Are we at nearing the end of a new period of political volatility in Europe, or are we closer to the beginning? The recent election in Italy offers important — and unnerving — clues.
On one level, you might argue that the Italian election was classic Italian politics: a festa of successful insurgent outsiders, overturned insiders and anti-establishment populism that is entirely in keeping with a national tradition of general political chaos. But on another level, those with an eye on the deeper currents will rightly see the events in Italy as a symptom of more profound changes that are sweeping through Europe’s creaking party systems, and that still have a long way to run.… Seguir leyendo »
There is no doubt that nationalist populism will remain an important driver of Europe’s debates. As we showed in our 2017 Chatham House research paper on the future of Europe, elites across the EU identify populists as their number one challenge. Thus, as we leave 2017 it seems that many observers were too optimistic about the ‘Macron moment’ and the supposed defeat of nationalist populism that was reflected in losses for Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
Indeed, as Macron’s popularity plunged, Austria swung sharply to the right, electing the young conservative Sebastian Kurz, who has entered negotiations to form a coalition deal with the hard-right Freedom Party.… Seguir leyendo »
Yet another European country has swung to the right. Nearly 58 percent of Austrian voters cast ballots last Sunday for the center-right People’s Party or the far-right Freedom Party. It is likely that the two parties will form a governing coalition.
Since the 1980s, the Freedom Party has been associated with anti-immigration xenophobia, anti-Semitism and, more recently, Islamophobia. On Sunday, about 26 percent of Austrians backed the party, giving it its highest share of the vote since 1999. Though the center-left Social Democrats came in second place, avoiding an embarrassing third-place finish, less than one percentage point separated them from the Freedom Party.… Seguir leyendo »
Whatever else it may have been, the Brexit vote was a working-class revolt. Britain’s two main political parties, Conservative and Labour, are still grappling with that fact. So far, it has created more problems than opportunities for both, but especially for Labour.
Though Britain’s left behind and beleaguered workers were not the only ones to vote to leave the European Union, they provided the bulk of support. This is especially true for the so-called C2s, a term derived from market research to denote skilled and semiskilled workers. Had political observers zeroed in on this group, they might have seen sooner how the Brexit referendum would turn out.… Seguir leyendo »
The 2017 general election was never supposed to end like this. At the start of 2017, Theresa May and the Conservative Party held a commanding 13-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. Shortly after Prime Minister May announced the election on 18 April, this lead grew further to 21 points. However, since then the picture has changed radically. Across all polls that included fieldwork in June, the average Conservative Party lead has dropped to 6.4 points while a statistical model by pollster YouGov indicated that Britain might be headed for a hung parliament.
At broad level, the race has not narrowed due to a collapse of support for the centre-right Conservatives – who throughout the campaign have consistently polled above 40% of the national vote.… Seguir leyendo »
Prime Minister Theresa May had to have better reasons for subjecting election-fatigued Brits to their fourth major political contest in three years than just strengthening her hand in negotiations with Brussels.
May put heavy emphasis on the need to ‘prepare for Brexit’ and strengthen the ‘government’s negotiating position in Europe’ when she announced the 8 June snap election on the steps of Number 10.
As one senior Conservative Party official told me afterward: ‘Our view is that we cannot go into the negotiations with the EU divided. We need a good hand and this election is about strengthening that hand.’
However, this strategy has an external and an internal dimension: Outwardly, it is about the power of symbolism — demonstrating to Berlin, Brussels and Paris that the prime minister has a solid mandate, that she leads a unified party, that the country supports her stance on Brexit and might be prepared to walk away from a bad deal.… Seguir leyendo »
The triggering of Article 50 marks the symbolic enactment of Britain’s EU referendum result and the start of what is likely to be the most complex negotiation the UK has ever undertaken.
So far, the governments of the other 27 EU member states have been strongly united around two basic positions: that there should be no ‘pre-negotiations’ before the formal triggering of Article 50, and that Britain should not be allowed to ‘cherry-pick’ the benefits of EU membership while avoiding the costs. This consensus has proved impressively durable in the eight months since the referendum. They want a constructive deal but they also want to prevent Brexit from undermining the integrity of the union.… Seguir leyendo »
It is entirely plausible that the next president of France will be Marine Le Pen. After the Brexit vote in Britain and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, Ms. Le Pen, the leader of one of the oldest far-right parties in Europe, now smells victory in what her team is calling “the third battle.”
Ms. Le Pen can already claim the backing of more than one in four French voters. These National Front supporters are a disgruntled lot who are more likely than others to say they’re certain to vote. Although recent opinion polls suggest that Ms. Le Pen would most likely lose in the presidential election’s second-round runoff, her strategists believe that she, too, will prove the pollsters wrong — by winning the first round in April, and then knocking out her leading rival, the upstart centrist Emmanuel Macron, in the second round the month after.… Seguir leyendo »
President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority states from entering the US for 90 days, and temporarily freeze all refugee arrivals (including Syrians indefinitely), has been interpreted widely as an attempt to curtail the inward migration of Muslims, which Trump and his supporters argue pose a threat to national security.
Trump’s policy has generated a backlash among some of Europe’s leaders. Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the chancellor had ‘explained’ the UN Refugee Convention to the president in a phone call discussing the order, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that the invitation to the president for a state visit to Britain in 2017 should be withdrawn until the ban is rescinded.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the EU referendum, party politics has undergone considerable change. Each of the three political parties that are currently the most popular in the opinion polls – the Conservatives, Labour and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – have held leadership elections. While the Conservatives replaced David Cameron with Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour re-elected Jeremy Corbyn and UKIP – who held not one but two leadership elections – finally settled on Paul Nuttall, a northerner and long-time deputy to Nigel Farage.
While Labour’s Corbyn was the only leader among the top three to survive the year, there have since emerged big questions about his party’s ability to survive as a competitive opposition party.… Seguir leyendo »
There are now less than 80 days to go until Britain decides whether or not to remain in the European Union. A conventional wisdom has developed around the vote that Remain is ahead, will benefit from a further and late upsurge of support and will prosper amid a dysfunctional Leave campaign. But according to some of the latest evidence these ideas may be false.
According to the latest opinion polls, which admittedly have far from a perfect record, in recent weeks the race actually appears to have narrowed. Even before the latest terrorist attacks in Brussels both online and telephone polls were increasingly suggesting that the race had tightened.… Seguir leyendo »
Before the end of 2017, Britain is due to vote in a referendum on continuing its membership in the European Union. Until now, the conventional wisdom has been that the country will opt to stay in. But the landscape is changing. The prospect of a “Brexit,” as a possible British exit is known, looks more likely now than it has for more than a generation.
The British never fell in love with the European project. As their neighbors moved toward closer union, Britain became known for its instinctive “euroskepticism.” It was the awkward partner that had only reluctantly joined, neither fully embracing the broader vision that united Berlin, Paris and Rome, nor adopting the single currency that followed.… Seguir leyendo »