousted by a coalition between the Greens and NDP. This will have an impact on BC as a whole. Government corruption and the housing crisis key issues of contention.
2018 will raise similar questions across the world. We are particularly interested in the US mid-term elections. the balance of the US could change completely. We are looking forward to keeping you updated on the latest and greatest in #ElectionNews.