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August 22, 2017

French senate elections and chances of constitutional reform

The French senate elections on September 24 are the next electoral test for Emmanuel Macron. After that, the next elections will be the European elections in May 2019. The senate election is not so much a test of his popularity, as senators are elected by other elected officials. But it matters strategically. About 170 out of 348 senators will be newly elected. 

The big question for Macron is not about whether he can win a majority as it did in the legislative elections in June. He cannot. And from what we know now it looks like the right will preserve its majority. Currently they have 186 out of 348 seats.

The real question is whether Macron will get a three-fifths majority in the combined parliament - the National Assembly together with the Senate - to get his constitutional reform approved. Let’s do the count: Together the 348 senators and the 577 MPs are a total of 925 parliamentarians, and a three-fifths majority is thus 555. La République en Marche has 314 MPs and a group formed in the senate with 30 senators. If they double this number, as is their ambition in these Senate elections, and add the MoDem numbers, one arrives at 430. These numbers suggest that they are still well short of the required majority. But Édouard Philippe still has friends among the Republicans, and this could count politically according to L’Opinion. There are the 35 MPs of the Constructifs, a government-friendly group, and among senators the group close to Alain Juppé and Bruno Le Maire might pull their weight. The crucial link. though, is Edouard Philippe himself, and whether he manages to mobilise enough support for a constitutional reform promised by the president.

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August 22, 2017

Social partners invited to Dutch government talks

As we took our Summer break two weeks ago there were reports that the official mediator in the Dutch government talks, Gerrit Zalm, had called in the employers and the unions for talks on social issues. This is usually taken as a sign that an actual government agreement is at hand, but at the time negotiators from the various political parties involved in the talks were in the middle of their own vacation. The negotiations resumed last week, and have not been concluded yet. There has been no agreement with the social partners after one round of contacts, and now the unions and employers will prepare their own proposals to bring back to the table at a later date.

Volkskrant wrote last week that the political parties hope to secure the support of the social partners on the labour and pension reforms they envisage. These include: shorter sick leave entitlement; pension reform as modern fragmented careers have broken intergenerational solidarity; and dismissal protection for self-employed contractors - an admission that self-employment often hides an employee relation. The paper writes that the Christian parties CDA and CU are the most keen to have a dialogue with the social partners at this stage. The liberal parties VVD and D66 are less keen, but for different reasons. VVD is a right-liberal party that is not so ideologically committed to social dialogue. On the other hand the left-liberal D66 can fear that, if the unions in particular don't like the government's programme, the party will be seen as the token left party in a "right-plus-bible" cabinet, to the benefit of the left parties in opposition such as the Green Left, the Socialists, and Labour.

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