Italian Lawmakers Back Electoral Reforms Which Hurt Populists

Franco Marini, the president of the Italian Senate, greets Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Milan, September 11
Franco Marini, the president of the Italian Senate, greets Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Milan, September 11 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italian lawmakers have approved a reform of the voting system that could disadvantage the populist Five Star Movement in the next election.

The reform allocates a third of the seats in parliament on a first-past-the-post basis, which should help the mainstream left- and right-wing parties.

It also removes a premium for the largest party, which had been ruled unconstitutional.

Combined, the changes could make it harder for the Five Stars to come to power, despite them polling neck and neck with the ruling center-left Democrats. Read more

Trump Declares War on Republicans. Will Republicans Fight Back?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Now that Donald Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon, has declared open season on Republicans, will the party finally see its president for the saboteur he is?

Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan report for Axios that Bannon is recruiting right-wing primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for reelection next year except Ted Cruz. He told Fox News: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”

Opposing the leadership of Trump critic Mitch McConnell is “a de facto litmus test in Bannon’s recruitment.”

Allen and Swan conclude:

If Bannon were to field the slate he envisions, the Republican Party would have a civil war on its hands that makes 2010 look like a tea party.

Read more

Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont listen to a debate in the regional legislature in Barcelona, October 10
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont listen to a debate in the regional legislature in Barcelona, October 10 (Parlament de Catalunya/Job Vermeulen)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has stepped back from declaring independence, telling lawmakers in Barcelona that although the region has won the right to break away from Spain he is prepared to hold talks:

I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.

The climbdown avoids a worse constitutional crisis but is unlikely to satisfy the central government in Madrid. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has refused to recognize last week’s referendum and conditioned dialogue on Puigdemont renouncing secession altogether. Read more

Highlights from Dutch Parties’ Coalition Agreement

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016 (European Parliament)

Christian and liberal parties have unveiled a coalition agreement in the Netherlands. Here are the highlights from their program. Read more

Tax Policies from Dutch Coalition Deal Leak

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte greets Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė in The Hague, June 21
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte greets Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė in The Hague, June 21 (Presidency of Lithuania/Robertas Dačkus)

Christian and liberal parties are expected to form a coalition government in the Netherlands next week.

The public broadcaster NOS has learned they are planning various tax reforms:

  • Tax reform: Income tax brackets will be reduced from four to two.
  • Tax relief: For the elderly and middle incomes.
  • Profit tax: Will be reduced from 20 to 16 percent for small companies and from 25 to 21 percent for larger companies.
  • Sales tax: The low, 6-percent value-added tax rate on basic goods will be raised to 9 percent. Standard VAT rate will remain 21 percent.
  • Home mortgage interest deduction: Will be reduced to 37 percent, effectively raising taxes on especially wealthy homeowners. Read more

Election Reveals Brexit- and Trump-Like Cleavages in Germany

A far-right demonstration in Leipzig, Germany, September 22
A far-right demonstration in Leipzig, Germany, September 22 (De Havilland)

Germany’s federal election revealed many of the same cleavages we have seen in America, Britain and France, Alexander Roth and Guntram B. Wolff report for the Bruegel think tank:

  • Urban-rural split: Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party was low in the cities but high in the countryside.
  • Old versus young: Districts with a higher share of elderly voters were more supportive of the Alternative.
  • Education: There is a strong correlation here. The better educated Germans are, the less likely they were to vote for the Alternative.
  • Income: Higher disposable household income is associated with lower support for the Alternative, however, areas with high unemployment were also less likely to vote for the far right. Read more

Trump’s Welcome Change of Heart on South Korea Trade Deal

Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2
Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump appears to have changed his mind about a trade deal with South Korea.

As recently as a month ago, there were reports Trump was on the verge of withdrawing from the agreement.

Now American and Korean trade negotiators have agreed to amend the treaty in order to make it “fair” and “reciprocal”.

I doubt changes will really make the pact fairer and not more favorable to the United States. But that would still be better than canceling it. Read more