Tag Archives: shane heneghan



From top: Dutch political party leaders Geert Wilders (PVV), Emile Roemer (SP), Mark Rutte (VVD), Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA), Alexander Pechtold (D66) and Sybrand van Haersma Buma (CDA) at the offices of De Telegraaf newspaper earlier this month: Shane Heneghan

The Netherlands heads to the polls on Wednesday with 2017’s first test of the wave of populism that dominated 2016.

Shane Heneghan writes:

So far, the main international headlines concerning the Dutch general Election deal with the potential electoral comeback of the far-right wing PVV under the leadership of their founder, Geert Wilders.

Staunchly pro-Israel, and pro-US (particularly under its new management), strongly anti-immigrant and anti-elitist, Wilders’ brand of populism has many echoes of the rise of UKIP, the Front National and Donald Trump.

Wilders is seldom vague in his rhetoric- frequently branding whole groups of emigrants as “Moroccan scum” and referring to Islam as the “ideology of a retarded culture”.

It should be remembered, however, that no opinion poll taken this year has seen his party on more than 23% of the vote and that the more recent polls see them as unlikely to be the largest party.

This brings us to the real story in Dutch politics in recent years.

There has been a kind of Balkanisation in the wake of the decline of both the centre-right VVD and the centre-left Pvda which has led to a mushrooming in small and single issue parties that opinion polls indicate may make forming a government after the election supremely tedious.

The political pallet is vast.

The country now has the world’s only Animal rights party with representation at the national level, a party dedicated to the issues affecting those over 50, a pro migrants party and a reformed evangelical Christian party all of which currently have representation in Parliament and all of which are expected to increase that representation at this election.

Worth watching is the rise of the radical liberal party, D66. A smaller party, with several stints in government under its belt over the past 40 years, they can claim credit for some of the more liberal reforms post war Holland is famous for including euthanasia, drug decriminalisation and same sex marriage.

The party is currently expected to take as many as 20 seats and a swing between now and polling day coupled with their centrist position economically could theoretically leave their leader as the first ever D66 prime minister.

Perhaps more radical if much less likely would be the prospect of the Dutch electing the world’s first Green Prime Minister in the form of Jesse Klaver, a 30 year old family man with Indonesian and Moroccan heritage who is expected to bring his party from four seats to the low 20s.

Given that the next government may involve up to five parties, the process of government formation is in itself is worth examining.

The Dutch monarch appoints an informateur, who – and this could prove to be crucial – may be an MP or senator from any party, who then begins negotiations between potential partners while keeping the King informed in a process that has long been criticised for its secrecy. As this is the 1st election since his mother’s abdication in 2013, it will be interesting to watch how King Willem-Alexander approaches this process.

This election is probably the most unpredictable I have come across in sometime and I include everything 2016 has put us through when I say that. One poll over the weekend suggested that there may be as little as 6% between the top six parties.

Given how badly I performed on these pages when examining the Irish election and the Brexit vote last year I won’t dare make a prediction. But I do think the result may very well set the tone for elections for the rest of 2017 with consequence for France and to a lesser extent Germany.

Get the popcorn.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Top pic: Getty


They called it wrong again.

‘sheet poll number cruncher Shane Heneghan writes

Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I was spectacularly wrong about this. I predicted a remain vote of about 52%. The voters gave me the exact opposite result.

When the dust settles, the fact that this was the second major failure in a row of the British polling industry, a country where the polls are traditionally remarkably reliable, should be dealt with but at the moment that is way down our list of considerations.

Let’s just take a step back for a minute and look at what happened.

This situation we are in now is unprecedented and no one can seriously tell you what will happen next. Anyone who says they can is a liar and probably has a very specific agenda.

But for the sake of argument ‘ll go through some of the hypothetical models of Britain’s future that have been going through my head in the past while:

The Norwegian-Icelandic Model
This involves joining the European Economic Area and would leave the UK in a close economic relationship with the EU while giving them an emergency break on freedom of movement and removing them from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK would also lose it’s right to appoint a commissioner, elect MEPs and send ministers to the Council of the European Union and still have to pay handsomely into the EU budget while receiving little or no benefit.

The Swiss Model
Much the same as the above only in this case the relationship would be governed by a series of bi-lateral treaties. I think this is the most likely outcome as it gives the UK much more flexibility.

(It is important to note that the above two options involve membership of the Schengen passport free zone which I am assuming Britain will continue to avoid like the plague.)

