Democracy and the democratic process is in the spot-light even more than usual following the results of the June Referendum and the U.S. Presidential election. Politics has become the best drama around ( the Story Bazaar has been blogging about it since July 2015 ( see A New Sort of Politics ) anticipating an interesting time ).
There are still more elections this year and even more next. Even if we ignore last Thursday’s over-turning of the 23,000 majority of a returning, pro-Brexit incumbent in North Kingston & Richmond Park, (see photo of Zac Goldsmith looking decidedly annoyed) yesterday saw a referendum on the constitution in Italy and a re-run Presidential election in Austria. There was a defeat for current PM Matteo Renzi in Italy, though exactly what this portends in terms of the next Italian government cannot be certain. In Austria a populist of the extreme far right was rejected ( and he, in turn, rejected Nigel Farage’s ‘interference’ in the election ). Is this a sign that the lurch to the right is fading?
Before 2016 ends there will be elections in Romania and Macedonia, then in 2017 the fun really begins.
Liechtenstein votes in February, as does Germany for its President, swiftly followed by the Netherlands in March, the French Presidential elections (first round) in April and for the National Assembly in June. Germany goes to the national polls in its Federal election in the Autumn ( before end October ). Slovenia, Ukraine and Bulgaria all have votes before the year-end. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems¹ web-site sets out all upcoming elections across the world.
On 4th May in the UK there are local government elections for England, Wales and Scotland, together with Mayoral elections across England (excepting London). I suspect that the local government elections will attract far more attention next year then they have in the recent past, especially if, as in Kingston & Richmond, they become a means by which the population reacts to the Brexit vote and a post-referendum government. More usually about issues like traffic calming measures on residential roads, whether or not to support development of a large supermarket or the possible closure of the local leisure centre, these local elections may take on a national resonance. This may be stage upon which a fight back from Remain is begun.
But the wider questions are around France and Germany. Francois Hollande has announced that he will not run, which is unsurprising in that he is, according to opinion polls, the most unpopular French President ever. So we do not yet know who is the candidate of the French left ( there will be primaries in January ). The French centre-right have already chosen their candidate, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon. The populist far-right Front National have Marine Le Pen, who was banging the populist drum years before Trump, but who may benefit from the knock-on effect of his, and Brexit’s victory. If Le Pen wins there is a threat to the whole European project (which, let us remember, was begun with a view to preventing future war in Europe by binding its states together economically).
That is even more true if the populist right win in Germany. Chancellor Merkel is going to lead the Christian Democratic Union into the election one more time, with Sigmar Gabriel leading the Social Democrats. Aside from the two main parties here are The Left, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party and the far-right Alternative for Germany, led by Frauke Petry. AfD currently has seats in ten of the sixteen German state parliaments, though none in the Bundestag. Its policies are eurosceptic, anti-immigration, anti-gay marriage and it questions responses to climate change, but there are growing concerns even among AfD delegates that it is attracting very hard-right support and that, in Germany, means neo-Nazis by another name. If the AfD wins in Germany the barbarians are really at the gate.
The Story Bazaar will be commenting upon all developments, this year and throughout 2017.
¹A non-profit organisation which receives funds from the U.S. government.