Archive for the 'International' Category


Richard Nabavi’s guide to the Irish election part 2

Sunday, November 8th, 2015


Votes, Seats, Coalitions

As I mentioned in Part 1, an understanding the voting system is essential to understanding Irish politics. There are 40 constituencies which this time will elect a total of 158 TDs, by Single Transferable Vote (STV). Each constituency elects either 3, 4 or 5 TDs. Voters rank the candidates. The first-preference votes are counted first. Any candidate who has enough votes to exceed the ‘quota’ (i.e. the total number of voters divided by one plus the number of available seats in the constituency) is elected. Any votes over the quota are declared surplus and go to the next preference. If no-one new meets the quota, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the next preferences of those voters are transferred to the next round of counting.

The key point here is that votes cast for losing candidates and excess votes cast for winning candidates are both transferred to voters’ next choice candidates. The way in which transfers are distributed is thus crucial to the result. Also, because there are very few ‘wasted votes’, independents and very small parties can get elected as one of the members in a multi-member constituency.

In the past, Labour has tended to benefit from transfers both from candidates on the far-left and from centre-right voters who prefer Labour to the alternatives if their first preference party is no longer in the running. Sinn Féin, in contrast, has been seen as transfer-toxic because of its history.

Whilst that general pattern may persist, with Sinn Féin polling at up to 20% nationally it may have enough votes to make substantial gains without needing many transfers, and it may pick up transfers from the far-left given its Syriza-style economic stance.

A new factor is that Labour and Fine Gael have agreed a pact whereby they will each encourage their supporters to put the other as second preferences. However, Labour may be at such a low point that its candidates will be eliminated early and therefore not benefit from potential transfers – this effect is likely to kick in if they get less than around 10% of first preferences. For this reason, Fine Gael may end up the winners from this pact.

Translating vote shares to seat totals: Because of the multiplicity of parties and independents, plus the difficulty of estimating how second and lower preferences will be distributed, predicting Irish seat totals from opinion poll figures is particularly difficult. A website to watch is that of Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, whose model of the Irish electoral system is well-regarded. As an example, the latest Red C poll (24 Oct) had Fine Gael 30% (up 2%), Fianna Fáil 20% (down 2%), Sinn Féin 16% (NC), Labour 7% (down 3%), Independents and Others 27% (down 1%). Dr Kavanagh’s seat projection on those figures was Fine Gael 63, Fianna Fáil 33, Sinn Féin 22, Labour 2, Independents and Others 38. This shows how badly Labour, who got 20 seats in 2011, could potentially be hit, although the projection is very sensitive to the exact vote-share; on other polls in the last few weeks the projection has been as high as 14 Labour seats.

Betting on the next government

As the election approaches, Paddy Power, Boyle, Betfair Sportsbook and Ladbrokes should have a range of markets available. For now, the focus is on which parties will form the next government.

As you can see from the above seat projection, the Irish system makes it very hard for any one party to get a majority (79 seats needed), or even to get enough seats to form a one-party minority government. Another coalition is, therefore, likely. The table shows some of the betting odds.

FG/FF 13/8 Paddy Power
FG/Lab 3/1 Paddy Power, Ladbrokes
FG/FF/Other 7/1 Boyle, Paddy Power
FG Minority 8/1 Betfair Sports
FF/SF 14/1 Boyle
FG Majority 33/1 Betfair Sports

If the numbers add up, a continuation of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition would suit both partners. That, however, would require Labour to do a lot better than the polls currently indicate. Enda Kenny could try to make up the numbers with support from Renua (formed by ex-Fine Gael TDs), and perhaps a couple of independents.

Fianna Fáil (who are slightly to the left of Fine Gael) could also be interested in a deal with Labour, but on current polling it’s hard to see them having the numbers to outbid Fine Gael.

One party which is very unlikely to enter any coalition is Sinn Féin. The other three main parties wouldn’t want to be associated with them, and Sinn Féin wouldn’t want to repeat the Greens’ and Labour’s experience of suffering from being the junior coalition partner.

If Fine Gael and Labour can’t between them get a majority, what about the logical combination, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who are not far apart ideologically and economically? Logical though it is, the historic rivalry between the two parties means that neither is likely to be keen on the idea, and Fianna Fáil are worried that they too would suffer as a junior coalition party. Although the numbers may well add up, the politics doesn’t: the current odds look much too short to me.

