[Discussion] European Political Landscape

There are three elections occurring over the coming year that are of huge importance. They are:

Italian Constitutional Referendum - 04/12/16
French Presidential Election - 1st Round 23/04/17, 2nd Round 07/05/17
German Federal Election - 22/10/17

This thread is to discuss the political realities, results and fallout around these elections. The scope is broad but try to keep the post relevant to the elections referenced above.

Edit - Updated thread title

Prederick wrote:

The Rough Year Ahead for France

What’s next for France after the autumn revolt of the Yellow Vests? President Macron has already made significant concessions to the protesters, including an extra 100 euros a month for those earning the 1500-euro per month minimum wage and suspension of a surtax on many pensioners. Thus far he’s been rewarded with continued unrest (66,000 Yellow Vests marched on December 15, down by about half from the week before, while on December 22 the number decreased to about 30,000) and a significant jump in the polls for Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Rassemblement National, whom he defeated to win the presidency in 2017. Le Pen’s party now leads Macron’s 24 percent to 18 percent ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Those elections now promise to be not only a referendum on Macron’s presidency but an indication of whether the French people support their president’s vision of a strong European Union as France’s best ally in maintaining its generous welfare state.

Disclaimer: This is all subject to Elemia fact check.

That was a good read but I'd take issue with the part I bolded. There a couple of problems with that premise. Le Pen has had around 24% for European Elections for quite a while now. That's a given. But France elects MEPs from all over the place. It's a rainbow of political opinions. Here is the list of France's outgoing delegation. It's not a two horse race. Thing is, that list is also shows the Group the parties belong to and the Group is where the real power lies.

EPP, S&D and (somewhat distant third) ALDE are the main centres of power in the European Parliament. All these far-right euroskeptic parties could from a sizeable rump but they cannot coalesce due to their core beliefs. They are nationalists after all. Either way, as long as the main groups have the majority, not forgetting the Greens, Le Pen's effect on the Parliament will remain insignificant. And Macron's reforms, watered down or not, will require a degree of influence over one of those grouping. Probably ALDE. Merkel's is EPP, the largest.

That all said, even if Le Pen won the highest single percentage of seats, she has even back pedalled on leaving the EU and the euro. So, it's not really a referendum on that either. People have their reasons for voting for FN but it appears that even Le Pen has accepted that those policies are not it and that France's economic future remain with the project for the time being.

Shadout wrote:

Yeah, most certainly agreed.
I think EU did hurt southern Europe to some degree, but it was not by demanding reforms in those countries - which was, and still is, needed. But rather expecting the same of the northern countries, when it wasn't particularly necessary, which could only result in less export opportunities for everyone in a time of economic crisis. If anything, it might have made sense for those countries to further increase spending to reduce the impact of the crisis.

We probably agree on that to some degree but how do you sell that politically? Say, my country is reducing it's deficit while at the same time your country is expanding theirs. I just see that as an impossible sell.

Still, I always remember that old Juncker quote "We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it". Maybe that was the booze talking

Axon wrote:

We probably agree on that to some degree but how do you sell that politically? Say, my country is reducing it's deficit while at the same time your country is expanding theirs. I just see that as an impossible sell.

Still, I always remember that old Juncker quote "We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it". Maybe that was the booze talking :)

Sure, I can see it from the political angle of "we will suffer with you". Just doesn't make it a good idea, especially since it means you make the austerity countries suffer double.

Maybe we need more drunk politicians :O

News of the Yellow Vests forming a party....

https://www.france24.com/en/20190124...

Most seem to think this will help Macron by fragmenting the far left/right vote.

Color me unconvinced when it comes to the Gilets jaunes. They will be taking votes from the far right, if anything (which is a good thing). The movement is full of racists, sexists and homophobes.
Not to mention idiots who don’t want to pay taxes but still want free healthcare and paid sick leave (so they can continue the protest - that’s called fraud).

Would be ironic if they helped Macron stay in power.

Eleima wrote:

Color me unconvinced when it comes to the Gilets jaunes. They will be taking votes from the far right, if anything (which is a good thing). The movement is full of racists, sexists and homophobes.
Not to mention idiots who don’t want to pay taxes but still want free healthcare and paid sick leave (so they can continue the protest - that’s called fraud).

Le partie du thé ?

Margrethe Vestager does not mince her words. What's the public's opinion of her, Shadout? For what's it worth, in Ireland she was generally supported over the Apple Tax case even if our government wasn't happy about it. Interesting to see if the Commission could eventually find an ally in a US President at some time. Seems to me that the notion trillion dollar companies require massive tax breaks have lost all public support but neither wants to move against them first.

Oh and the article mentions Borgen. Not only is it a great show with some arguing it's better than the West Wing, I'd recommend it because it's a very good guide on how European politics work. UK would be the odd man out with it's first past the post/two party system.

I was not aware of any opinion polls on her. Personally I think she is great.
But Google (coincidentally) came to the rescue; 67% of danish voters want her to stay as commissioner, 8% do not (the rest don't care) - and it is pretty much the same result on both sides of the political spectrum. That is fairly popular I guess.
Going after large companies who aren't playing fair tend to be popular around here. Regardless she will in all likelihood be out after the current term ends. Since nearly all the other parties dislike her party (even if they think she is doing great herself), no matter who wins our upcoming election, it seems extremely unlikely they would appoint her again.

She came from a small (4-10% of voters over the years ) but historically powerful centrist party (Danish Social Liberal Party), that could often determine who of the large parties were going to win each election, though they mostly sided with the Social Democrats in recent decades. Politically Macron seems fairly similar to them (at least in his words, if not his deeds). The party is also extremely pro-EU, much more so than any other party we have.
The base voters in that party loved her, and I bet they still do - they probably want her back instead of their current leader... But due to her role as leader of an annoying centrist party that tried (and succeeded) to force the big parties to the middle, everyone else tended to dislike both her and her party, especially in the last years before she managed to 'escape' to become EU commissioner.
Our former prime minister, when Vestagers party was part of her government, pretty much only picked Vestager to get rid of her in domestic politics. And Vestager accepted (well, other than because she wanted the job I guess), to get away before a major election loss (in which they lost 50% of their parliament seats). So a case of "we like her so much more when she is 1000 km away!"

Borgen is certainly inspired by either Vestager, or her predecessor, who are in many ways quite similar.
Didn't really like that show. Certainly liked West Wing a lot more. They really copy pasted a lot of real danish political situations (and then added all the usual 'prejudice' about politicians/politics of course), which to me made it a bit silly to watch ~3 year old news as TV series episodes. But when you don't have that background knowledge it is probably different, so if you are interested in politics (in a dramatized version anyway), yeah, it is worth checking it.

I have to say, I'm a little concerned. Macron is definitely not nearly what he said he'd be. His minister for equality between genders is a disgrace. She's been blocking every feminist and LGBTQIA groups on social media. But I'm digressing.
Anyhow, this happened:
French police attempt to search Mediapart offices over Benalla report (Committee to Protect Journalists)

The Paris prosecutor's office should cease its attempts to search the offices of investigative news outlet Mediapart, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Mediapart reported that police and prosecutors attempted to search its office today as part of an investigation into the outlet's reporting on the French president's former top security officer Alexandre Benalla.

"It is vital for a free press that journalists be able to protect confidential sources," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "Public prosecutors have no business poking around in newsrooms. The authorities should drop plans to apply for a search warrant for Mediapart's offices from a judge and let the outlet continue its work of informing the French public about an important and evolving news story uncensored."

What is this, a fascist state? What the hell? news outlets have since reported that the order to search Mediapart's HQ came directly from the Elysée. This is very concerning. And, unsurprisingly, if I' not mistaken, this happened as Edwy Plenel, the head of Mediapart, was at court during the Baupin trial (Dominique Baupin has been accused by several women in his party of sexual harassment).

There's something rotten in France, I tell you.

As someone who liked most of what Macron said early on, ouch.
And it only increases the likelihood of Le Pen winning next I assume.

There might be a few times where going after media could be necessary, as dangerous as it might be, if it seems like they are actively trying to hurt the institutions of a country (wikileaks comes to mind). But certainly not on anything related to that Benalla case.

It took years of provocations and dismantling of democratic institutions in Hungary, but it looks like the European People's Party group in the EU Parliament is finally fed up enough with Hungary's Orban and his Fidesz party that they are considering throwing them out.

Critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appear to have garnered enough support to begin a process to expel his Fidesz party from the European People's Party (EPP), the umbrella organization that is the Continent's leading political force.

Even Bavaria's CSU, which has stood by Orban in the recent past in direct opposition to Angela Merkel seems to be questioning its support.

A few days ago, the Croatian HSS ("Croatian Farmer Party") announced it is leaving the EPP because of Orban - (Link is in German).

I don't think Macron, ultimately, was anything much other than "Not Le Pen" in the election.

A Year After Skripal Poisoning, Russia Offers Defiant Face to Britain and the West

UNITED NATIONS — Far from wishing the world would forget the name Sergei V. Skripal, Russia seems to be emphasizing it.

Exactly one year ago, Mr. Skripal, a former Russian spy, was found twitching beside his unconscious daughter on a park bench in Salisbury, England, both poisoned, British authorities later said, with a potent nerve agent administered by two officers from Russia’s military intelligence agency. In response, Britain and its allies expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats and imposed punishing economic sanctions, pushing the Kremlin further into isolation from the West.

Rather than ignoring the anniversary, however, Russia punctuated the occasion on Monday with an hourlong news conference at the United Nations and a 52-page report rehashing the episode in detail, amplified by extensive coverage on its English-language government channel, RT.

Russian officials also have tried to turn the tables, accusing Britain of violating international law by refusing to provide Russian consular officials access to the Skripals, who survived and whose whereabouts has not been made public.

“Where are they kept? We have absolutely no information about this,” Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, said at the news conference, in which he suggested the Skripals might have been victims of “a forced detention or even abduction.”

There are reasons to shield the Skripals from contact with representatives of the country that the British authorities say tried to kill them. The British government has said the Skripals are free to make contact with Russian diplomats should they wish, but have so far declined to do so.

I wouldn't go that far, Pred. Yesterday Macron had a letter printed in newspapers across Europe in 24 different languages. He very much has his own policies and is willing to state them which, for the record, I'd largely line up with. A good article from Politico outlines a lot of his platforms and how likely they are.

My problem with Macron is he seems to suffer from the Obama issue in that he is a great campaigner but isn't the best legislator. I get the feeling he and his party are a little to inexperienced and not cynical enough to get the job done. The wealth tax reform followed by the fuel tax was naive in the extreme it seemed.

That all said, just like AOC in the US congress, I'm just happy he is stating his views and shifting the envelope. It turns out a lot of French (and European, I'd wager) want a leader who is more pro-active on inequality, tax, climate change, tech companies, political funding and security. The debate isn't if the old ways are failing, the debate is what to do about it and I'm just happy to see my views on the table now.

It's worse than that. Macron is turning out to be a complete disaster, not keeping any of his promises. And see my above post. It's pretty appalling.

Italy rolls out 'citizens' income' for the poor amid criticisms

Italy’s populist government has rolled out its “citizens’ income” for the poor scheme, amid criticism that the part of the initiative meant to help claimants find a job is not ready to be implemented.

Citizens’ income is the ambitious flagship policy of the Five Star Movement (M5S), which the party – in government with the far-right League – is counting on to alleviate poverty, boost consumer spending and spur economic growth.

Those eligible must prove their household income is less than the poverty line figure of €780 (£640) a month. The amount that can be claimed ranges from up to €780 for single people and €1,300 for a family with two children.

The initiative is costing the Italian government €7.1bn in its first year, an expenditure that contributed to clashes with the European commission over Italy’s budget for 2019 and almost led to the country being sanctioned.

But with 5 million people who live beneath the poverty line expected to apply for the scheme, it has been lauded as “revolutionary” by the M5S leader and labour minister, Luigi Di Maio.

“I have worked on this so much,” he said. “Today we are keeping a promise. The state is finally dealing with the invisible people, those who have been on the margins of this country and the political debate.”

Claimants will start receiving the benefit via pre-paid debit cards from mid-April. But it comes with restrictions on how they can spend the money: initially, they will only be able to use the cards for food shopping or to buy medication. If there is money left on the card by the end of the month, it is debited rather than carried over to the next month.

Russia passes law to jail people for 15 days for 'disrespecting' government

Russia’s parliament has approved a controversial law that allows courts to jail people for online “disrespect” of government or state officials, including the president, Vladimir Putin.

The law, which critics say is reminiscent of Soviet-era legislation used to target political dissidents, stipulates fines of up to 100,000 roubles (£1,155) for “indecent” online posts that demonstrate a “blatant disrespect for society, the country, Russia’s official state symbols, the constitution, or the authorities”.

Repeat offenders can be hit with fines of up to twice this sum, or 15 days behind bars.

Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Sova Centre, which monitors abuse of anti-extremism legislation, said people could face prosecution for online comments such as “Putin is a bastard”, or jokes about parliament. Others expressed concern that the law was so vaguely worded that almost any online criticism of the authorities, including satirical memes, could be construed as “disrespect”.

“Soon we’ll be telling jokes about the authorities in whispers in the kitchen,” Sergey Shvakin, a Moscow-based lawyer, wrote on Facebook.

The law, which was authored by Andrei Klishas, a senator from Putin’s ruling United Russia party, was criticised by some MPs and government officials. “One of the tasks of government bodies is to calmly hear out criticism of its work,” Alexei Volin, the deputy communications minister, told the Vedomosti newspaper.

“If we stop calling a fool a fool, he won’t stop being a fool,” said Sergei Ivanov, an MP with the nationalist LDPR party, which usually backs the Kremlin on major issues.

