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June 13, 2016

Civil protest against Syriza

While Alexis Tsipras is about to change focus on a new agenda for electoral and constitutional reform, momentum us building up against his government, at least according to different reports we picked up this morning. New elections are not at the horizon, however, at least for now.

A citizen protest organised through Facebook and other social media under the hashtag #paraititheite (“resign”) will be rallying in Athens this Wednesday. One of the organisers said the aim was to discredit the leftist-led government, and not to question the political system per se Kathimerini reports. Last week, comments of Education Minister Nikos Filis suggesting they were “on the verge of constitutional legality caused a stir in the social media and opposition politicians to come out as supporter.

Calls for the government to resign re-emerge also from the opposition while other parties are getting closer to join their forces for the next elections. New Democracy vice president Costis Chatzidakis said yesterday that the demand for new elections is still on the table and that the government cannot avoid it, according to Greek Reporter.

Pasok and To Potami, meanwhile, are preparing to present their common policy platform, Macropolis reports. Though both leaders were not particularily enthousiastic about this initially, To Potami lost several MPs to New Democracy recently, prompting the leader Stavros Theodorakis to exclude any alliance with New Democracy. Also, George Papandreou is appearing on the scene again, suggesting that he could return to Pasok if the party transforms.

And there is evidence of civil disobedience, as tax evasion in Greece continues to grow, especially after the latest VAT tax hike, according to this article. Several restaurants start to offer two menus, one with and one without VAT. It does not help that the finance ministry is late with its law for compulsory card payment transactions, nor that card payments are hardly ever checked against the cash register. 

The latest Kapa poll for To Vima shows that voters are against early elections. 52.5% of the participants said that more time should be given to the government to complete its work. If elections were held today, New Democracy would lead with 20.8% against 17.3%.

Greek Reporter refers to the same poll, but with different numbers (ND 30.8%, Syriza 25.6%) noting that Zoe Kontantopoulou‘s newly founded party “Pleusi Elefterias” (Course of Freedom) would make it in the Parliament with 3.2%.

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June 13, 2016

Protests over labour French labour law continue

The stand off over the labour reform law continues in France, even the start of the football tournament did not change this. Garbage is piling up in Paris and strikes are expected to intensify tomorrow at the national strike day. There has been a meeting with protesters on Sunday, and labour minister Myriam El Khomri will meet with CGT union leader Philippe Martinez by the end of this week. Martinez no longer claims the complete withdrawal of the law, just five key articles and a renegotiation of article 2 giving primacy to agreements at enterprise level. If the turnout will be massive at tomorrow’s strike action, will the El Khomri law still be untouchable, asks Journal du Dimanche? Neither Francois Hollande nor Manuel Valls seem to budge. It is well the battle of ideology on the left, so the article.

Jean Quatremer dismantles the conspiracy theory brought forward by the nationalist left and right that the labour reform law El Khomri was written by European Commission. Marine Le Pen uses this argument, as does Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Philippe Noguès, a rebel who left the Socialist party, bemoans in the weekly journal Marianne the national sovereignty lost to a law inspired by European technocrats and adopted without vote in the French assembly. Quatremer goes back through the process of consultation to prove that this law was in fact a French idea. The backbone for the law, in particular for the much contested article 2, was in the pipelines before being presented to Brussels. This is what economic government looks like. It does not solve the problem of democratic legitimacy. For this Europe needs a treaty change, but Francois Hollande does not want to hear about it. This is what gives the eurosceptics their fuel, argues Quatremer.

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June 13, 2016

Spain's politial realignment

Spain's official election poll by the CIS sociological institute, which we reported on Friday, is part of a broader study with a wealth of information on social trends. Josep Lobera notes that the survey indicates the political situation in Spain is beginning to be polarised around the PP and Podemos, as both parties elicit the most negative responses, and the highest voter faithfulness. Lobera speaks of a new symbolic axis replacing the old one, PP-PSOE. PP and Podemos, therefore, frame the political debate.

María Ramos and Pablo Simón argue that the CIS election projection should be taken with scepticism because the fieldwork was made before the official election campaign got underway, and that at the last election over one third of voters made up their mind in the last two weeks. Also, that the new parties Podemos and Ciudadanos confound the models used to impute votes to undecided voters, because of a lack of voting history. This will be corrected somewhat as the parties take part in more elections but we're still in early days of the 4-party system. Finally, they note a strong generational break with younger voters supporting Podemos and Ciudadanos, and older voters PP and PSOE. 

Lobera notes that the centrist parties PSOE and Ciudadanos have lower voter faithfulness. Ramos and Simón say those that voted for them in December are now undecided in a higher proportion than those that voted for other parties. If the PSOE-Ciudadanos government agreement was a deliberate attempt to counter the expected voter polarisation in repeat elections by presenting the two parties as responsible parties of government, it doesn't seem to have worked.

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June 13, 2016

Duff on Turkey

Andrew Duff has a good article on the radicalisation of Turkish politics under President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, and on what Europe should do about it:

"What can Europe do about Turkey? Trading in the EU’s policies on civil liberties and human rights in exchange for a quick deal on the refugees is no solution. Turkish liberals feel badly let down by the lowering of standards by the European Commission and by Angela Merkel’s rather frantic efforts to court Erdogan. The EU has lost the leverage it once had among Turkey’s elites. I do not believe that Erdogan really cares about visa liberalisation for its own sake, which would only affect a small minority of Turks, but he milks it as a cause with which to castigate the EU and to stir up Turkish nationalism."

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