Tag Archives: Politics

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.

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The scourge of LGBTQ+ bullying at schools must be tackled urgently

LGBT communities across the world have been in mourning for the past week, following the death of Australian teenager Tyrone Unsworth last Thursday. After years of homophobic bullying, Unsworth took his own life at the age of 13 after following a violent clash – allegedly with another student – outside school, which left him afraid to return to school. In the light of his death, questions are being raised: how could it go so far? 

Here in Britain, the organisation LGBT Youth Scotland has found out that school children are often reluctant to report abuse to staff fearing they will not be taken seriously. This has led the group to call for stronger reactions from schools and local authorities on homophobic bullying.

According to Galop, a LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity, “young LGBT people often experience high levels of homophobic or transphobic hate crime at school or college” stating that anything people tell them is confidential and people who are too afraid to use their own name can contact them anonymously.

It has been argued that UK needs to make an extra effort to fully implement the Equality Act (2010) to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for all, as this no longer constitute an issue for young LGBTQ. A research conducted by LGBT Youth Scotland shows that 88.5 per cent of those who have experienced transphobic bullying in education, and 54.3 per cent of homophobic or biphobic  bullying in education.

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Maud Sørum Vestnes, student at Falmouth University and member of their LGBTQ+ society says that schools needs to “include sexual education early on to normalise sexuality and gender” arguing it would “decrease bullying of LBGTQ+ drastically”. Speaking of her personal experience, Maud said that she considers herself lucky for coming out at the age of 19, arguing the whole situation would have been harder to process at a younger age.

#BetterThanThat is a campaign against hate-crime launched after the EU referendum, when “thousands of people living in Britain have been abused or attacked because of their nationally, race or religion”.

Already in July 2016, the Home Office revealed a 41% rise in hate crime. The victims, however, found the support of many public figures and politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May. She stated: “Hate crime has absolutely no place in Britain and I’m delighted to see people and groups from all communities coming together to support the #BetterThanThat campaign.”

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Galop reported that the number of homophobic attacks has doubled in the three months after the Brexit vote. Only in July there were 5,468 racially or religiously aggravated offences reported by the police, the Guardian reports.

One can blame the education system, authorities figures and bullies. The fault lies within everyone. Times might have changed, but homophobia and racism are still pressing issues and they’re going through a process of evolution. Social Media have opened up a whole new world, taking bullying to a new, dangerous level. Never before it has been so easy to offend, insult, intimidate or humiliate others, hiding behind the shield of a virtual identity. And all of this is happening right in front of our eyes and in broad daylight.

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.

Tories secure record polling lead over embattled Labour

The Conservatives are one point off reaching the highest lead they have ever experienced since records began in 1992, a Guardian/ICM poll shows. The support for the Tories is 44 per cent – the best result since they were in opposition. The Labour Party’s support, on the other hand, remains 28 per cent. The experts polled 2009 people and took in account people’s social class and age.

The Conservatives supersede the Labour party within every social group. The results reveal strong lead for Theresa May’s party even among working class. Only among people aged 18-24 the Labour Party’s popularity remains higher.

Conservatives (+2) – 44%
Labour (no change) – 28%
Ukip (+1) – 12%
Lib Dems (-2) – 7%
Greens (+1) – 4%

Conservative lead: 16 points (+ 2)
Source: Guardian/ICM, 29 Nov 2016

The professor of Political economy at King’s College London, Shaun Hargreaves Heap, draws parallels between the results with the way Labour administration has run economy in the past. “Labour Party is not very well-trusted in the opinion polls to handle the economy since 2008 financial crisis and are generally considered to be the risky party. On the other hand, Conservatives have been regarded as the safe pair of hands with the economy,” says Heap.

According to the study, the overall poll rating of the other parties, such as Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Green Party shows their performance remains poor on a national level – none of them has received more than 12%. The same poll also shows that 53 per cent of British people said their confidence in the way politicians run the economy is very or fairly strong.

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The Guardian also published another recent research, conducted by the Opinium/Observer poll experts. It is only with regard to the economy and shows that more than twice as many people trust Theresa May and Philip Hammond in terms economy than Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. It also shows that the PM remains popular among the voters – 43 per cent support May.

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From a historical perspective, reflecting on the increasing popularity of the Tories on economy, Heap believes it is correct to mention that the two times when British economy had fixed exchange rates and there were high profile devaluations occurred while the Labour Party was in office – during Attlee’s government and Wilson’s administration.

Heap, however, believes that these are not the only events that public should take into account:

“I do not think that the reputation is often bound up with the real facts, but we see that the events that stick out of an unfortunate kind occurred primarily during Labour administration. However, there is no good evidence to suggest that the economy is behaving on any dimension markedly worse under Labour or Conservative government, especially if we look at output growth, unemployment, inflation or the state of public finances.”