The Singapore model
In short, this involves the UK being treated as if it were a third country completely detached from Europe. It implies that tariffs and customs inspections would again applied to goods traded between the rest of Europe and the UK. This is by far the most radical option and in many ways the least likely given the close nature of the vote.

There are a few other things to keep in mind in the next few days.

Corbyn has got to go
A man who leads his party in a referendum and fails to convince great swathes of his electoral base of his position will probably have to do the honourable thing sooner or later. A leadership election will almost certainly be triggered by the Parliamentary Labour party in the next few days. The shadow cabinet is already in disarray and the departure of Hilary Benn does not help.

2) This vote is not binding.
The British Parliament is literally the beginning and the end of UK democracy. Referendums have no legal status and if the House of Commons votes to ignore this referendum in the morning then it’s dead in the water. Of course, even if this is entirely legally plausible, it is more or less politically impossible and would probably lead to UKIP forming an armed militia within about six months.

A slightly more likely prospect would be if a new moderate Labour party leader won an election before the exit negotiations concluded on a platform of maintaining full membership. That may sound unlikely but there is a solid 48% voters that feel hard done by and a sliver of the winning side with buyers remorse who may back them and when you factor in that the Conservative party is almost certainly going to lurch towards the right after Cameron leaves them it just might make this scenario a runner.

3) A northern Irish border poll really is a non starter.
We have already seen how the Democratic Unionist Party have moved heaven and earth to stop gay marriage being introduced to Northern Ireland- imagine the effort they would mount to stop a vote on Irish unity. Sinn Féin can hardly be blamed for raising the idea- what else are they for? But the relative silence of the SDLP is also telling. This issue simply is not on the table at the moment despite the North’s difference of opinion with mainland Britain. Things may change if Scotland votes for independence.

4) Britain may drift ideologically into the Atlantic
Future right wing governments in Britain may not be bound by EU social legislation and may slash “red tape” such as maternity leave, paid holidays, anti discrimination rules and other such nonsense dreamed up by water cooler dictators in Brussels. In terms of foreign policy in general they will be even more dependant on the so called “special relationship” with the Americans- how reciprocal that relationship is anyone’s guess.

Finally, I don’t like historical hypotheticals but I can’t help but speculate that John Major should have held a referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1991.

Presumably, he could have won and used it to silence “the bastards” in his party while nipping the rising tide of Euroscepticism in the bud. This would have probably solidified his premiership more so than his eventual “Back me or sack me” leadership contest.

He didn’t and UKIP was founded in 1994.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter

red c90415897

From top: A detail from post election Red C poll; From left: Fine Gael’s Leo Varadakar, Paschal Donohoe and Simon Coveney at Trinity College Dublin for talks with Fianna Fáil yesterday

What do recent polls –  B&A, for the Sunday Times last weekend and Red C, for the Sunday Business Post after the election-  tell us about the formation of a new government and/or the chances of new General Election?

Shane Heneghan writes:

The grand coalition I predicted would form from the result we got has so far become little more than a not-so grand game of constitutional chicken; but what effect do opinion polls have on the ongoing developments?

Logically, a rise in a level of support for a particular party at this stage would potentially increase the will within that party to seek a second election- but given the increasing weariness of politics from the population in general and the cost of two national campaigns within six months- this is only half true at best.

However, there will be some swollen chests within Fianna Fail after the weekend’s poll from Behaviour and Attitudes had them leading Fine Gael for the first time in eight years. The ghost of PJ Mara is surely goading them to push for “showtime” once again.

Of course, if it has any effect it probably won’t lead to a second election in and off itself but it is likely to make a Fine Gael minority less likely.

By contrast however, a RedC post election poll seems to show voters’ sympathies with Fine Gael and their predicament with them gaining a few points on their election débâcle.

Old notions around post election momentum seem to hold solid for the smaller parties with the Greens firm at 3% and the SocDems on 5% according to RedC.

But momentum goes both ways and both the Labour and Renua seem to have slumped even further compounding thoughts of speedy recoveries. Maybe dead cats don’t bounce.

So what next. The two scenarios going forward (I know, shoot me) are as follows:

1. Fine Gael cobbles together a minority administration with independents and others dependant on Fianna Fail to get anything done. This is the most likely eventuality and I would be shocked if it didn’t happen. Almost as shocked as I’d be if said government lasted more than 12 months.