In my view the value is a continuation of the Fine Gael/Lab coalition at 3/1. It’s the only realistic option which the parties involved actively want, and as the election approaches and voters begin to focus on the make-up of the next government, I expect the independents’ support to fall and the coalition parties to benefit as their ‘Don’t risk the recovery’ message gains traction. Even if the two parties can’t between them get a majority, we could well see a minority FG/Lab coalition government with grudging Fianna Fáil and independent support. But if Labour don’t improve their position substantially from here, even that option might not be viable.

Richard Nabavi



Which Irish eyes will be smiling in 2016 – a look at next years Irish election by Richard Nabavi

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Part 1: The Basics

2016 is set to be a bumper year for political betting, with the Holyrood, London Mayoral and US Presidential elections coming up. But first there is another contest which should provide some excellent betting opportunities: the Irish General Election. It’s time to start doing our homework.

When? The last election was held in February 2011, and the next must be held by the 8th April 2016. There had been speculation that the Taoiseach Enda Kenny would go for a November election, but recently he appeared to rule that out, reiterating that the election would be held in the spring. February or early March is most likely, avoiding Easter and the centenary of the 1916 rising.

How? There are 40 constituencies which elect a total of 158 TDs by Single Transferable Vote (STV), a sort of AV on steroids. I’ll discuss this in Part 2 of this article.

Who? If you follow Irish politics only intermittently, the current political landscape will look both familiar and unfamiliar. The STV system makes it easy for new parties to emerge and for independents to win seats, defections are common, and the kaleidoscope has been shaken again since 2011 when the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition came to power.


Fine Gael under Enda Kenny remains in the lead in the opinion polls at around 28% of first-preference votes, down from 36% in 2011. Like David Cameron, Kenny’s message is one of stability and economic competence. After a truly swingeing period of spending cuts, tax rises, public-sector job losses, and pay cuts, the Irish economy is now rebounding fast; growth this year will be 6.2% and is forecast to be 4.3% next year, with the deficit falling to 2.1%. Unemployment remains very high but is now dropping rapidly. Finance Minister Michael Noonan has just delivered an upbeat budget of tax cuts and increases to pensions and welfare payments.

For Labour, the junior coalition partner, the story is one which Nick Clegg will understand. As a party of the centre-left which in 2011 took 19% of first-preference votes, they have borne the brunt of blame for austerity and they now languish at around 8% in the polls. The avuncular Eamon Gilmore, who led Labour to its best ever result in 2011, resigned as leader in July 2014. His successor, Joan Burton, has agreed a vote-transfer pact with Fine Gael and the two parties are hoping to continue the coalition after the election, although they differ on policies.

Running on a strong Syriza-style anti-austerity platform, Sinn Féin has seen its support rise substantially since 2011, and until recently it looked as though it might be the second-largest party in the Dáil, having come fourth in 2011. However, its support seems to have tailed off in recent months; it now polls at around 19%.

Now looking likely to beat Sinn Féin and take second place is Fianna Fáil under Micheál Martin. The party had been the largest party in the Dáil for eight decades, but in 2011 it lost 51 of its previous 71 seats, having copped the blame for the 2008/9 financial and property crash. It is currently polling a little better than its 2011 figure of 17.4%, but its once-formidable party machine seems to be hollowed out.

That still leaves around a quarter of first-preference votes for smaller parties and independents, of which there are many. (In the last election, 19 out of the then 166 seats went to independents and very small parties, mostly comprising a mixture of the far-left and some ex-Labour and ex-Fianna Fáil independents.) The Greens were badly hit by being in coalition with Fianna Fáil in the lead-up to the 2008/9 crash, were wiped out in 2011, and now poll at around 1% to 2%. More significant is a loose alliance of far-left parties and independents which has come together as the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit party (think Jeremy Corbyn and you’ll get the idea). Although they poll at only around 3% nationally, their support is usefully concentrated in left-wing areas of Dublin; they currently have 4 seats in the Dáil.

Finally, there are two new kids on the block. Renua Ireland, a centre-right party, currently has 3 TDs. In a nice Irish twist, having split from Fine Gael over abortion, the party has now decided not to have a position on abortion. It does, however, seem to have picked up some electoral momentum and could win a few seats. The Social Democrats, a new centre-left party set up by ex-Labour independents, also currently have three TDs.

