Category Archives: Foreign News

What does Renzi’s defeat mean for Italy?

Matteo Renzi press conference, Rome

The results of last night’s Italian Referendum are out and the ballots show that the No vote leads with 60%, whereas the Yes vote is only at 40%. The turnout was at 70%. The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has announced his resignation after his heavy referendum defeat concerning his proposal to reform the Constitution. It is now up to the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, whether he will appoint a new replacement or hold elections.

What was the referendum about?

The Italian voters were asked if they approved the constitutional law calling to alter the Italian Constitution that would reform the complex political system. It would reduce the size of the Senate from 315 to 100 and would have made law-making a more speedy process. The former Prime Minister, Renzi, claimed it would improve Italy’s reorganisation and economic growth.

Why did Renzi lose?

Addressing his loss, Matteo Renzi said, “My experience of government finishes here”. “We tried, we gave Italians a chance to change but we didn’t make it,” he said. “I lost. I can admit it and I am sorry. I was not able to lead you to the victory. Good luck to us all,” he concluded.

Renzi’s opponents not only included members of other parties, but also people within his own party. They all believed that the referendum would mean that the Prime Minister would end up with too much power in his hands. The voters agreed. An opposition leader, Matteo Salvini, called the referendum “a victory of the people against the strong powers of three quarters of the world”.

The referendum was not only calling for a change in the Parliament, but also regarded as a chance to reject establishment politics.

How is the rest of the world reacting?

The Italian Referendum comes in hot pursuit of the victories of the UK’s Brexit and the US’s Presidential Elections. Across the globe, far-right parties are beginning to take the upper hand. Despite Norbert Hofer’s defeat in the recent Austrian Presidential election, other far-right wing leaders in Germany, France and Greece have secured great advantages.

The result is being viewed as yet another blow to the EU (after Brexit), however, it is not an indication that Italy will be following the UK’s outside the EU. The Northern League and Five Star may be opposed to the Eurozone, but not for the Italy’s EU membership.

German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said that “there was no reason for a Euro crisis but that Italy urgently needed a functioning government”. However, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, tweeted: “The Italians have disavowed the EU and Renzi. We must listen to this thirst for freedom of nations.”

What has happened to the economy?

Overnight, the currency has toppled to a 21 month low, following the departure of Renzi. Both stocks and the euro dropped last night, but were raised by the morning. Nevertheless, the referendum could have more long term effects, as there have been growing concerns over the financial stability of the country.

What will happen now?

As Renzi announced his resignation after the final cabinet meeting, he will hand his position to the President Mattarella, who could ask him to remain in his position until Parliament has passed a bill due later in the month.

Early elections are thought to be quite unlikely, therefore it is possible that Mattarella may appoint a caretaker administration led by the former PM’s party until the next elections due in the spring of 2018. Pier Carlo Padoan, the Finance Minister is the favourite to succeed Renzi’s position of Prime Minister.

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Theresa May vows to ‘work closely’ with Italy after Renzi steps down

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Theresa May speaking at a press conference with Matteo Renzi this summer [FLICKR]
Britain will “work closely” with Italy’s next leader after the dramatic resignation of Matteo Renzi, Downing Street has said.

Renzi stepped down this morning after Italians rejected his plans for constitutional reform in a referendum.

Theresa May’s spokesman said the Prime Minister would seek to speak with Mr Renzi over the coming days.

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The Italian prime minister stepped down this morning [CREATIVE COMMONS]
But she stressed the outcome of the vote was “a decision for the Italian people”.

Mrs May visited Rome just days after entering Downing Street in May.

Her spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has had good relations with Matteo Renzi since she took office.

Her spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has had good relations with Matteo Renzi since she took office.

“She was appreciative of the way she was welcomed in Rome and the work we have done together in previous years on an ambitious programme of reform.

“Now we look to the future and we will want to work closely with the Italian government.”

In an emotional televised address last night, Renzi accepted full responsibility for the “extraordinarily clear” defeat.