Heap adds that the debt-to-GDP ratio, or also the ratio of a country’s public debt to its gross domestic product, when Labour government left office in 2010 was actually smaller in comparison to the time they inherited office in 1997.

“Maybe the Labour Party’s reputation has been affected by some of the high profile events that got stuck in people’s minds and coloured public’s general impression of economic competence. It is true that the landmark events when economy was in crisis tended to happen on the Labour government’s patch more often than during the Conservative administration. The fact that 2008 financial crisis occurred at the end of the Labour government with Gordon Brown formed some expectations, but those moments are not necessarily the whole picture,” says Heap.

He believes that the Labour Party should try to take a more leading role in British politics if they want to become people’s top political choice.

Heap remains sceptical about the post-Brexit environment. He expects rising unemployment and economy slowing down, “largely because of the considerable uncertainty that’s been generated by the Brexit vote“.

He believes that the positioning of the parties is not definitive until Brexit takes place. He also considers that if politicians want the general public to be involved in the process of empowering again the economy, people should have a say in a new general election or in a new referendum.

Bulgarian Elections and the other side of populism

The outcome of the recent Bulgarian presidential elections has surprised several people. The victory of Rumen Radev, the independent candidate supported by the Socialist Party, has come as a shock to some.

In this general atmosphere of change, several Western countries have shifted to the right of the political spectrum. With politicians such as Nigel Farage in the UK, Donald Trump in the US and Marine Le Pen in France, several wonder about the future of contemporary politics.

However, some countries in Eastern Europe are turning back to the left-wing. Slovakia, Moldova and Bulgaria are just some examples of this trend. This alternative, although going to an opposite direction, is also a sign to the general shift to anti-establishment parties.

Alex Gordon is the President of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and a left-wing activist. He says: “I think that what is happening in Eastern Europe, in countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union and those with similar ideas, is a certain nostalgia for socialism. They are losing a lot of their young, most educated and most skilled people because they move to other countries. They are struggling with their own sustainability.”

Bulgaria had its presidential elections just last month, on November 6, and a recount on the weekend after.

The now former Prime Minister of Bulgaria is Boyko Borisov. A month before the elections, he promised that if his fellow GERB member and presidential candidate, Tsetska Tsacheva lost, he would resign.

Rumen Radev, despite having no political background, won the elections with a high percentage of the vote. This forced Borisov to resign on 14th November. The next election will be held in a three months’ time and a temporary government is in control for now.

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President Elect Rumen Radev

 

Professor Veronika Stoyanova is a PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at University of Kent. She believes that the elections in Bulgaria are not an isolated episode, but part of a pattern.

“What people seem to want at the moment is a party that will challenge the status quo. Any politician that promises to do that will have an advantage against someone who promises stability.”

Many Bulgarians fear what the change in president will mean for their country. The Socialist Party gaining power is a significant change, and they are facing a period of uncertainty due to the temporary government.

Professor Stoyanova says:

“It is not going to have a big impact in the sense that he is an independent candidate, not an actual member of the Socialist Party. Even if he was, though, the Party is only nominally – formally – socialist. Second, it made no difference who was actually backing him up; his rhetoric and promises of social change are what people want. It was a protest vote against the current government.”

Dr. Nevena Nancheva is a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the School of Social And Behavioural Sciences at Kingston University. She says: “It definitely fits with the global populist trends at the moment. There are two things that are important: low voter turnout and support for non-establishment candidates.”

Another concern is the future of their relation with other countries. Rumen Radev has been labelled as pro-Russia and anti-NATO. He is in favour of lifting the sanctions against Russia, which were enforced due to the invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Radev has also showed his doubts on the European Union.

“The views of Rumen Radev about Bulgaria’s relations with Russia and the NATO allies have been exaggerated. He wants to be a distanced member of NATO, but still a member,” explains Professor Stoyanova.

“There is a message being sent across: the possibility to open dialogue, which is different from the stands taken by the outgoing president. However, this should not be decisive. By all means, Bulgaria is still bounded by international agreements, and it is a tight road to be walked when it comes to balancing affiliations with Western security structures and pro-Russian tendencies of this particular President Elect,” says Dr. Nancheva.

Politicians need to adapt to what the public wants. And at the moment, voters seem keen to change the current system. Both the far-right and far-left alternatives are being used at the moment: the difference is on the history and the region of each individual country.

7 things you need to know about the Brexit court challenge

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The Government is appealing against the High Court decision over Article 50 [CREATIVE COMMONS]
On Monday, Theresa May faces her biggest challenge yet on Brexit. The Supreme Court will hear the Government’s appeal against the High Court ruling stating that MPs must approve the UK’s exit from the EU.

