Late on Wednesday 15 March, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that Dutch people rejected the wrong kind of populism, as he celebrated victory in the election.
The Prime Ministers centre-right VVD party lead positioned him for a third successive term as prime minister and easily beat the anti-immigration Freedom party of Geert Wilders. With all but two vote counts complete, the prime ministers party won 33 out of 150 seats a loss of eight seats from the previous parliament. The Freedom party came in second place with 20 seats, a gain of fiv, while the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the liberal D66 party, tied for third with 19 seats each. The Green-left party gained 14 seats, an increase of 10. The Labour Party (PvdA), which is the junior party in the governing coalition, suffered a historic defeat by winning only nine seats a loss of 29. Labours defeat appeared to signal that voters were shifting to the right, as many of the seats it lost did not go to other left-wing parties. Voter turnout was 80.2% – the highest for thirty years, with analysts saying that this may have benefited pro-EU and liberal parties.
The Dutch race was seen as a test of support for nationalist parties that have been gaining ground across Europe. Mr Wilders however has insisted that the patriotic spring would still happen.
Fellow eurozone countries France and Germany also face elections this year. France will hold its first round of voting in its presidential election on 23 April, with the second round being held on 7 May. The far right National Front is forecast to increase its vote dramatically. Meanwhile, Germany will hold its general election in September, where the popularist Alternative for German (AfD) may win seats in parliament for the first time. Mr Rutte had already spoken of the election as a quarter-final against populism, ahead of the French and German polls, and his victory was warmly greeted by other European leaders and politicians. French President Francois Holland stated that Mr Rutte had won a clear victory against extremism, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed a very pro-European result, a clear signaland a good day for democracy. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised Dutch voters for their responsibility, while Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament until earlier this year, stated that he was relieved that the Freedom Party had lost, adding we must continue to fight for an open and free Europe.
Voters in the West African nation are set to go to the polls on 13 April in what is being seen as a milestone in a country that over the past three decades has suffered five coups.
The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are the first to be held since the 2012 coup that overthrew interim President Raimundo Pereira. Incumbent President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who had led the country’s transitional government since 2012, will not be standing at this Sunday’s elections, pledging to hand over power when a new head of state has been inaugurated.
Will the Elections be Credible?
One of the main reasons behind why Guinea-Bissau has suffered a number of coups is the overarching influence that the military has in political. International pressure and the conduct of the military will therefore be key. The United Nations has already indicated that the country’s return to stability will depend in part on credible elections. The UN has vowed to impose “targeted sanctions” against those who undermine the country’s efforts to restore constitutional order. It has also specifically warned military leaders against “meddling in the electoral process, or ignoring the outcome.” In response, the military has promised “zero” tolerance for fraud.
Since 1980, the five coups have taken place resulted in chronic instability and poverty for the country’s 1.6 million people. The next president will therefore need to remove the army from politics in order to prevent more coups and to enhance political stability. The new president will also need to bolster the fight against drug trafficking, as the country is seen as a transit point in the smuggling of South American cocaine into Europe. According to the United Kingdom’s All-Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau, the country “is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s international drug trafficking hubs” and is “one of the poorest nations on earth.”
The Main Parties
Sunday’s elections will inevitably be a race between the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) and the PRS (Party for Social Renewal).
The PAIGC is the former liberation movement that fought a guerilla war against Portuguese colonial rule for over a decade and took power on independence in 1974.
The PRS has mostly been in opposition. Kumba Yala, the only president it has produced so far, was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and died earlier this month, just days before the elections. The party will be hoping for a strong turnout amongst the Balanta ethnic group, which is its main support base.
The Main Presidential Candidates
Representing the PAIGC is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister credited with implementing tough economic reforms. His efforts led to the Paris Club of lenders cancelling a US $1 billion debt and France cancelling a US $8 million euro debt.
Abel Incada, who is representing the PRS, is a businessman who previously served as first deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.
Another candidate is Nazare de Pina Vieira, the widow of former President Joao Bernardo Vieira, who is standing an as independent. She has been living in Paris since her husband’s assassination in March 2009.
Who will Monitor the Elections?
Countries from the regional body, ECOWAS, agreed in February 2014 to deploy 750 troops in order to ensure security during the polls. There will also be international observers from the United Kingdom, European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, Nigeria and East Timor.
In February, a presidential decree indicated that more than 776,000 people had registered to vote, representing 95% of eligible voters.
What is the electoral System?
In Guinea-Bissau, the president is elected by an absolute majority, with a second round of voting occurring if it is required. The presidential term is five years.
The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.
France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault declared on Monday that elections in Mali, which were held on Sunday, were a “great success” for the country and for France, which deployed its troops to the African nation earlier this year in order to dislodge Islamist militant groups from the northern regions of the country. A high turnout has been reported despite renewed threats from Islamist groups that polling stations would be attacked.
Thousands of United Nations troops kept the peace on Sunday as Malians voted for a new president in a bid to usher in a new period of peace and stability in the first elections to be held since a military coup helped plunge the country into chaos. Early indications showed a record turnout in much of the country, where voters were choosing from twenty-seven candidates, all of whom have pledged to restore peace. Preliminary results collated by journalists in polling stations suggest that former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had taken a clear early lead. The unofficial projection may indicate that Mr. Keita, 69, could win the elections after the first round. Amongst the twenty-seven candidates, Mr. Keita is seen as the frontrunner. His main rival is thought to be Mr. Soumaila Cisse, a former chairman of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union. An official announcement on the first-round results however is not expected until Friday. If no candidate winds an overall majority, then a second round run-off between the top two contenders will be scheduled for August 11.
Voting stations opened on Sunday at 8:00AM (0800 GMT) under heavy security just one day after the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is one of the main armed groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had threatened to “strike” polling stations. However there have been no reports of any serious incidents occurring. Voting in the northern regions of the country also passed off peacefully. In Gao, which is northern Mali’s largest city, dozens of people lined up to vote in a school near Independence Square. Meanwhile in Timbuktu, voting went ahead after initial problems with organizations, in which many voters were unable to find their names on the voting lists. A large portion of the worry ahead of the polls had been focused on Kidal which was occupied for five months by Tuareg separatists until a ceasefire accord allowed the Malian army to provide security earlier this month. In the run-up to the elections, ethnic clashes between Tuareg rebels and black African left four people dead. In turn, gunmen, though to be from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) kidnapped five polling officials 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal.