[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

There is no question Macron is far from perfect. And I’m far from a fan or supporter. It’s just France has influence well beyond it’s borders. As a German and Irishman we just happen to be interested in what that influence has over our countries.

Don’t take that interest as any acceptance or dismissal of Macron’s domestic politics. There is no question he has been far from ideal in that area.

What I would say, Elemia, is I don’t see it’s going to effect him electorally. If the Presidential election were to happen tomorrow, it would be a run off between Macron and Le Pen. I just can’t see Macron losing that. So, while Macron has certainly got serious issues I’m not sure they are enough to see him lose power soon. He may find the Parliament less friendly but he’s going to be there for a while yet, for good and bad.

For that reason, his stance on Europe is just more obvious to us but do not take that as anything but appreciation of your input.

Axon just said what I wanted to say, but much more eloquently than I could have put it. Macron is probably much like Justin Trudeau, or even Merkel - on the world stage they are generally viewed more favorably than at home because their domestic policies/problems rarely get international coverage unless there are upcoming major elections or events like the gilets jaunes protests happen.

Like Axon said, it's important we make each other aware of the domestic issues so that we have a better lens with which to view the international image of the various politicians, so thank you for reminding us what it's like "at home".

Spain's government formation might well have effects well beyond it's border. SNP and Sinn Fien will be eyeing the fallout with some interest.

AUs_TBirD, walk me through the new SPD leaders. Is this new Federal elections?

Tbh, I'd never heard of the new leaders. I figured Olaf Scholz and his running mate were a shoe-in on name recognition alone.

The SPD has been in freefall in terms of election results for a few years now, especially the last two or so. Not so long ago they were in control of the chancelorship - Gerhard Schröder (SPD) held that office from 1998 until 2005, when Angela Merkel took over.

Because of the disappointing (to put it mildly) election results, there has been a fair amount of discontent within the party, and a large faction (especially the JuSos - Young Socialists in the SPD) has been very outspoken against the SPD being in/entering into another coalition with Merkel's CDU, because they feel - among other things - that the SPD's achievements in the coalitions are perceived as Merkel's successes. This is probably not entirely untrue.

Before this SPD leadership election (via the membership of the party), they had Andrea Nahles, and she received so much blame for the party's performance (much of it undeserved, imo), that she up and quit in June. Olaf Sholz was her main opponent in the leadership election which she won, so I just assumed he was going to take this.

Yet the SPD membership surprisingly elected a more left-leaning duo. The big question now is, what happens next, as these two are both skeptics regarding a continued coalition with Merkel's CDU and the CSU. They will probably want to renegotiate the coalition contract, and few expect CDU/CSU to acquiesce to that.

Should the SPD leave the coaltion, we might have a new attempt to form a governing coalition. I consider this unlikely, as that didn't go so well the last time. The SPD ended up being a "last resort" after the CDU/CSU+Greens+FDP fell apart at the last moment thanks to the FDP pulling out (everyone actually expected it to fail because of the Greens).
The two likely outcomes are either: 1. Minority government CDU/CSU until federal elections in 2021 or 2. new federal elections within the next 6 months.

Trump and Macron had a little spat over NATO today. Again, I see Macron's failings but there is no doubt he is placing himself as the defacto leader of Europe. Not that he has all that much competition at the moment. Interesting to see how he courts the smaller nations from the Baltic to the Irish Sea and if these countries maintain their unofficial alliance.

Did not notice Princess Anne there the first time, which is interesting since I'm watching Season 3 of The Crown which features Princess Anne quite a bit.

Sorry, I got caught up in things and didn't have time to check back and post. I get what yo'ure saying Axon and AUs_TBirD. Macron is indeed positioning himself as the de facto leader of Europe. But honestly, the pickings are kinda slim at this point...

So one of the podcasts that is now on my normal rotation is the Another Europe is Possible podcast. There is a huge Brexit focus and UK bias but there are a lot of conversation and guests who from the left on the Continent who are attempting to change the direction of the EU at a grassroots level. There is a lot of interesting things happening and it makes me a lot more optimistic that leadership of the EU won't just be ceded to the Orbans of the world.

EDIT: To give people a starting point of the kind of episode I'm talking about an example would be Episode 4 which had its guest Niccolo Milanese from European Alternatives.

Finland is about to swear in a 34 year old woman as its prime minister. That makes her not only a female PM, but also the youngest prime minister in the world.

