7 May 2016
Sadiq Khan becomes London’s first Muslim mayor. The former human rights lawyer, who is the son of a Pakistani bus driver, was declared the winner after decisively beating his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith in the second round of voting, 57% to 43%. Goldsmith was criticized even before the election results were announced for capitalizing on anti-Arab sentiments in Britain and associating Khan with extremism by likening him to Islamists that Khan had shared platforms with in the past. “This election was not without controversy and I’m so proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” said Khan in his victory speech.
Presidential Election Blues in Austria
by Dario Groppi, 30 April 2016
Norbert Höfer could be the next president of Austria. He won 36.4% in the first round of presidential elections on 24 April, the largest among the candidates. Höfer is the candidate of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which is considered to be nationalist, far-right and anti-immigration. Green candidate Alexander Van der Belle won 20.4% of the vote and is the only remaining opponent…. full article
Lessons from Spain for a turbulent Europe
by Elisa Lledó, 28 April 2016
Spain has celebrated its thirtieth anniversary as a member of the EU, in a family that has little time for parties. The country has extensive experience in matters related to terrorism and the management of illegal immigration, the two most pressing issues for Europe. Therefore Spain could take on a leading role within the European club…. full article
24 April 2016
The extreme right comes out on top in the first round of presidential elections in Austria. The ultra-nationalist party FPÖ won 35.4% of the vote in the first round of presidential elections while its biggest rival, the ecologist Alexander Van der Ballen, secured 21.3%. The elections have also been spotlighted since, for the first time in Austria’s history, no Social Democratic nor Christian Democratic party will continue on to the second round of voting, an historical political defeat. The refugee crisis is key to understanding the FPÖ’s rise, a party which is known for its populist and xenophobic tenor, since thousands of migrants coming from the Middle East have arrived in the last few months.
14 April 2016
The plenary session of the European Parliament once again warns Poland that it must permit the Constitutional Tribunal to safeguard the Constitution. Since the ultra-conservative political party headed by Beata Szydlo won at the polls, the government has not ceased in its control over the Constitutional Tribunal and public communication platforms, approving controversial reforms that have made the country the target of critics and caused worry within the European institutions. The text, approved by an overwhelming majority in the plenary session of the Parliament, expresses its “deep concern” that paralysis of the Tribunal “endangers” the democracy of the country.
Unprecedented Coalition in Slovakia
by Dario Groppi, 27 March 2016
Outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Robert Fico (SMER-SD) won the challenge to form a new government in Slovakia. On Wednesday, 23 March, President Kiska appointed Fico as Prime Ministern again. His coalition comprises the socialists of SMER-SD, the nationalists of SNS, the center-right Siet and the party representing the Hungarian minority, Most-HID. The majority controls 81 out of 150 seats in parliament. A confidence vote is supposed to be held within 30 days to confirm the new government….. full article
13 March 2016
Anti-refugee party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) makes significant gains in Germany’s state elections, dealing serious setbacks to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Three states went to the polls on Sunday including Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt. The two former states, ruled by center-left coalitions, handed down victories to the Greens and the Social Democrats, respectively, who strongly supported Merkel’s refugee policy. However, in Saxony-Anhalt, AfD captured 24% of the vote after campaigning with slogans like “Stop the asylum chaos”, securing their presence in the regional parliament as the second-largest party behind Merkel’s Christian Democrats. The AfD also made substantial gains in the other two states as well winning 15% in Baden-Württemberg and 12.5% in Rhineland-Palatinate. This has been the strongest showing of a right-wing party in either of these states since the end of World War II.
28 February 2016
Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, admitted defeat in Saturday’s general election, acknowledging that the ruling coalition with Labour will not return. Although Kenny’s center-right party, Fine Gael, remains the largest in parliament, they were dealt a swift blow by voters weary of austerity measures. Fine Gael and Labour form the current ruling coalition government, but Labour failed miserably at the polls, securing only 6 seats. Fine Gael received 47 with the real success of the evening, center-right Fianna Fáil, regaining ground lost 5 years ago with 43 seats. Smaller parties, anti-austerity groups, independent politicians and left-wing Sinn Fein are all positioned to increase their representation in parliament as news commentators noted the “seismic change” happening in Irish politics.