The 41-year-old added:

The experience of my government ends here.

It is not yet clear who will replace him, but his departure has plunged the European Union into further turmoil following June’s Brexit vote.

Former Green Party leader wins the Austrian presidential elections

 

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Alexander Van der Bellen

Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, has won the Austrian presidential elections.

This vote was a rerun of May’s elections. The results showed that Mr Van der Bellen narrowly won, but postal vote irregularities were found and undermined the credibility of the process.   

The margin in May of 30,000 votes has been increased by ten times.

The vote comes after anti-establishment sentiment has occurred following the victory of Donald Trump in the American President-elections and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. That is why, this election is believed to be a symbol of how well populism develops in Europe.

Referring to the country’s flag, he said a “red-white-red signal of hope and change, a red-white-red signal today goes from Austria to all the capitals of the European Union.

“Finally, you know, I will try to be an open-minded, a liberal-minded and first of all a pro-European federal president of the Republic of Austria.”

The new president is a 72 years old economics professor.

His immigration policy represents his wishes for a “liberal, cosmopolitan Austria”.

He commented on Trump’s campaign style that the sexist attacks were “unacceptable”.

His rival Norbert Hofer expressed sadness after the result has been announced. The post, however, is only ceremonial in Austria.

 

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Norbert Hofer

 

He wrote on Facebook:

“I would have loved to look after Austria. I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen to his success and ask all Austrians to stick together. We are all Austrians, no matter what we decided today. Long live our home Austria.”

Both candidates have been very active on social media during the election process.

 

He is a 45 years old aeronautical engineer.

Hofer is not a Trump’s supporter, but he has “high hopes of improved relations with Russia”.

Full official results are expected today once postal ballots have been counted. Almost 6.5 million Austrians were eligible to vote.

Trump uses Twitter to take aim at China

President-elect Donald Trump used Twitter to suggest further tensions with China, just days after he seemingly re-ignited relations with Taiwan.

Trump criticised China for devaluing it’s own currency and for taxing American products entering the US.

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This comes just days after Trump was criticised for contacting Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen.

US severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan back in 1979, after tactically pledging diplomatic support to the People’s Republic of China. Officially, the US supports the idea of one China and that Tawain is part of China.

Vice-president elect Mike Pence denies that the call signifies a shift in US-China relations, suggesting it was merely a “courtesy” call.

However, Trumps latest tweets suggest there could be yet more tension between the two nations.

Both China and Taiwan claim to be owner of some or all of the key trade route of the Chinese red sea and will be keen to protect their rights there.

British ‘Santa’ worker stabbed to death in Finland

The 26-year-old Scottish female, who worked for a ‘Santa Safari’ tour, was found dead in the village of Kuttanen in Finland on Saturday.

Her boyfriend, who allegedly fled the incident on a dog sled, was found in -30 degree snow and taken to hospital.  The male is currently in Police custody under suspicion of murdering his girlfriend.

A spokesperson from the Santa Safari tour’s commented:

“We  are all in shock from this tragic news and our thoughts go out to her family.Our team is working closely with the Finnish Police and relevant authorities to support the investigation that is now under way.”

Scottish police have been alerted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the death of a national.

Breaking news: Europe’s Mars probe to launch in 2020

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Europe’s Mars probe will go ahead as planned in 2020

Europe’s attempt to search for life on Mars will launch as planned in 2020 despite fears of soaring costs, it has been confirmed.

Members of the European Space Agency (Esa) agreed to stump up the extra £370 million needed to ensure the future of ExoMars Rover.

European science ministers decided to back the mission at a major meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The space agency’s chief Jan Woerner, said: “We need to work hard because it’s not only some rover, we have the payloads from different sources – all of this has to pack together.

“It’s not an easy thing, but we are confident that we will succeed.”

You can read more about the possibility of humans moving to Mars on City Beat.

The State of Politics in Austria

Re-votes, recounts and general unhappiness with outcomes of referendums and elections seem to be a theme that is repeating across the world. After Brexit, many in the UK signed a petition for another referendum to decide whether Britain should remain in the EU.

