How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation. Read more

Pro- and Anti-Independence Parties Fail to Unite in Catalonia

Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia's Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015
Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia’s Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015 (CDC)

Catalan parties in favor and opposed to seceding from Spain have failed to unite in time for the election in December.

A unionist list proposed by the liberal Ciudadanos has been rejected by the Socialists and People’s Party.

A separatist alliance fell apart when the Republican Left conditioned it on the participation of other left-wing parties. Read more

German Free Democrats, Greens Drop Red Lines

German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015 (European Council)

Germany’s Free Democrats and Greens have each dropped demands in order to make progress in coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Merkel has set a ten-day deadline to finish preliminary discussions and start negotiations to form a government.

  • The Free Democrats have accepted they will not be able to cut income taxes as much as they wanted.
  • The Greens no longer insist on fixed dates to shut coal-fired power stations and ban cars with internal combustion engines. Read more

Sicily Defeat Does Not Bode Well for Italy’s Center-Left

Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015
Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party was defeated in regional elections on Sicily this weekend, going down from 30 to 18 percent support.

The party suffered from the same three problems locally as it does nationally:

  1. The left is divided. The purist Democrats and Progressives, who split from Democrats in February, claimed between 6 and 10 percent support.
  2. The right is united. Sicily’s Nello Musumeci was backed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the national-conservative Brothers of Italy.
  3. The populist Five Star Movement appeals to voters who are disillusioned in the old parties. Its support on Sicily went up from 18 percent in 2012 to 35 percent. Read more

Belgians Criticize Persecution of Catalan Leaders

Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015
Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015 (European Council)

Belgian politicians from the left and right have criticized Spain’s persecution of Catalan leaders, five of whom, including the deposed regional president, Carles Puigdemont, have sought refuge in Brussels.

  • Jan Jambon, interior minister and member of the New Flemish Alliance: “Knocking on peaceful people, government members who are jailed… What did they do wrong? They carried out the mandate they received from their voters. I wonder where Europe is in all this. This is happening in a European member states and the silence is deafening.”
  • Elio Di Rupo, former prime minister and leader of the opposition Socialist Party: “Puigdemont has abused his position, but Rajoy has behaved like an authoritarian Francoist. Let’s find the path to a more federal Spain.”
  • Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister and leader of the liberal bloc in the European Parliament, which includes Spain’s Ciudadanos and Catalonia’s European Democratic Party: “While we have to respect the right and the obligation of Spanish courts to defend and to protect the rule of law, the question must be asked if this imprisonment is disproportionate. Are there no other ways to secure that these separatist leaders receive a fair trial and a judgement?”
  • Bart De Wever, mayor of Antwerp and leader of the New Flemish Alliance: “Things are happening here which we wouldn’t tolerate in any country of the European Union. You don’t lock people up for practicing their democratic rights.” Read more

The American Culture Wars Are Officially a Strategic Threat

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)

Donald Trump campaign people are going to jail.

This isn’t quite the fall of the Trumpian house of cards. Paul Manafort’s indictment is very specific to him and his work in Ukraine. More information must come out before we can be certain this will lead to the White House. While the revelations of George Papadopoulos create the strongest link yet, they have not produced an indictment to date.

Yet there is an essential tale here: for the first time in modern American history, a foreign power has substantially interfered with a political campaign. It’s not that others haven’t tried. The Soviet Union tried several times to back favored candidates, especially in the turbulent 1960s and 70s. But in those Cold War cases, American candidates refused the help.

This is the first time it looks like someone said yes.

What changed? Read more

Support for Catalan Independence Up, But Most Still Favor Compromise

Catalans celebrate their National Day in Barcelona, Spain, September 13, 2012
Catalans celebrate their National Day in Barcelona, Spain, September 13, 2012 (Fotomovimiento)

Support for Catalan independence has gone up but remains below 50 percent, according to a survey carried out by the regional government every four months.

Given the choice between independence and the status quo, 48.7 percent of Catalans would now opt to break away against 43.6 percent who want to stay in Spain.

Those figures were 41.1 and 49.4 percent in June, respectively.

Spain’s heavy-handed response to the October 1 referendum, which had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court, is most likely to blame for the shift. Read more