Coming in Part 2: Transfers, Seats, Coalitions – and the betting

Richard Nabavi



Lynton Crosby’s magic fails to save the Tories in Canada

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Latest results from the CBC can be found here.


This week’s Politicalbetting/Polling Matters podcast puts the focus on Monday’s Canadian General Election

Friday, October 16th, 2015


Will the Tories hang on?

This week the / Polling Matters podcast goes international and discusses the upcoming Canadian General Election that takes place on the 19th October. Is the Conservative PM Stephen Harper facing defeat to Liberal Justin Trudeau? How will the NDP do and how similar are Quebec and Scottish nationalism? Finally could the Canadian polls – currently showing the Liberals heading for victory – be wrong as the polls were in the UK? Keiran and Rob discuss with former Liberal staffer Sam Lyon and Canadian elections expert Adrian Macaulay.

You can follow Keiran on Twitter @keiranpedley


Ukraine: how far will Putin go?

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

The ripple effects of the Syria vote continue to be felt

There are two sorts of country in the world: superpowers and everyone else.  Superpowers can – and often do – act as they see fit, constrained only by domestic factors or the opposition of other superpowers.  The rest exist only to the extent that the superpowers allow, a fact that this week’s events have brought into stark focus.

The issues in question over the Ukraine are not clear-cut.  The ousted (but at the time, still de jure) president may have called for aid from Putin, Crimea had more than twice as many ethnic Russians as Ukrainians at the last census, and the peninsula itself only transferred from Russia to the Ukraine in the 1950s when both were internal divisions of the Soviet Union.  It may well be that there was and is local popular support for a return to Russia, something that could be demonstrated in the referendum now planned for 16 March.

That, however, is to an extent beside the point.  The crisis has not been sparked because some citizens of one country would rather be citizens of another.  Rather, it is about how that transfer is coming about: Putin’s decision to deploy Russia’s forces into a sovereign state against the wishes of the current government.  The similarities to the German-Austrian Anschluss in 1938 are striking, where the Austrians voted for union but not without Nazi Germany taking the precaution of being on hand to ensure the point.  (As an aside, we should always be a little wary of historic parallels: they’re never exact and can be poor guides to the future if both the historic and current contexts aren’t properly understood).

As then though, Putin must have been reasonably confident that the Western powers would not take meaningful action before he ordered the deployment, just as Hitler was sure that his potential enemies wouldn’t react too strongly over Austria or, later, over the Sudentenland in Czechoslovakia (another then recently-born and arguably artificial country).  Why can we be reasonably sure of Putin’s certainty in this instance?  In a word, Syria.

The absence of a rival superpower to the US after the fall of the Iron Curtain was unsurprisingly accompanied by a marked increase in military interventionism from NATO powers, led by the US, directly into other countries, peaking between the actions in Kosovo in 1999 and Libya in 2011.  That era is over.  The Syrian government crossed Obama’s red line when it used chemical weapons but Western guns stayed silent – the reason for which lies in no small part in the vote at Westminster which the government lost.

As it happens, that was probably the right decision, though reaching it for the wrong reasons has had the consequences we’re witnessing now.  There is no point intervening unless you intend to change the outcome, which means first determining what you want that outcome to be and, in turn, committing sufficient force and willpower into achieving it.  That was never done and it seemed more like the western leaders were intent on behaving like a sports referee, handing out penalties for foul behaviour but with no intrinsic interest in the result, which is no way to conduct foreign policy.

That failure of strategic thinking, combined with a decline in willingness to get involved, is what has given Putin the space to act with near enough impunity in the Ukraine.  It’s not as if he doesn’t have a record in these things: Russia invaded Georgia to ‘protect’ ethnic Russians in 2008 (Putin was PM at the time but in reality since 2008 Russia has been a dual monarchy, with Putin playing the Augustus to Medvedev’s Caesar, whatever the actual offices held).  At that time, mission fatigue hadn’t reached the extent it has now but the military overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan was worse, and the Bush presidency was approaching lame-duck status.

