Regional Vote Throws Doubt on Macron’s Reelection Strategy

Jens Stoltenberg Emmanuel Macron
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and French president Emmanuel Macron deliver a news conference outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, May 21 (NATO)

The unexpectedly strong performance of the center-right in France’s regional elections calls Emmanuel Macron’s reelection strategy into question.

The liberal incumbent has been leaning to the right expecting he would need their support to defeat the far right’s Marine Le Pen in a presidential runoff.

But if the center-right Republicans regroup, Macron risks not even qualifying for the runoff. Read more “Regional Vote Throws Doubt on Macron’s Reelection Strategy”

Republicans, Socialists Defend Control of French Regions

France flag
Flag of France (The Prime Minister’s Office/Arron Hoare)
  • France’s traditional left- and right-wing parties won the first round of regional elections on Sunday.
  • They were eclipsed in the 2017 national and 2019 European elections by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
  • Neither Macron nor Le Pen is likely to win one of France’s eighteen regional presidencies, but they are still polling in first and second place for the 2022 presidential election.
  • The second round of the regional elections will be held next week. Read more “Republicans, Socialists Defend Control of French Regions”

French Regional Elections Guide

Marseille France
Skyline of Marseille, France, June 13, 2021 (Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

All eighteen regions of France — thirteen in Europe and five overseas, counting Mayotte — hold assembly elections this Sunday and next. The assemblies in turn elect regional presidents, whose powers are more limited than those of American and German state governors.

More than 4,000 council seats across 96 departments — the administrative level between regions and municipalities — are also contested.

These are the last major elections in France before the presidential and National Assembly elections in April and May of next year. They are less a test of President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection prospects than a preview of whether he will be challenged by the center-right or far right.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “French Regional Elections Guide”

Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack

Boris Johnson Angela Merkel
British prime minister Boris Johnson and German chancellor Angela Merkel pose for photos at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, June 11 (10 Downing Street/Simon Dawson)

British Conservatives woke up Friday morning to the news that a once-safe seat in Parliament was no longer blue.

Liberal Democrat Sarah Green overturned a majority of 16,000 in Chesham and Amersham, bordering the London Green Belt, with a remarkable 25-point swing away from the Conservatives. It is one of the largest swings away from the ruling party since the early 1990s, when Tony Blair launched New Labour.

Extrapolating from a by-election is risky. Britain has had many by-elections which were heralded as the dawning of a new political era that never arrived. But a center-right party losing the suburbs after lurching to the populist right sounds like a familiar story. Read more “Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack”

Dutch Likely to Reverse Labor Market Liberalizations

Amsterdam Netherlands
Bicycle traffic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Unsplash/Noralí Nayla)

Pressure is mounting on the Dutch government to reverse liberalizations in the labor market.

The OECD, a club of 38 wealthy nations, has endorsed a call by Dutch employers and trade unions to encourage the use of permanent contracts.

But where the OECD prioritizes reforms to make it cheaper and easier to hire workers full-time, the Netherlands’ own Social and Economic Council (SER), in which trade associations and labor groups are represented, would make temporary and part-time work more expensive.

The divide is mirrored in Dutch politics: Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) and the centrist Christian Democrats would reduce the cost of regular employment for businesses. The Labor Party and Greens would rein in zero-hours and freelance contracts. Both may be needed to form the next government. Read more “Dutch Likely to Reverse Labor Market Liberalizations”

Dutch Right Alarmed as Left Needed to Form Government

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government offices and parliament buildings in The Hague (iStock/Fotolupa)

The left lost the election in the Netherlands but is winning the battle to form the next coalition government, argues conservative commentator Syp Wynia.

Labor, the far-left Socialist Party and the Greens fell to a combined 26 out of 150 seats in the election in March, down from a recent peak of 65 seats in 2006 and fewer than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member), which won 34 seats.

Mariëtte Hamer, a former Labor Party leader and head of the Social and Economic Council, in which employers and trade unions negotiate industrial relations, is nevertheless exploring a centrist coalition in her role as informateur that would involve both Labor and the Greens — to the rising consternation of the right. Read more “Dutch Right Alarmed as Left Needed to Form Government”

Pardons Are the Least Sánchez Can Do for Catalans

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez speaks at a congress of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in Huesca, October 1, 2019 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

When he needed their support a year and a half ago to become prime minister a second time, Spain’s Pedro Sánchez offered Catalan parties a good deal: more autonomy, a resumption of official dialogue between the central and regional government, and possibly a pardon for the separatist leaders who were imprisoned for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017.

No additional competencies have yet been transferred from Madrid to Barcelona. Official talks, to hash out a new division of powers, have been on hold. A legal independence referendum is still unlikely. But Spanish media report Sánchez is mulling pardons.

It’s the least he can do. Read more “Pardons Are the Least Sánchez Can Do for Catalans”

Germans Long for Change

Armin Laschet
Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, attends a meeting of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020 (Bundesrat/Sascha Radke)

Germans want change. 61.5 percent would like to see a different government after the election in September, according to an Allensbach Institute poll; the highest share in thirty years. 67 percent believe it is time for a course correction in policy.

The findings are sobering for the ruling Christian Democrats, who have nominated the more-of-the-same Armin Laschet for the chancellorship. The prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia proposes continuity from sixteen years of Angela Merkel. (I think the conservatives should have nominated the far more popular and semi-outsider Markus Söder of Bavaria.)

They explain why support for the Greens has been trending up. Recent surveys put the party — which has never been Germany’s largest — either neck and neck with or ahead of the center-right. Read more “Germans Long for Change”

EU Must Send Strong Message to Belarus — And Russia

Catherine Ashton Vladimir Putin Alexander Lukashenko
EU foreign policy coordinator Catherine Ashton, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko meet in Minsk, August 27, 2014 (EEAS/Viktor Drachev)

The interception of a Ryanair plane by Belarus is a breach of international right.

The crew was told by Belarusian officials there was a bomb threat, and they needed to divert to Minsk. It was a ploy to kidnap opposition blogger Roman Protasevich, who was traveling on the flight from Greece to Lithuania.

The Western response has so far been one of shared indignation. This must be followed by concrete action against dictator Alexander Lukashenko — not in the least to send a strong message to his protector in Moscow. Read more “EU Must Send Strong Message to Belarus — And Russia”

Great British Railways: Neither Public Nor Private Enough

London England
Railways in London, England seen from The Shard tower, June 17, 2017 (Unsplash/Simon Mumenthaler)

This week, the British government published its long-awaited and somewhat delayed review into the British railway network.

The proposals — putting infrastructure, timetables, fares and tickets back into government hands but allowing private companies to run the trains — are a step in the right direction, but they would keep the network in a twilight zone.

British rail is neither fully private nor fully public, despite the government and the Treasury in particular having control over many aspects of the railway. Accountability is murky. Industry fragmentation — 29 train companies, fifteen leasing companies — has only made it worse. Read more “Great British Railways: Neither Public Nor Private Enough”