In a faraway country, more election woes
LONDON — Britain was plunged into renewed political turmoil after opposition forces toppled the ruling English People’s Congress from overall control of the troubled Atlantic seaboard country’s government, amid rising regional tensions with its neighbours.
The EPC gained just under 42 per cent of the national vote in elections held on Thursday, but was unable to form a majority with its approximately 318 seats as it nursed a stunning blow from the main opposition Workers’ Progressive Party, which massively increased its own vote.
The vote is a humiliation for Premier Theresa May, the EPC’s leader, who bet that the election would rubber-stamp her authority and disorient the opposition — with regime-linked media vowing to “crush the saboteurs”.
Despite the attacks and being written off by the EPC and elite groups, the left-wing WPP polled 40 per cent, taking a number of its 261 seats from EPC heartlands.
In an apparent bid to forestall factional strife in her own party, the premier retreated to her leadership compound in the federal capital, London, on Friday — increasing concerns over a stable transition of power as the country prepares for a confrontation with 27 of its near neighbours over what it sees as the injustice of the regional order.
There was speculation that forces loyal to the premier could seek to gain entry to the palace of the country’s revered supreme leader, to win crucial backing to helm the divided state.
The EPC could attempt to ally with religious rightists in the country’s restive northwestern province, adding their ten seats to form a ramshackle minority government — but they are likely to demand considerable patronage.
Some analysts said a second election may take place within months, especially with an emboldened opposition seeking to obstruct the EPC and waiting in the wings to form its own minority government. But there was doubt over whether there would be enough votes in the new legislature to approve another election, potentially leading to deadlock. Jeremy Corbyn, the WPP’s leader, told local media: “we are ready to serve the country.”
Renewed instability could leave attempts to negotiate a resolution to the regional crisis — which were due to begin in days — in tatters. On Friday regional leaders barely hid that they are losing patience with the impasse. “We don’t know when… talks start. We know when they must end,” said Donald Tusk, president of the region’s development community.
A deep-seated legitimacy crisis has built up in Britain’s multinational but highly centralised state, with elections or plebiscites held at a rate of about once a year. Yet the country has little experience of political compromise, with only one coalition government this decade. Continued indecisive elections may increase calls for constitutional reform such as proportional representation and stronger federalism.
But in a country that is home to one of the most robust democratic traditions in the region, voters rejected a growing authoritarian streak in the premier’s leadership style, such as a ‘strong and stable’ personality cult allegedly crafted by a western PR firm.
The premier, a feared former state security minister who seized power less than a year ago after internal EPC bloodletting, had said that “every vote… will make me stronger” when she called the election in April.
But her rare, stilted public appearances in front of voters were seen by analysts as reflecting a grey, politburo style ill-suited to increasing demands for pluralism in the system.
Separatists in the oil-rich northern province also incurred heavy electoral losses — reducing the threat of a complete breakdown in the country’s territorial integrity as the stresses of a structurally weak economy and the looming regional confrontation mount.