20 February 2016
UK in/out of EU referendum set for 23 June 2016; British cabinet split between those for and against, with Prime Minister Cameron vowing to campaign with heart and soul to keep Britain in a reformed EU (20 Feb).
19 February 2016
EU leaders, meeting within the European Council on 18-19 February in Brussels, reached a decision on a new settlement for the UK within the EU, with specific concessions in the areas of economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, social benefits and free movement. This decision shall take effect after the expected referendum in the UK, provided that the citizens vote for the UK remaining a member of the European Union.
UK’s Referendum: Should the UK Leave the European Union?
by Dhelon C.N. Raynold
A referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union is due to take place before the end of 2017. If there is agreement at the European Union Council on 18-19 February 2016 the referendum can take place as soon as June 2016… full article
Poland to justify itself in front of EU
By Dario Groppi, 24 January, 2016
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo visited European Parliament in Strasbourg earlier this week (19 January) to defend her government’s position on controversial laws it recently approved. She is from the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party which won the majority during the elections in October last year. Poland is under increased scrutiny by the European Union since the European Commission commenced dialogue surrounding the fundamental aspects of rule of law a week ago…full article
13 January 2016
At its first formal meeting of 2016, the College of Commissioners of the European Commission decided to initiate a structured dialogue with Poland under the Rule of Law Framework. This was triggered by concerns over recent Polish government decisions restricting the independence of the Constitutional Court and public service broadcasters.
6 January 2016
David Cameron met German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit aimed at garnering support for his proposed changes to the European Union. Soon after winning the 2015 general elections, the British prime minister introduced a bill into parliament that would permit the in-out referendum to be held in regrad to the UK’s EU membership. The move was followed by a whirlwind tour of Europe to summon support for his bid to reform Britain’s partnership with the European Union. Mr. Cameron hopes to enlist Germany’s support for his reform proposal ahead of EU leaders’ meeting next month in Brussels. In an article published in the German newspaper “Bild”, the UK Prime Minister argues that the changes proposed will benefit the EU at large and “Germany can help deliver them”. The UK government would like to see a shift of powers from Brussels to national capitals and less EU bureaucracy, but amongst its most controversial points is the proposal to rein in benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in the United Kingdom.
4 January 2016
The Polish government, led by the ulta-conservative PiS, passed a controversial law involving the reform of state media. An amendment to the law which pertains to Polish state media, which was approved the night of December 31st, hands over the power to directly appoint the heads of public broadcasters to the state. The reform puts an end to an independent tribunal which has traditionally been in charge of television and public radio and has decided who is vested with the responsibility of choosing employees. The reaction was immediate, with various resignations by state media executives and a wave of criticism from both the national and EU levels that has called into question the democratic standards of such a reform. The criticism has fallen on deaf ears within the PiS and the party has even ignored a letter sent by the vice president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, to the ministers of justice and foreign affairs. The OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which works on behalf of human rights and is involved in protecting associations of European journalists, has also voiced its concern.
31 December 2015
Spain finds itself unable to form an executive government after its general elections last 20 December. Election results reflect a divided Spain in that no single party received a sufficient majority to govern the country. Eleven days later, no agreement has been achieved nor has a leftist coalition been formed between the Socialist Party (PSOE), who came in second, and Podemos. The conservative Popular Party (PP), which received the majority of parliamentary seats but not enough to govern single-handedly, has received the support of Ciudadanos. At this moment, the country appears unable to reach a consensus with the possibility of holding elections yet again very likely.