She will lead a coalition of five political parties. Every one of them is headed by a woman between 32 and 55 years old.

Based on a german language article I read about this, Finland is politically deeply divided (second strongest party is far right), and very male dominated. The article posited that, while this is not a reflection of Finnish society, it does send a strong message for upcoming generations that things are changing in terms of equality, etc...

AUs_TBirD wrote:

Finland is about to swear in a 34 year old woman as its prime minister. That makes her not only a female PM, but also the youngest prime minister in the world.

She will lead a coalition of five political parties. Every one of them is headed by a woman between 32 and 55 years old.

Based on a german language article I read about this, Finland is politically deeply divided (second strongest party is far right), and very male dominated. The article posited that, while this is not a reflection of Finnish society, it does send a strong message for upcoming generations that things are changing in terms of equality, etc...

Also worth noting that the age range of those women is 32 to 55 because one is 55. The others are all in their 30s, some younger than the new PM.

And of course, in crossover with the feminism thread, there are the calls of "where is the diversity in having all women"; But if they were all men then not a single eye would be batted on the entire fricken planet.

I do wonder sometimes what the end game is that we should be striving for. Is it one in which the seats of power are always held by a representative demographic of the governed people, or one in which we believe, because in this hypothetical scenario we see this actually happen, that it is ok for the majority of the seats of power to be held by one demographic for a period of time, as long as over time that demographic changes?

The first scenario would likely need to be an explicit government policy, which some might call quotas. The second would entirely depend on the will of the people, in which case the question is, how much should we trust the will of the people?

The end game is equality, right? Equality to run for office, which doesn't necessarily mean we'll have an even split on who's elected, just that they all get the same chance.

slazev wrote:

The end game is equality, right? Equality to run for office, which doesn't necessarily mean we'll have an even split on who's elected, just that they all get the same chance.

That's what I think, but how to measure equality?

Chairman_Mao wrote:
slazev wrote:

The end game is equality, right? Equality to run for office, which doesn't necessarily mean we'll have an even split on who's elected, just that they all get the same chance.

That's what I think, but how to measure equality?

You don't. It's equality of opportunity not outcome that you are aiming for as slazev says. Thing is, gender quotas cut both ways. Parties have to have a minimum of either gender running for their seats, for example. However, as Finland introduced these requirements long before most in the 80s' this is the result. And it has wider impacts.

As a former stay-at-home parent I note the author of that piece couldn't help themselves at presenting a criticism of our choice of parenting. What I find interesting is when given the choice, like in Finland, the majority prefer that choice. Slight tangent, I know, but there is a narrative out there to get mothers back to work ASAP which actually doesn't address the real issue that many societies still stigmatise parents, but mainly mothers, for taking time off to raise their kids. At least Finland bucks the trend and seems to be better for it for children, women and men.

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/99/d2/1d/99d21da9e6a68f9e82222c727fe1c5d3.jpg)

Axon wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:
slazev wrote:

The end game is equality, right? Equality to run for office, which doesn't necessarily mean we'll have an even split on who's elected, just that they all get the same chance.

That's what I think, but how to measure equality?

You don't. It's equality of opportunity not outcome that you are aiming for as slazev says. Thing is, gender quotas cut both ways. Parties have to have a minimum of either gender running for their seats, for example. However, as Finland introduced these requirements long before most in the 80s' this is the result. And it has wider impacts.

As a former stay-at-home parent I note the author of that piece couldn't help themselves at presenting a criticism of our choice of parenting. What I find interesting is when given the choice, like in Finland, the majority prefer that choice. Slight tangent, I know, but there is a narrative out there to get mothers back to work ASAP which actually doesn't address the real issue that many societies still stigmatise parents, but mainly mothers, for taking time off to raise their kids. At least Finland bucks the trend and seems to be better for it for children, women and men.

I don't want to take this thread further off topic, but will just say thank you for sharing that article about Finland. Would love to see something like that happen in the US.

I'll be stealing that, UpToIsomorphism.

No worries, Mao.

Now, back to European politics, Macron is trying to reform pensions in France and it's going about as well as expected. Now, I don't doubt the usual groups will cause disruption but it's interesting to see where this will go.

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/99/d2/1d/99d21da9e6a68f9e82222c727fe1c5d3.jpg)

Love this.

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/99/d2/1d/99d21da9e6a68f9e82222c727fe1c5d3.jpg)

Love this.

