Election Road Trip

After being holed up at home like everybody else since March, we’ve busted out this last week on a pre-election survey of the political landscape. (If you’re a fan of the electoral process you might be interested in my Iowa caucuses column at 3QD, from back in February.)

We’re driving, distancing and choosing suite hotels, with kitchens, so that we may be as self-contained as we feel we need to be. We have yet to be anywhere indoors besides convenience stores along the way, a couple of restaurants, to walk through to outdoor seating, and briefly today, a funicular railway in Pittsburgh.

It’s a little bit more of a challenge to connect with socially distanced people with masks on, and those without masks kind of scare me (I’m talking about you, Ohio). We’ve spent time in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and are bound for West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina on the way back home. This reporting trip will inform the rest of the posts here between now and the election.

Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Belarus Votes

The campaign toward elections next weekend in Belarus is giving Aleksandr Lukashenko more fits than usual as he “competes” for a sixth term as president. After authorities jailed one of the main opposition candidates, vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, for “committing actions to incite social hatred and the assault of law enforcement officers,” his 37 year old wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was allowed to register as an opposition candidate.

RFERL has a report. If you’re looking for coverage as the election approaches this week, watch RFERL, and a leading Belarussian opposition website, from the group Charter 97, for more on the story. See also the Riga-based site Meduza. The screen grab above comes from Meduza’s coverage of a Tsikhanouskaya campaign rally, which Meduza estimates drew some 63,000 people.

Personally, the Belarussian capital of Minsk gave me the creeps.

UK Election, 12 December, 2019

Early thought on tonight’s UK parliamentary elections: a good night for Biden, Buttigieg & Klobuchar.

Fair to read tonight’s thumping Tory victory as evidence that Labour was too far left of the broader electorate. To the extent that the Brexit vote in 2016 was a harbinger of the election of Donald Trump five months later, that’s an argument in favor of candidates hugging the middle ground in the fight for the Democratic nomination.

Not my personal politics, but it looks like the state of things.

Second: sorry to see Lord Buckethead dead last in Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge & South Ruislip. Next time.

Final note: the only Portillo moment, by 149 votes, turns out to be LDP leader Jo Swinson’s defeat by the Scottish National Party’s candidate.

A potential 2020 story of longer lasting import than the incipient Labour leadership race will be the Scottish independence dance between Johnson and the SNP’s Sturgeon. Bring it on.

Quotes: In Turkey, Food Police Are A Thing

Municipal elections are coming up in Turkey. Don’t fret, the police are on your side and they’re here to help:

Police officers walk the beat in grocery stores to monitor prices. Inspectors have seized tons of onions from warehouses, fining the owners for hoarding, even though storing the bulbs is common practice to prevent rot.

From Grocery Stores Are at the Front Line of Turkey’s Latest Political Battle.

No Apocalypse Yet in Sweden

Agree with Anne Applebaum’s thinking in Sweden’s election once again undercuts the populist myth of the racial apocalypse. Everybody made the Sweden Democrats really, really scary for international consumption, but after all they increased their vote share to 17.6%, less than half of either of the existing alliances. Days are getting shorter across Scandinavia, but the sky has yet to fall.

 

Meanwhile in Turkey

Reserve a little thought space for the upcoming Turkish elections. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are coming in nine days time, and by most accounts President Erdogan finds himself in a tightening race. An article in Bloomberg titled Why Erdogan’s Election Has Gone From Shoo-In to Nail-Biter writes about

“the prospect Erdogan wouldn’t work with a hung parliament and instead call an election do-over if the results were not to his liking.”

The president said Monday that

“he expects the next presidential and parliamentary elections to end in the first round, with little possibility of a second one.”

But a Reuters poll just out today shows Ergodan

“falling short of a first-round victory … with his support dipping 1.6 points in one week…. The poll also showed his ruling AK Party was forecast to lose its parliamentary majority in the June 24 vote.”

So, we may expect an excess of media riches on Sunday, 24 June: England vs. Panama, Japan vs. Senegal and Poland vs. Colombia in the World Cup, and Erdogan versus a more-than-usually-united opposition in the Turkish Election Sweepstakes.