20 December 2015
The People’s Party (PP), which is currently the ruling party in Spain, has won the elections but faces a significant challenge in forming a new government. The general elections marked a historic milestone for PP and the Spain’s socialist party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español—PSOE), and opens up the new possible multiparty political scenario with four predominant formations. Podemos, a leftist party, burst onto scene capturing 69 seats while Ciudadanos, a center-right party, secured 40. Without an absolute majority, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy now faces an uphill struggle. Having secured 123 seats and PSOE winning 90, the possibility opens of forming governmental pacts that could even bring the left into power, or lead to new elections. A severely fragmented parliament reflects the uncertainty among the Spanish citizens in the weeks leading up to the elections.
10 December 2015
Cameron asks Poland and Romania for help in the realm of immigration reform. The British prime minister’s proposal includes restricting benefits for foreign workers during the first four years and would attempt to dissuade those immigrants from moving to Great Britain for work. The Polish prime minister, Beata Szydlo, declared that her government would not support any means to discriminate Poles in Great Britain, but said that Poland would be willing to “work together” in order to find a solution to put a stop to the immigration crisis and stressed that the country wants Great Britain to stay in the EU. Cameron, on his behalf, affirmed that “if we achieve reforms, we will remain within the EU. I want to Great Britain to be a part of a reformed EU”. Cameron also visited Romania.
7 December 2015
Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National (FN) garnered nearly one-third of the vote in France’s first round of regional elections. The anti-immigration party received 28% of the vote, winning in six out of the country’s thirteen regions and beating out former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right Republicans, who secured just under 27%, and President François Hollande’s Socialist Party, who came in third with 23.5%. This was the first election after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed, with a second round of voting to be held on December 13. Marine Le Pen said that French voters had rejected the “old political class” and catapulted her party to the top.
10 November 2015
Portugal’s left-wing parties join political forces to oust centre-right coalition only weeks after the general election. Prime minister Pedro Passos Coehlo has been forced out of office after the unprecedented alliance of the moderate centre-left Socialist party with the smaller Communist party and the radical Left Bloc, which is tied to Greece’s anti-austerity SYRIZA party. MPs from the left-wing alliance forced Passos Coehlo’s government to resign after a parliamentary vote was called on Tuesday. The Socialist leader, António Costa, is expected to become prime minister in the coming weeks with a plan to ease austerity while still adhering to EU rules. Passos Coehlo, who implemented harsh austerity measures like salary and pension cuts, public services cutbacks and the biggest tax hikes in recent memory, came in first in the country’s elections last month and planned to lead Portugal with a minority government. However, the unlikely alliance of the left put an end to his mandate, making Passos Coehlo’s administration the shortest ever since the country’s democratic transition in 1974.
10 November 2015
British prime minister David Cameron has outlined his demands for reform in order for Britain to stay in the EU. The official outline of his approach to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the 28-member bloc comes before the UK votes on an historic referendum deciding Britain’s fate within the EU. Cameron’s demands include protections for non-euro members against economic discrimination from Eurozone members, a stronger role for national parliaments in EU decision-making, the abandonment of the pursuit of an “ever closer union” to which Britain is legally bound as a signatory state of the European Union treaties, and the right to restrict welfare entitlements for four years to those migrants arriving from other European countries. This last point flies wildly in the face of current EU law which declares equal treatment to all citizens of the EU in any and all member states. Britons will go to the polls by the end of 2017 in order to vote on Britain’s EU membership and Cameron made it clear that he does not take such a decision lightly. “You will hold this country’s destiny in your hands, this is a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest we will make in our lifetimes,” said the prime minister, but commenting that Britons should “think again” if membership is the right thing for the UK if these demands fall upon “deaf ears.”
9 November 2015
Conservatives claim victory in the Croatian parliamentary elections. After polls suggested that the two main coalitions, “Patriotic Coalition” and “Croatia grows”, were neck and neck, the conservative opposition inched ahead of the Social Democrats who were trying to revalidate their mandate. The result is now a parliament which boasts 151 seats, 59 of which belong to the HDZ and 56 to the SDP together with the new party Most (Bridge), the big success that has taken the political scene by storm with a more centrist identity and whose platform is more balanced. The elections, which are the first to take place since Croatia joined the European Union, have been characterised by a discussion of the refugee and immigration crisis and a more nationalist rhetoric being pushed by the HDZ. The conservative coalition has spread a message which claims the solution lies in the implementation of stricter controls. Nevertheless, political analysts confirm that the HDZ may run into difficulties when the time comes to forge political alliances because of its strong national identity and family values that it defends.