Axon wrote:

I'll be stealing that, UpToIsomorphism.

No worries, Mao.

Now, back to European politics, Macron is trying to reform pensions in France and it's going about as well as expected. Now, I don't doubt the usual groups will cause disruption but it's interesting to see where this will go.

It's actually not just the usual groups, it's been going on longer than since December 5th, and the whole points system is bullsh*t. As usual, the people who would suffer the most are the minorities. It goes against everything we stand for and believe in.

Seems to be coming to a head now. I suppose the Unions did have to make their stand but I don't think they thought it was possible to prevent. They had to be seen to act. It seems other Unions were quick to see the writing on the wall and got their concessions in early. Let's hope both the major transport Unions get something from the process as I'm still a big Union supporter and not interested in seeing them harmed.

However, sad fact is we are facing a retirement nowhere near as comfortable as our parents due to several factors. FYI, my retirement age is 68. If I'm lucky. But that's a whole other thread.

On a pure political examination, I understand why Macron is doing this. It's very popular with his base.

The voters of Emmanuel Macron (77%, stable) and François Fillon (76%, +6 points) in the first round of the 2017 presidential election are mainly in favor of the reform. Conversely, the other electorates are mainly opposed : Jean-Luc Mélenchon (79%, -2), abstainers (66%, -4), Marine Le Pen (65%, -1) and Benoît Hamon (60%, -4).

That said, as that article's polling data points out, it's a divisive issue in France, as you say Eleima. But Macron is all about getting to the run off with Le Pen. And as long as the left remains completely fragmented, Macron will get those votes in the second round. He just needs to stay ahead of all the parties to his left. It's hard nosed politics.

If he has this over the line before the EU summit at the of January, which is looking the case, I expect Macron to throwing his weight around. With the US stirring up the Middle East, expect NATO to come under fire again.

Only looking on the headlines, I am definitely in favor of increasing the pension age from 62 to 64, and merging a crazy amount of different plans (though some flexibility should exist), also sounds good. But I am sure there are plenty of important aspects hidden below the surface (such as; point system?). Haven't read much about it.
Like with other Macron plans (such as trying to make it easier to hire/fire), it seems like he goes for stick and forgets the carrot in the whole restructuring of the economy and the job market. As in, all the benefits that a more flexible job market could give (and boy does the french job market sound inflexible), and the saving from a later retirement age, should supposedly be able to do some good in other places.

I am supposedly looking at a retirement age of 72 now*, which feels completely insane. Guess I'll be dead before it happens anyway.
*It is uncertain because our current law on the topic adjusts the retirement age with average life expectancy - so as long as everyone else stops being so damn healthy, it might become better.

I'm not sure about things coming to a head. We've got another strike tomorrow, with metros down and schools closing. I wouldn't say this is over yet. And it's not just about raising the age of retirement. It's also that it's going to increase the gap between the rich and poor, men and women, there are just so many moving parts.

You're entirely right about the left being fragmented, though. There really isn't a single viable candidate there at this point.

Eleima wrote:

You're entirely right about the left being fragmented, though. There really isn't a single viable candidate there at this point.

I feel like this is the primary way/reason that “conservatives” win elections. There’s nuance on the left... the right feels “safer” because they “have the answers”(tm).

Brussels builds alliance to bypass US block on WTO judges

Brussels has scored a success in its bid to prevent Washington from snarling up the World Trade Organization’s dispute-settlement system, forging an alliance with 16 countries to work around a US block on judicial appointments.

The EU signed a joint pact on Friday with countries including China, South Korea, and Brazil to put in place a temporary system that will stand in for the WTO’s appellate body. The tribunal has been suspended since the end of last year because of the US veto.

...

Brussels and the US agree that the organisation is in need of deep reform, and have worked together to draft new rules that would restrain Beijing’s use of industrial subsidies, but they have failed to come to any understanding on the appellate body.

The signatories of Friday’s joint declaration committed to put in place “contingency measures that would allow for appeals of WTO panel reports in disputes among ourselves, in the form of a multi-party interim appeal arrangement”.

As a rules based organisation, the EU is interested in pursuing that policy globally. What makes the EU different is the lack of a desire to have vetoes in these processes. Of course, if you have a veto you are slow to give it up but it's clear they don't work in the long term.

Anyway the point is, and probably my current hobby horse, the world order is changing. Into what remains to be seen.

