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December 05, 2016

Tu felix Austria

Isn't it ironic that Austria, of all countries, is the one that is resisting the surge of populism, by votingfor an elderly, rumbling, professor instead of a Trump-style populist firebrand?

But we should perhaps not exaggerate the significance of the defeat of Nobert Hofer, who lost the election by a relatively small margin - 52% against 48%. He lost because the entire Austrian establishment, save for a small section of the centre-right ÖVP, rallied behind the winning candidate, Alexander van der Bellen. But the FPÖ is riding higher than ever. Just look at these polls. The FPÖ is the blue line:

Come 2018, the year when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled, it will be very difficult to form a government against the FPÖ. The Federal president can, in theory, refuse to appoint an anti-EU government, and force new elections. But he cannot do this forever and any strategy to override the will of the electorate is guaranteed to have the opposite effect. The election of Hofer would have sent a negative signal to the rest of the EU, but the election of van der Bellen is not comforting either. 

Michael Völker noted in der Standard that the Austrian Greens will not benefit from the presidential election, just as the FPÖ will not be damaged by them. Hofer lost because he was only able to get support from the FPÖ and its extended group of supporters. Völker even believes that the federal elections might be brought forward by one year. 

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December 05, 2016

All eyes on Valls

Now that François Hollande is out, Manuel Valls comes in. According to the Ifop poll for Journal du Dimanche, 45% of French from the left want Valls to be the Socialist candidate in next year’s election, 25% prefer Arnaud Montebourg, and 14% opt for former Education Minister Benoît Hamon. Valls is expected to declare his candidacy in the coming days. 

He will have to face formidable challenges on many fronts: to distance himself from Hollande without alienating his supporters, to unify a party that he himself described as un-unifiable, to mark his territory against Emmanuel Macron, who is running outside the primaries, and to re-invent a discourse of the left in response to François Fillon, after he himself had predicted the end of the left-right cleavage. As Le Figaro puts it, Valls is the most evident Left candidate, but not the most natural. Now starts the real test whether he can overcome these contradictions.

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December 05, 2016

Discrimination is the issue, not deportation

There is a lot of misinformation about the role of expats, both UK expats in the EU-27 and vice versa, Wolfgang Münchau argues. The real issue is not mass deportation, but discrimination. Mass deportation is very unlikely because nobody has an interest in it. Imagine the UK deporting almost 1m Poles, who would presumably then try to settle in Germany. But the issue of discrimination, post-Brexit, is real. EU citizen in the UK could be forced to join long queues at airports. They could be discriminated over social security, even over taxes. In the UK, they could face the extortionate university charges currently limited to non-EU students. Many will decide that they can no longer afford to stay in the UK under those circumstances. Or they may not want to. Münchau says the problem would almost entirely be solved through a transitional regime lasting at least 2 years. If Brexit comes into force in July 2019, and the transitional regime ends in July 2021, then everybody who has been UK-resident at the time of the referendum would have the right to permanent residency (a reader pointed out this is true only for those who are employed or self-employed, but not for students, or those considered self-sufficient and who failed to take out health insurance, which unfortunately is the case for many). The only real danger is a failure by the EU to offer the UK any sort of exit deal. This means the UK would be in a position to impose immigration controls from July 2019, so anybody who was not resident before July 2014 would be at some risk. Münchau says that, in this case, discrimination would become the big issue. He expects the UK to grant permanent residents equivalent, EU-style rights.

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December 05, 2016

What do these men have in common?

picture via @willjordann

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