The pressing question now is how to respond because the events of the last few weeks will not be the end of the process.  The Crimea is almost certainly lost to the Ukraine and non-recognition of its annexation is unlikely to cause many sleepless nights in the Kremlin.  Nor would Russia’s suspension from the G8, a body which is in any case increasingly overshadowed by the G20 on which Russia is guaranteed a seat.

We should remember what kicked all this off: Kiev’s desire to look to Brussels rather than Moscow.  Brussels is of course not just the capital of the EU but also the headquarters of NATO, and that the expansion of the two has gone hand-in-hand: a very threatening development from Russia’s point of view.  One can well understand a chain of thought in the Kremlin that directly linked Ukraine’s desire for closer EU links (and vice versa) to severe doubts as to the security of Russia’s Black Sea fleet’s base.

Yet the nature of Putin’s Anschluss and the unresolved fate of Ukraine’s Russian-inclined eastern districts means hard questions must be faced and answered.  Putin is behaving as the leaders of superpowers can when not opposed by their peers, and as long as that opposition doesn’t exist, the chances are he will continue to do so.  Even excluding Crimea, Ukraine’s integrity is far from assured.  Are Europe and the US willing to let further divisions happen?  A treaty with Kiev would answer that question.  As would the lack of one.

David Herdson


Will “Angie’s” third term be with the reds or the yellows?

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Unless the polls have been very wrong, Angela Merkel is heading for a third term as German Chancellor, a feat that only Adenauer and Kohl have managed since 1949 (and they both went on to win four elections). The great theme of stability in German politics will thus continue, with only four changes in governing party, and only eight Chancellors, since 1949 (Japan has had that many PMs in the last 8 years).

    The key question today is who Merkel will govern with – will it be continuing with the “yellows” (the centre-right FDP) or a grand coalition with the “reds” (the centre-left SPD), as per the 2005-9 government? Parties essentially need to clear 5% of the vote to enter the Bundestag, and the final week polls have been on a knife-edge, giving the FDP 5.5, 5, 6, 5.5, and 6. If they don’t clear 5%, then we’re looking at a grand coalition.

A wild-card to keep an eye on is the new anti-Euro (but not anti-EU) AfD party, averaging about 4% in final polling – if they can clear 5%, this will take seats away from other parties, again leaving the grand coalition as the likely outcome. Some have speculated about a possible Merkel + Greens coalition, but this is rightly a longer shot with the bookies.

It’s been described as a dull campaign (as seems to be the norm for Germany post-Schröder) and hands seem to have been the defining images of the election – Merkel’s safe-pair-of-hands “rhombus” on the huge poster in Berlin, while SPD candidate Steinbrück was pictured “giving the finger” on a magazine cover.

As the pivotal country in Europe, there’s a lot riding on the result – Merkel alongside the FDP will be able to take a tougher line with the likes of Spain, Greece, and Portugal, while the SPD may well want to take a softer approach. Traditionally, the junior coalition partner provides the foreign minister (eg the FDP’s Genscher for 18 years) – so an SPD foreign minister may be keener on leaning slightly closer to France, and slightly more away from the UK, than might be the case with the FDP in government. Thus whether the FDP scores 4.9% or 5.1% could potentially make quite a difference to Europe in the months ahead – as sometimes happens in politics, quite a lot could depend on very little.

Exit polls will be at 5pm UK time, and like most countries counting is done at polling stations. Most counting should be done by 11pm-midnight – although if the result is on a knife-edge it might take most of the evening to determine the final outcome.

ARD livestream

Official results

Double Carpet

DC is an occasional contributor to PB, mainly covering international politics.

He also runs the Election Game site, and the Austria game is available here.


Why Ed Miliband can take some comfort from Tony Abbott’s victory in Australia

Monday, September 9th, 2013

In July he was 14% behind as “preferred Prime Minister”

One footnote from the last week’s Austrailian general election and the change of government is that the new prime minister trailed Kevin Rudd in the approval and “preferred Prime Minister” ratings.

Only a few weeks ago the eventual winner was 14% behind in some of the polls while the man who was to lose, Kevin Rudd, became the only Australian party leader in two and a half years to have positive ratings.

So the lesson, as we saw here in 1979 and 1970 is that general elections can be won by parties led by those who appear on these measures to be a long way behind.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news


Dramatic events in Australian politics

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The country’s first woman PM deposed

Watch the live ABC stream here.