9 November 2015
The Catalonian parliament has voted to formally begin the secession process from Spain. The vote, which split the parliament 72 to 63, went in favour of the separatist coalition formed by parties Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) and the smaller, far-left party CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) and plans to formally declare independence as early as 2017. Separatist MPs vowed to use their majority to begin “the process toward an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” with the resolution declaring that Catalonia is no longer bound by institutional decisions made by the Spanish state and calling for further laws to facilitate the creation of an independent social security system and tax authority within 30 days. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stated that his government is already set to appeal the legislation in court and block the secession process. Other opponents to Catalonian independence include Cuidadanos leader Inés Arrimadas, who claimed the resolution is “madness” and accused separatist MPs of choosing to ignore federal laws “at their will”.
4 November 2015
The Romanian prime minister resigned after protests erupted stemming from the fire that claimed the lives of 41 people in a Bucharest nightclub. The massive protests demanded the resignation of the Social Democratic government after the tragic fire unveiled an epidemic of corruption in the country. The prime minister, Victor Ponta, is being accused of corruption, but the Romanian parliament has refused to strip him of his political immunity, thus impeding his possible detention. The protests resulted from inaction in the fight against government corruption in regards to this weekend’s tragedy and the lack of security on the part of authorities. As a consequence, the prime minister’s resignation translates to the resignation of the entire executive branch.
Turkey: A case of Stockholm Syndrome
Opinion article by Deniz Torcu, 3 November 2015
On November 1st, Turkey voted for the second time in five months. The Islamist right-wing AKP managed to increase its votes by a margin of nearly 10% and, thus, secured nearly 50% of the votes, whilst the secular centre-left CHP gained 25%. The clear losers of the elections are the pro-Kurdish left-wing HDP and the nationalist right-wing MHP, both of whom have lost an important number of their voters to the AKP. The results suggest that the AKP will be governing alone, once again. As a direct result, rumours of amending the constitution to create a presidential…
1 November 2015
Turkey hands President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) an overwhelming win in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. With 97.4% of the vote counted, 49.4% has gone to the AKP, translating into at least 351 seats in the 550-seat parliament, undoubtedly enough to form a government on its own. In order to make constitutional changes in favour of the presidential system Erdogan has been pushing for, the AKP had to win 367 seats, although 330 is sufficient to bring the issue to a referendum. The AKP, which failed to hold on to a single majority in last June’s elections, was forced into negotiations to form a coalition government, ultimately proving unsuccessful. Security had quickly become the dominant issue in these elections after weeks of violence stemming from Kurdish militants and the Islamic State have wreaked havoc in Turkey. Opposition parties were dealt a swift blow in Sunday’s elections with the country’s main secularist party, CHP, seeing its share of the vote fall to 25.4% (about 134 seats). The nationalist party, MHP, saw its representation cut in half, receiving 12% of the vote, or about 40 seats compared to the 80 seats it won in June’s elections. President Erdogan promises a return to stability with an AKP majority, whereas opposition leaders warn of increasing authoritarianism threatening Turkish democracy with Erdogan’s outright win.
Portugal – A better Greece?
Featured article by Viktor Sukup, 1 October 2015
While Greece continues to give nightmares to both European politicians and public, Portugal appears to have emerged from the worst difficulties in recent years and have swallowed the Troika’s bitter pill with prospects of soon overcoming its serious economic crisis. Its political leaders do not cease to emphasize that they have successfully – they say – done their “domestic chores” of required reforms. Here there are no strong parties like Syriza or Podemos but is it really true that Portugal is a sort of “better Greece”? When Portugal joined the European Community in 1986, together with Spain, five years after…