2. A grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna fail is still possible. This is by far the most popcorn worthy option but we all now it can never happen because they both disagree on… on… on…. wait don’t tell me… it’ll come to me.

There are folks that say a Fianna Fail minority is possible. They spent most of the mid naughties in a certain tent in Ballybrit.

In closing let me just remind you that a second election before the end of the year is currently 7/2 on Paddy Power. Not that you should take tips from me.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based psephologist.

11/02/2016. TV3 LEADERS ELECTION DEBATE. Pictured  Leader Of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD at the first General Election 2016 TV and radio debate on TV3 this evening in association with News talk 106fm. The debate is moderated by Newstalks Pat Kenny and TV3s Colette Fitzpatrick. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie 

Today’s  Sunday Business Post/Red C Poll

A new poll.

Taken before the TV3 leaders’ debate on Thursday.

What does it all mean?

Shane Heneghan writes:

Another poll that would lead to an extremely divided Dáil. It also looks like things are starting to move. Fine Gael are beginning to dive under the 30% mark. Fianna Fail are rising slowly and Sinn Fein are up three percent.

In short, this is another poll that points to protracted post election negotiations and possibly even a second election this year.

We can probably see the theme of another election enter the campaign. Leaders will and should be asked under what circumstances would they force a second general election rather than form a government and why.

One of the more interesting points here is that Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are very close. [NUI Maynooth lecturer and election analyst] Adrian Kavanagh‘s sterile scientific means of predicting the make up of the Dail based on polls has FF getting more seats than SF despite getting less 1st preferences than them.

Would this be seen as fair? Would this affect coalition negotiations? Yes this is well well down the list of stumbling blocks to the formation of such a government, but if Gerry Adams’ party has more 1st preferences than Michael Martin’s then you can expect the phrase “rotating Taoiseach” to raise it’s head again.

Similarly, we see smaller parties continue to perform well here. Despite this, it’s still hard to see where they might gain on a constituency level. It is possible, for example, that the Social Democrats may get a mere 1.8% (3) of the seats on 4% of the vote.

Shane Heneghan is a Galway-based election expert/Irish political anorak/poll number-cruncher and part of Broadsheet’s ‘crack’ General Election 2016 team.

Fine Gael and Labour slump by five points as Sinn Fein rise (Sunday Business Post)

Pic: Sunday Business Post



Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos poll

Today’s poll.

What does it all mean?

Shane Heneghan writes:

At face value, there is little to take away from this poll. Fine Gael would seem to have a pre-campaign ceiling of just below 30%. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are up and down 2% respectively which would suggest that moderate Republicans may be headed home to the soldiers of destiny. Perhaps this is a back and forth worth watching in the run up to the 1916 commemorations.

Labour on 7% seem to be struggling with their goal of getting to a base of 10% but of even greater concern to them will be the disappointing score of 11% in Dublin- home to most of their safer seats. Fianna Fail are also on 11% in Dublin and this will be the most negative ‘takeaway’ for them here as they seek to reclaim some of their losses from 2011.

Renua and the Social Democrats remain within the margin of error and the perceived wisdom that they will both be doing well to hang on to their sitting parliamentarians seems to be true.

When we break down the numbers demographically, it is interesting to see that if only farmers were allowed to vote Fianna Fail would probably be heading towards an overall majority. Fine Gael are similarly way out ahead with the high income AB group. In terms of age groups, both of the two civil war parties continue to do best among the over 65s.

All of the four main party leaders have alarmingly low approval ratings ranging between 28 and 32% – all of them down somewhat bar a minor increase for Joan Burton. This would hint at much disenchantment with politics in general.

This is the last ‘peace time’ poll before the campaign proper and the high number of voters backing independents and others (usually quite a fickle group) coupled with a reasonably large amount of undecideds would indicate the prospect of lot of voter volatility once the party machines get into full swing.

The glaringly obvious thing to note here is that were these numbers subbed into a general election, it’s likely that the heretofore nearly unspeakable “notion” of a Fine Gael/Fianna Fail grand coalition- (perhaps we could call it the “ara-sure-it’s-grand” coalition*) would be the only combination that might yield a stable government. The leadership of both parties may be faced with the unpalatable choice of this shotgun wedding versus another election within six months.

*Note to self -trademark this term

Shane Heneghan is Brussels-based election expert/Irish political anorak/poll number-cruncher and an integral part of Broadsheet’s ‘crack’ General Election 2016 team.