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June 09, 2017

How about the Italian elections...

There was an accident in the Italian parliament that has now thrown open the entire effort to agree an electoral law and hold early elections. The Five Star Movement got one of its amendments to the electoral law through the chamber, an act to which the PD reacted furiously effectively pulling out of the four-party agreement that would have given Italy a German-style proportional system, and the German election date of September 24. Both are now in doubt, as the electoral law returns to the drawing board. Corriere quotes sources close to President Sergio Matterella that he is seriously concerned. The article says the strategy would now be to recover what is left from the law, and seek a wider political consensus to include parties that previously opposed it, including foreign minister Angelino Alfano’s Alternativa Popolare, the right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia, or the left-wing rebels who have deserted the PD. Silvio Berlusconi has called on the PD to resume negotiations with the Five Star Movement to rescue the proposed electoral law. If this fails, there are still six months to fix the law, but the idea of early election is then out of the question.

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June 09, 2017

...and the French?

The next elections are in France, with the first round in three days. If the polls are getting it right, Emmanuel Macron will win an overwhelming majority with between 360 and 400 seats. Transported by a wave of optimism to victory, Macron and his government will have to prove that they have the stamina to deliver on their promises. The Republican party is set to come out as the second largest party, far behind their ambitions. Macron's success and choice of prime minister lures many among them to join or support the government constructively, and could threatens to split the party in the aftermath of this election.

What about the Front National? They definitely are not in the position to become the opposition party against Emmanuel Macron. Discombobulated as they are, their aim is to increase the number of MPs from 2 to at least 15. They go up to 18 according to the more optimistic scenarios, but could also fall flat and go as low as 8 seats. Fifteen MPs would allow the FN to form a parliamentary group giving Marine Le Pen visibility and funds. But this target depends on uncertain factors. Their performance will benefit from triangular outcomes in the first round, with at least three parties qualifying for the second round by getting more than 12.5% of the votes. This is more likely, the more voters turn up to vote on Sunday. There is also a geographical divide. They are likely to score well in districts where Marine Le Pen got more than 50% of the votes in the second round of the presidential elections, writes l’Opinion. According to this criterion, the North is much more certain than the south, where Marion Marechal-Le Pen had a strong presence. Because she left politics, the future of FN candidates there is much less assured. The FN is thus faced with the possibility of suffering a defeat relative to the European elections in 2014, when the FN came first and got 23 MEPs elected. And, with that, the future of Marine Le Pen is more likely to be questioned. 

What will happen to the Socialists? In 2012, the party got an absolute majority with more than 290 deputies. Today, they might only get 15 according to the most pessimistic scenario. In the optimistic scenario they may get 50, so the polls. What about the remaining 275 or 240? And what about the party’s infrastructure, the grass roots the party used to rely on? Will the memory in these backbone institutions simply be lost or fade from the political scene? What about finances? Will they be able to repay their campaign expenses? Will this massive reduction push the party into debt? Could they be overtaken as the main opposition party on the left by La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon? 

François Bayrou’s MoDem party, meanwhile, faces accusations about fake employment contracts. These are part of a wider inquiry and are not expected to matter in the short term, but they might complicate things for the junior partner of LREM in the medium term. A former assistant made his deposition in the courts, showing that he was partially paid by the European parliament though he never worked for the MEP Jean-Luc Bennahmias, who signed his contract, according to Le Parisien. France Info says that, between 2009 and 2014, about ten employees at the party’s headquarters were officially working for MEPs in Brussels. Since March the judiciary in Paris opened a preliminary enquiry looking into employment practices of about 20 MEPs from different parties to find evidence that their financial endowments from Brussels was used to lighten the financial burden of the parties at national level. Already in 2014 Corinne Lepage, former MoDem MEP, wrote in her book that it was established practice that MEPs were to pay for national assistants, a request from Paris she refused to follow.

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