So some news from Italy:

Italy's far-right Salvini fails to gain foothold in key regional election

Italy's far-right leader Matteo Salvini has suffered a setback after his League Party failed to unseat the left in a key election in the country's north.

The centre-left Democratic Party's (PD) Stefano Bonaccini won 51.4% of the vote in Emilia-Romagna, while the League candidate Lucia Borgonzoni took 43.6%.

The election had been seen as a test of Italy's national coalition government.

Mr Salvini campaigned extensively in Emilia-Romagna, hoping to depose the left and force snap elections.

The wealthy northern region has been a stronghold of Italy's centre-left since the Second World War.

More, from The Atlantic

BOLOGNA, Italy—About a week ago, 30,000 people showed up to a piazza in this elegant city, known for its porticoes and tortellini, for a free concert. The event had been organized by the Sardines, a nascent civic-minded uprising that has been holding peaceful demonstrations to contest the nativist rhetoric of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s opposition leader and the head of its right-wing League party, a man who dominates airwaves and social-media channels with his sovereignist, anti-immigrant message. The atmosphere at the concert was convivial. Many waved cardboard cutouts of fish and sang along to renditions of “Bella Ciao,” the old communist anthem.

Just the day before, in nearby Maranello, the home of the Ferrari race-car factory, Salvini himself had campaigned in front of the town’s fascist-era city hall, wearing a red Ferrari baseball cap. The League, Salvini told the crowd, is the party of moms and dads and workers, while the left wears “cashmere socks” and “sings ‘Bella Ciao’ with Rolexes on their wrists.” He said he would defend Italy’s borders with his life and “liberate” this part of the country—one of the best-run and wealthiest regions in Italy—from 70 years of left-wing rule.

Officially, the Sardines were facing off with Salvini in a regional election here in Emilia-Romagna. Yet yesterday’s vote was always far more than that. It was a test of whether the left could push back the nativist tide by defeating Western Europe’s most sophisticated and politically canny far-right politician; whether the Sardines could help change Italian political discourse, tuning down Salvini’s militancy to make way for a more civil conversation; whether Salvini’s digital savvy could be countered. The result held significant ramifications for the future of the Italian government and the balance of power in Europe. “It’s not a regional election,” Salvini said from the stage in Maranello. “It’s a life choice.”

Salvini lost that gamble. The incumbent from the center-left Democratic Party, Stefano Bonaccini, held on to the regional presidency by about eight points in voting yesterday. Salvini, who thrives in a climate of permanent campaign, had turned the race into a national contest and a culture war, and this time around he failed. It would be easy to interpret these results as a status-quo decision: A historically dominant party maintained its position. But Italy’s left has been in long-term decline. More important, Salvini appeared to be on an unchallenged upward trajectory, with no one in Italy able to stop him. Instead, the Sardines showed an ability to mobilize citizens in support of a more civil form of politics, one based on issues and supportive of the institutions of government, not social-media antics.

The electorate, it turned out once again, is not the same as the Twitter feed. “We’re the famous antibodies who show up to present a different reality,” Mattia Santori, one of four co-founders of the Sardines, said at a news conference here this month. Salvini may be a pro on social media, Santori said, but the Sardines are strong in the piazzas. Santori told me that the Emilia-Romagna election was a contest between “a physical presence and a digital presence.” It was “a war between physical reality and digital reality.”

Until the Sardines arrived on the scene in mid-November—when they crashed a Salvini rally here in Bologna, squeezing into the piazza like sardines inside a tin, hence the name, silently waving cutouts of fish—Salvini’s rise in the polls had seemed unstoppable, thanks to his brilliant use of social media to amplify his nativist message. While President Donald Trump fires off overnight tweets attacking his opponents and making policy announcements, Salvini uses his social feeds to connect with voters—wishing them good night and good morning, posting pictures of food and cats and another of his favorite things: immigrants behaving badly. He had made the Emilia-Romagna election more about national issues—immigrants and mosques, borders and communities, us versus them—than about practical solutions to local issues.

In defeating him, Italy’s left—rescued in large part by the Sardines—may have found a winning playbook. Democratic Party officials, from Bonaccini to Nicola Zingaretti, the party’s national president, claimed victory while thanking the Sardines for awakening a sense of civic engagement after years in which the left had effectively ceded grassroots engagement to the League.* “We had forgotten to show up in the piazzas, to spend time among the people,” Bonaccini said.