Klishas denied the law was a form of censorship and said the authorities were “in and of themselves worthy of respect”. Putin is expected to sign the law into force in the coming weeks.

Parliament also approved separate legislation, likewise authored by Klishin, that will give the authorities powers to block webpages that publish “disrespectful” material or “fake news”. Klishin insisted, however, that the law would not be used to target independent or opposition websites, saying it would not affect “traditional media”.

Eleima wrote:

It's worse than that. Macron is turning out to be a complete disaster, not keeping any of his promises. And see my above post. It's pretty appalling.

I don't necessarily disagree with you, Eleima, and you could and have given very good reasons to point out why his so poor. I'm just happy he is showing that there is a market for his ideas even if his execution is poor.

I'm just hoping, like the your rugby team, that he get's out of his own way and just does the simple things well.

Macron is just like Trudeau. Says all the right things then just goes ahead and does the corporation appeasing neo-Liberal things.

And arguably both are classics cases of people mistaking being somewhat good looking for being competent.

Axon wrote:

I'm just hoping, like the your rugby team, that he get's out of his own way and just does the simple things well.

Oh, now that's low!!!....

DanB wrote:

And arguably both are classics cases of people mistaking being somewhat good looking for being competent.

Oh that's SO perfectly put.

Yeah, if I were lazier, I'd post a "THIS" picture. Instead, I'll do the next-laziest thing and write a post offering no new information or opinions but just co-signing something someone else already said.

Prederick wrote:

Yeah, if I were lazier, I'd post a "THIS" picture. Instead, I'll do the next-laziest thing and write a post offering no new information or opinions but just co-signing something someone else already said.

Now feels very self-conscious of his lack of word-skill.

Prederick wrote:

Yeah, if I were lazier, I'd post a "THIS" picture. Instead, I'll do the next-laziest thing and write a post offering no new information or opinions but just co-signing something someone else already said.

I could also completely stop posting, if you prefer.

Edit: I'm going to elaborate, because this kind of comment is absolutely appalling, and you need to understand just exactly why. I work ~50 hour weeks, have two special needs kids and my grandfather literally died last night. And yet, you saw fit to ask a woman, on the International Day for Women's Rights (eve before), no less, to do some extra labor for you.

I've joked in the past about being the GWJ correspondent in France, but let's be crystal clear. I owe nothing. I contribute what I can, when I can, if I can. No more, no less. Add to that the difficulty that most of my sources are in French, and though I do not lack the skill, I often lack the time to translate them. (though there are the English reports from Mediapart)

Add to that, that I've already gone on at length in the past about Macron sending cops to newspaper offices. About the dismal lack of progress, to put it mildly, in the field of women's rights and laws on consent. About the corruption (I mentioned the whole Benalla affair). About the handling of the whole gilets jaunes weekly marches.

Perhaps it's my own fault for setting expectations so high then?...
Unless an apology is in order.

Sorry to hear about your grandfather, Eleima. Look after yourself and your family. You'll be in my thoughts and especially on Sunday.

Sad to hear about your loss.

I did not read Predericks post a a response to you, but rather an elaborate "I agree" post, though now it is easy to see how it certainly can be read that way. But I got no way of knowing the intent of course.
You have indeed been our great French correspondent. Don't ever feel like you have to post something.

Eleima wrote:

I work ~50 hour weeks

But that goes against every misconception of the French work hours!

I'm sorry for your loss, Eleima. Big Belgian hugs available on demand.

I read Pred's comment as an elaborate way to post "+1 to what xyz said", but I could be wrong of course.

I agree with the others. I read Preds post as saying I agree, not as an attack on your post, and that would be out of character for him too. Sorry to hear about their grandfather.

dejanzie wrote:

I read Pred's comment as an elaborate way to post "+1 to what xyz said", but I could be wrong of course.

That's totally what I was going for. A joke about me, specifically, being too lazy to add anything to the actual insight that people had already offered. That said, I could've made that a bit more clear, so I do apologize. Condolences to you and your family.

Well, damn.
The one time I assume sarcasm, I get it completely wrong.
Sorry about that. ^^
And thank you all for your kind words.

Eleima wrote:

Well, damn.
The one time I assume sarcasm, I get it completely wrong.
Sorry about that. ^^
And thank you all for your kind words.

I can't think of any reason why your perspective might become skewed in such a way...

(/sarcasm)

That's a whole hell of a lot to deal with at once.

Hope you're feeling a little better today, Elemia.

On another note if a mod is reading, it would be nice if people could see who thanks/like posts. I was over on another thread and you mentioned potential new features and I thought of this. I do like the thanks option on other forums as words can be difficult to get right. Especially for this possibly dyslectic and ADD Computer Engineer.

Pred, nice post. Just wanted to give you a nod.