More recently, Jill Stein in the US has started an effort for a recount of votes in some of the states that determined Trump’s victory.

Politics in Austria are now also to follow a similar trend, with a re-vote for the Presidential elections taking place on Sunday.

The two candidates in this year’s election are Alexander Van Der Bellen, from the Austrian Green Party (The Greens), and Norbert Hofer from the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

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The Austrian election system is based on two rounds. Parties compete for 50% of the vote in the first round, and if this does not occur, the two parties with the highest percentage of votes are then carried over to the second round, where the majority wins.

The election takes place every 6 years, and no President may serve for more than two terms. In the primary round this year, Hofer of FPÖ had a majority, but not 50% of the vote. Thus, he and Van Der Bellen of The Greens went head to head in the second round. On 23rd May 2016, Van Der Bellen won by a majority, but the results were annulled on 1st July.

The results were annulled after it was found that electoral rules, as postulated in federal election laws, were not followed in 14 districts. Almost 80,000 votes had been counted improperly, either prematurely or for absentees. A re-vote was therefore scheduled for the 4th December.

As it was with the EU referendum and the US election, it is difficult and perhaps futile to predict the outcome of Austria’s revote. The candidates are polarised in their policies and views.

Hofer’s right-wing rhetoric has shocked many around the world. Aged 45

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Graffiti on Hofer’s campaign shows a depiction of him as Adolf Hitler. Picture source: eunews.it

and previously an aeronautical engineer, he is one of the youngest ever to take the lead role in a political party in Austria. Hofer is staunchly anti-immigration, and he thus carries a Glock 9mm pistol on him for what he describes as “a natural consequence”.

 

 

He also seems to share his passion for guns with his family, as he likes to take pictures of himself and his four children on gun ranges.

He parades his nationalist ideology by wearing a blue cornflower, reminiscent of the Nazi symbol to promote a “greater Germany”. A Turkish taxi driver, who has been living in Vienna for 26 years and did not want to be named, said he is fearful of the “fascism” that the election of Hofer may bring.

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According to Van Der Bellen, his two weaknesses are cigarettes and Donald Duck comics. Picture credit: dietagepresse.com

Some voters commonly describe 72-year-old Van Der Bellen as ‘the lesser evil of the two’. Van Der Bellen was an economics professor who used to teach at the University of Vienna, and was a member of Austria’s Social Democratic party before he joined The Greens.

His change in political stance is something which has lost him credibility in the presidential race. In a stark contrast to Hofer, Van Der Bellen is pro-migrant, pointing out that he himself is the “child of refugees who has received a lot from Austria”. He wishes to create a “United States of Europe”, where minorities and migrants are respected.

Similarities between Austria’s elections and USA’s elections are obvious. Hofer’s harkening to Hitler is similar to Donald Trump’s comparison to the Nazi figurehead which was brewing in the run up to the election. Van Der Bellen’s place as “the lesser evil of the two” places him level with the label Hillary Clinton is often given. Is Austria to reverberate the state of US politics?

Lukas Gecevičius, a 22-year-old animator from London who has recently moved to Austria, says “there is reason to trust Austria’s government”, and says he is not intimidated by any of the potential outcomes.

Whilst the President of the United States is the forerunner in determining the direction of the country, the role of the Austrian President is more symbolic. The Austrian President’s acts are determined largely by the advice of the Chancellor and the Cabinet. Perhaps then, whatever the outcome, Austria’s President may not alter the face of the country’s politics in a way through which it becomes unrecognisable.

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have illustrated the swaying of western politics towards an increasingly right-wing stance. After witnessing Brexit in London, then moving to Austria and learning about the politics there, Lukas concluded that “right-wing has become a thing of trend”.

Nevertheless, one may find it worrying that the state of Austria’s politics is all too similar to the United States’ politics. Whether or not Austria will also move further towards a right-wing direction will be decided on Sunday.