Here are seven things you need to know about the dramatic legal challenge.

1. The appeal will be heard over four days, starting on Monday, with the court expected to make a decision at the start of January.

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A Supreme Court defeat would be hugely embarrassing for PM Theresa May [FLICKR]
2. If the Government loses, which looks likely, Theresa May’s bid to trigger Article 50 by the end of March could lie in tatters. Legal expert professor Michael Zander believes the High Court’s “unanimous” ruling will not be overturned, adding:

In my view, the Government could be looking at losing 11-0.

3. The case will be heard by all 11 of the Supreme Court’s justices, something that has never happened before. Cases are usually heard by only four or five justices.

WATCH: Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage clashes with lawyer Gina Miller

4. The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, will introduce the Government’s appeal before handing over to an independent lawyer, James Eadie QC.

5. The lead claimant is Gina Miller, a 51-year-old investment fund manager. She has since faced a torrent of abuse on social media by Brexit supporters, and claims she has spent £60,000 on security measures to protect her and her family.

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The hearing at the Supreme Court will be streamed online [WIKIPEDIA]
6. The case could be transferred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Eleanor Sharpston, Britain’s judge on the ECJ, has said: “The interpretation of [Article 50] is a matter for this court [the ECJ].”

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Experts have said the case could be referred to the European Court of Justice [WIKIPEDIA]
7. The proceedings will be streamed live on the Supreme Court website. Transcripts will also be available on the site.

Even if the Government loses the appeal, it is widely expected that the vast majority of MPs will vote to trigger Article 50 – even if they campaigned to Remain in the EU. But make no mistake; it would be hugely embarrassing for Mrs May and David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, who want to keep their EU withdrawal schedule on track.

Donald Trump objects to vote recount in Michigan

President-elect Donald Trump has filed an objection to the Green Party’s request for an official recount in the state of Michigan. Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign officially filed the request on Wednesday afternoon. It is now delayed due to the objection. The recount was expected to begin today.

Dr Adam Smith, the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Historical Society, says: “The fundamental thing about Trump is his complete ignorance about the nature of the office. His apparent lack of preparedness makes it hard to predict what happens next; maybe one thing we could be sure of is that his instability will continue…”

If the counting sessions in Michigan are taking place, they could last until 13 December where 4.8 million ballots would be checked. Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes over Clinton.

Meanwhile, the Stein campaign’s Wisconsin recount has already started yesterday – 1st Dec. It is the first candidate-driven recount of this kind in 16 years. This would mean retabulating 3m ballots. In this state, Trump won by less than a percentage point over his rival.

Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee for the office, requested the recount of the votes in three swing states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – among Trump’s narrowest wins to secure his Electoral College majority.

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Jill Stein

The campaign was triggered once the Green Party candidate created a petition about “irregularity affecting all wards in Wisconsin in the counting and the return of the votes”.

Figures show that Stein had raised nearly $7m to pay for the recounts.
In Pennssylvania the situation is more complicated. Either Stein has to provide evidence of election fraud or at least three voters per precinct or election district need to submit written statements. Here Stein explains more about the recount in Pennsylvania.

Smith, the Honorary Royal Historical Society’s secretary, is among those who believe even if recount took place in all three states, the results would not lead to any changes. In order for Stein’s campaign to be successful, the results in each of those three states must show quite different results from the ones announced so far.

“I don’t think there are good reasons to believe that the recount will result in a different outcome in those 3 states. He has a substantial lead in the Electoral College because of his victory in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is extremely unlikely something will change. But if that did happen, there would be civil unrest, real political crisis,” says Smith.

He also comments:

“We are heading to a constitutional crisis with Trump’s presidency before too long anyway. I think it is highly likely there will be impeachment even within the Republican Congress because of Trump’s illegality and his unwillingness to abide to the conventional democratic norms. His chances to get through a full term without committing an act of illegality which even the Republican Congress will compel to impeach are relatively low, in my opinion. He wants to intervene in the judicial system.”

Smith reflects on Trump’s legacy: “We have never seen a president like Donald Trump. We have seen plenty of presidents who are racists, many of the American presidents were slave owners indeed; we have seen presidents who have been at least mildly corrupted; we have seen other presidents with no previous political experience, but all those people had military experience. Dwight D. Eisenhower is the last president who has never had a significant political office before… People talk about Ronald Reagan, but he was the governor of California for two terms. He was propelled initially as a relatively minor actor, but he has actually occupied the foreground of American politics for 16 years. Donald Trump has just the background of a reality TV star.”