Thursday, October 26, 2017

2019 Elections: Change Or No Change?

Starting with the obvious caveat that polls aren't always accurate, the one conducted by the Balearic Institute of Social Studies for voting intentions in Palma does make for interesting reading.

Palma town hall has twenty-nine councillors. The election in 2015 returned the following: nine Partido Popular; six PSOE; five Més; five Podemos; four Ciudadanos (C's). The ruling administration at the town hall therefore changed from one with a PP majority to what there is now - a pact between PSOE, Més and Podemos. In order to form a majority, there need to be fifteen councillors. The pact was able to deliver this plus one.

The poll by the institute asked about voting intentions were there to be an election now - the actual election isn't until May 2019. It found increased support for the PP, PSOE, the C's and for El Pi, who don't currently have a councillor. Més and Podemos, on the other hand, saw their support drop. The maths of this poll indicate that the pact could continue, despite the loss of one councillor by both Més and Podemos. One more for PSOE would push the total to fifteen, just scraping a majority.

An alternative conclusion, thanks to the workings of the D'Hondt method of allocating seats under proportional representation, is that the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos might both gain one seat and El Pi might win one. Were that to be the case, then a three-way coalition of the centre-right could replace the current pact.

The institute has also conducted a poll for voting intentions for the Council of Mallorca, where the pact mirrors that of Palma town hall. And the findings of the poll pretty much mirror the Palma poll. Més and Podemos are both down by one seat; PSOE may gain one; the C's are up (possibly by two); El Pi, which have representation at the Council, remain the same, as do the PP. If the poll is accurate, then PSOE would need to gain in order for the pact to survive. There are 33 seats at the Council of Mallorca, of which PSOE, Més and Podemos currently have eighteen. It is possible they could miss establishing a majority by one, while a combination of the PP, C's and El Pi would have a majority.

In June there was a mid-term poll for the Balearic parliament. While Podemos isn't formally part of the government, its seats are what put PSOE and Més into government in 2015. The June poll suggests that the pact wouldn't survive, with Més and Podemos both losing two seats and PSOE losing one. For the centre-right, there were gains for the C's and El Pi; the PP stayed where they are with twenty seats.

What these polls all indicate is that the next elections are going to be very difficult to call. They show a general ebbing away of support for Més and Podemos, but perhaps most significantly they do not reveal any sign of a recovery by the PP. An assumption that some have been making - an erroneous one in my view, and backed up by these polls - is that the PP will just walk back into power in 2019. This is what happened in 2003 and 2011 after the previous PSOE-led governments, but at present it would appear that the PP would need to rely on D'Hondt falling favourably for them and the C's and El Pi being prepared to make pacts.

It's revealing to look back and see what opinion polling was like at the mid-term of the Bauzá PP government. There was a very different picture. The PP had lost six to seven seats, meaning they were below the majority of thirty. It was to get much worse for the PP. They lost fifteen seats at the election itself, and they are now - according to the opinion poll - stuck on that twenty.

So, two years can make a difference - positively, negatively or even through the unexpected. When that mid-term poll in 2013 was carried out, Podemos weren't around. In the space of two years they emerged from nowhere to get ten seats in the Balearic parliament.

There won't be a repeat of the surprise package in 2019, so will there be anything to disrupt the patterns revealed by these polls? One factor that I have highlighted previously is the new deal for Balearic financing. If it comes through and is favourable, the electorate may look upon it with favour as well, though it would be more of a PSOE achievement than one of Més (or Podemos).

As for the PP, they are going to have do something pretty remarkable over the next eighteen months or so, and with Biel Company showing little evidence of being a dynamic leader, I'm far from convinced that they will improve their position to any significant extent.

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