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Elections in Europe

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It's going to be a big year for national (parliamentary and presedential) elections in several, key European countries this year - in particular France, Germany and the Netherlands. The twin disasters of Brexit and Trump in 2016, hghlighting the rise of right-wing populism, has made everyone nervous of the outcome of the big two elections in particular.

So, can Angela Merkel return to power and carry on her role as the only credible western leader around?

Can the nightmare of a Le Pen victory in France be avoided and would Fillon be much of a better option?

For now, some good news from France as Macron is apprently performing very impressively in the polls. Could France be the stage for a dramatic liberal fightback?

French progressives dare to hope as maverick Macron surges in polls

Pro-EU, socially liberal and a political outsider, the former economy minister is drawing crowds who fear rise of Marine Le Pen

--- Quote ---From the stage in a packed concert hall, France’s youngest presidential candidate looked up at the thousands of people who had come to witness his trademark thunderous speaking style.

“Never accept those who promote exclusion, hatred or closing in on ourselves!” Emmanuel Macron urged the audience in Lille, a city surrounded by France’s leftwing northern heartlands that are increasingly turning to Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National. “When the Front National promises to restore security points at the border, they are lying,” he said.

Then the maverick centrist, who is running an independent, outsider campaign, did something no others are doing. He hailed the European Union to a standing ovation. “Europe is us! Brussels is us! We need Europe!” he shouted. Cheering supporters, many in their 20s, stood up waving EU flags.

Macron is becoming a growing phenomenon in the highly unpredictable French presidential election campaign. In recent weeks, the maverick former economy minister has begun to rise so steadily in polls that he is now seen as capable of causing a major surprise in the spring vote – perhaps able to reach the final round by knocking out one of the current top contenders: the rightwing, social conservative, free-market reformist François Fillon and the far-right, anti-immigration, anti-EU Marine Le Pen.

When Macron launched his outsider bid to blow apart the inadequacies of the “vacuous” political class two months ago, he was bucking every trend in French politics. The 39-year-old former investment banker, who had been a chief adviser and then economy minister to François Hollande, was not a member of any political party. He had never run for any kind of election. He defined himself as “neither left nor right”, and only two years before, the public had never even heard of him. He was more than a decade younger than any serious presidential contender, and his disgruntled opponents inside French traditional parties said he was a “champagne bubble” waiting to burst.

But now, with huge numbers turning up to his rallies, rising ratings and one poll this week showing he was France’s most popular politician, the political novice who has promised to revolutionise the way France is governed is being eyed nervously by the other main candidates.

There are no foregone conclusions in the French presidential race, and the final line up of candidates for the two rounds in April and May is not yet known. But Macron wants to show he can buck a recent trend in western politics – he styles himself as a liberal “progressive” who believes he can triumph against the odds in a political landscape where support for the extremes is growing.

More than 4,500 people in Lille turned out to see Macron, a very high number in the historically Socialist city. Far from the well-heeled dotcom entrepreneurs who attended Macron’s first rally in Paris last summer, they were of all ages, from students and sixth-formers, to doctors, hauliers, teachers, pensioners and local business people. Macron is economically liberal and a pro-business reformist, but he is firmly on the left on social issues, including on the freedom to practise religion in a neutral state, on equality and immigration.

“I’m afraid of the rise of Marine Le Pen and if Macron proves a possible rampart against her then I’m interested,” said Franck Tronet, a former wedding photographer on disability benefit who lives near Calais and considered himself centre-left. “Macron represents something new in French politics. He’s young, he’s not aggressive, he’s always smiling and that’s a good thing.”

The growing curiosity about Macron and his fledgling movement, En Marche (Forward), is also linked to disappointment in other parties. The Socialists are in disarray and expected to fare badly no matter who they choose as their candidate in an open primary race this month. Fillon’s rightwing campaign is struggling to take off.

Fanny Brunet, 24, an engineering student from Aix-en-Provence, once voted Socialist. “Emmanuel Macron is young; he sees the world the way we see it,” she said. “I want realism; I’m fed up with politicians making promises that can’t be kept.”

Ghislaine Desbordes, 50, a trainer in office management and an independent local councillor from Wambrechies, near Lille, approved of Macron’s regular appearances on the front cover of celebrity magazines with his wife, who is 24 years older and was once his drama teacher. “Having an older wife means he’s tolerant in life. He’s not closed-minded,” she said.

Macron’s critics say France has a long tradition of an outsider “third man” peaking before a presidential election but then fading away. There are many variables – such as whether or not the veteran centrist François Bayrou decides to run, and whether disgruntled Socialists defect to Macron, seeing him as the only way to stop the far right.

Macron’s trip to the north did not all go according to plan. His comments in the former mining heartlands that the difficulties, social and health problems in the area included high rates of “smoking and alcoholism” were attacked by one local Front National mayor as the Parisian elite stereotyping the northern working classes.

Yves-Marie Cann, political director at the Elabe polling group in Paris, said: “Some saw Macron as a bubble that would burst, so far that isn’t the case. The indicators show that he is now a weighty candidate.

“If the momentum around him continues, he could reshuffle the cards and disprove predictions that the final run-off will be between Fillon and Le Pen. He could re-orientate the second round into a battle that is Fillon versus Macron or Le Pen versus Macron. This is not yet the case – Fillon and Le Pen remain the frontrunners – but the campaign is about to begin in earnest and things could change.”

Pierre Mathiot, a politics professor at Lille’s Sciences Po university, said: “There are two questions. First: will French voters accept a candidate who says he is above the left-right divide? Second: is he credible when he says he embodies change, a break with the past and a new way of politically doing things?

“Those factors, added to the poor health of the Socialist party and the poor start for Fillon, could carry him far in terms of results,” said Mathiot.

One 28-year-old IT technician from Lille had come to the rally out of curiosity. He has always voted right but thought Fillon was “too socially conservative and wants too much austerity”. Afterwards he said: “Macron has really given me a boost. If enough people come to see him live, he’ll rise higher and higher. I found him quite exhilarating.”

--- End quote ---

I worry for France. Germany should get Merkel back in.

Just reading about Northern Ireland. Sounds like there could be an election in the making there too.


--- Quote from: CornerFlag on January 16, 2017, 01:42:47 pm ---Just reading about Northern Ireland. Sounds like there could be an election in the making there too.

--- End quote ---

I'd say it's 99% certain there will be.

Even if Wilders gets the most votes he won't be forming a government as none of the other parties are willing to work with him.


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