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April 27, 2016

German grand coalition at 50.5%

Here are the two latest German polls. The Insa poll came out yesterday, and has the grand coalition at a combined 50.5%, whereas all the other parties add up to 45.5%. There was a reason the Germans refer to the grand coalition as grand. It used to be big. The two largest parties used to have over 80% of the votes not too long ago. Germany is going down the same way as the Netherlands and Austria. The grand coalition is now a simple coalition. And we expect that soon it will no longer be possible for CDU/CSU and SPD to form even a small coalition. They will need another party to be able to do that. The Emnid poll has the coalition at 55%, and is marginally more comforting for the government:

in % Insa Emnid
CDU/CSU 31 33
SPD 19.5 22
Greens 14 13
FDP 8 6
The Left 10 9
AfD 13.5 12
Source: www.wahlrecht.de/umfragen/

Berthold Kohler writes in the FAZ that the strategy of the German Social Democrats in particular to equate all right-wing populists with extremists is no longer working. On the contrary, the more the established parties try to stigmatise the AfD in Germany or the FPÖ in Austria, the more voters they drive towards those parties. Core SPD voters, including workers and lawyers, have defected to the AfD. The SPD's public support is now barely ahead of that of the AfD itself.

The reasons he says is the trend towards unity government. The Germans already feel betrayed by the way the Greek crisis was handled. But the ultimate reason for their divorce from the political establishment has been Angela Merkel's open door refugee policy. The governments has failed in one of its principled tasks: to make people less afraid. The grand coalition in Vienna originally supported Merkel's policy, but then quickly turned around. Even that didn't help them. The German grand coalition ignores the popular insurrection altogether, and still hopes it will past. Kohler's prediction is that it won't.

We don't agree with Kohler's innate conservatism - he wanted refugee quotas all along. Merkel was always right on that point. This would have been impractical. But Kohler is right in his observation that grand coalitions drive voters to the extreme parties. In our view, the SPD would be best advised to get rid of Sigmar Gabriel, shift to the left, and rebuild its profile in opposition. The two terms of the Grand Coalition have provided politicians like Gabriel and Steinmeier with ministerial positions and limousines as the expense of their own party, whose public support has haemorrhaged. The SPD's leadership is still clinging on to the observation of the past that it can only win elections from the centre. That is no longer true because Merkel herself occupies that position.

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April 27, 2016

French Socialists prepare for Hollande not signing TTIP

French Socialists are preparing for a failure of the TTIP agreement. After TTIP was a non-issue for quite a while, Manuel Valls and his trade minister Matthias Fekl now come out and tell the press that TTIP might not happen after all. Valls even said that this is because guarantees the French government had demanded for the health of its citizens and environment are not being met. With only one year to go before the presidential elections, and amid rising uneasiness of French citizens about the trade agreement, the different interventions are read as a preparation for Francois Hollande not to sign the agreement, writes Journal du Dimanche.

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April 27, 2016

Not going well in Greece

Negotiations do not seem to be going well between the Institutions and the Greek government. Alexis Tsipras is to call Donald Tusk this morning to ask for an extraordinary summit as Greece feels it has fulfilled its side of the deal from last July. His government had prepared for such a call in case the negotiations got stuck, To Vima reports. But there are doubts that Tusk will accept to get involved in the talks with the institutions. 

There will be no extraordinary eurogroup meeting. Athens' proposal on the €3.5bn contingency measures has been rejected by the IMF and some member states, which insisted that some of the measures are pre-legislated, Kathimerini reports. Tsipras is under pressure from his own party, the Group of 53 in particular, who said they won't legislate measures above the €5.4bn but would be ready to accept a system that reins in spending if targets are not met.

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April 27, 2016

What happens when you try to kick the water can down the road?

Will Ireland have a minority government in the coming days? While the parliament was debating everything but water charges, negotiations continued between the two main parties. Fianna Fáil asked for the matter to be transferred to an independent commission. Fine Gael agreed to this, but only if the intention is to reintroduce water charges in the end. They agreed to suspend water charges while the commission draws up a report on how best to re-introduce them, the Irish Independent reports. It is anticipated that the commission would take up to nine months to complete its work before making a submission to an all-party parliamentary committee. Fianna Fáil seems to believe that a temporary suspension of water charges and the involvement of parliament - with its MPs against - is enough to ensure that water charges won’t be back on the table.

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