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October 11, 2017

A parliamentary coup in Italy

Italian politics has always been full of intrigues and surprises, and the passage of the electoral law is following that same pattern. Ansa reports that the Italian government has authorised a confidence vote attached to the bill, which has the advantage - for the government - that the vote is not secret. There will be a total of three votes in the house, starting today, before the bill moves on to the Senate next week.

Politically this is a stitch-up between the PD, Forza Italia, and the Lega. Opposed are the Five Star Movement and the MdP, the new left-wing breakaway party from Matteo Renzi's PD. The motion was brought by PD house whip Ettore Rosato, after whom the current bill is named: Rosatellum. It has elements of the German electoral system, with two/thirds of the MPs elected on proportional representation, and one-third in a first-past the post contest. The Five Star Movement fears that the way the bill is designed will make it impossible for it to form a government, should they emerge as the largest party, which some of the polls suggest they might. Five Star and MdP politicians expressed their dismay yesterday, accusing the government to misuse the confidence vote procedure to manipulate electoral outcomes. Pier Luigi Bersani called for a demonstration in support of democracy, which he sees threatened as a result of this procedure.

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October 11, 2017

1.7% UK growth forecast - not great, but hardly a meltdown

We are structurally disinterested in macroeconomic forecasts of any kind, given their consistently miserable performance. The most important part of the latest IMF World Economic Outlook is not the forecast but the chapter on fiscal spillovers, the discussion of which we will postpone to a less busy day. But in the context of the forecast, we noted an interesting comment by Larry Elliott in the Guardian, who managed to put into perspective the IMF's downgrade of its UK growth forecast from 2% in April to 1.7% for this year. He notes that the IMF is generally becoming more cautious, mindful of the risks of rising asset prices and low inflation, and this approach now also extends to the way it judges Brexit. At the height of the Brexit panic among economists, the IMF forecast a fall in growth to 1.1%, while the current view is much more tainted by the political realities of Brexit - which is that it will happen more gradually through a transition period.

This is also our view, but we must note that the benign scenario, while still our favourite, is not a certainty because too much can go wrong on both sides. We think it is essential that the UK government prepares a credible no deal scenario, not as a threat, but as a plan B. Yesterday's news was that the UK was considering joining Nafta in case of a no-deal, but the more prosaic truth is that the Department for International Trade has a working group - codenamed "Project After" - which discusses all sorts of ideas as part of their brainstorming activities. Nafta is naturally no replacement for the trading arrangement the UK currently has, but it might be preferable to a non-align status under WTO rules.

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October 11, 2017

Could Tsipras' controversial gender bill split the coalition?

Syriza passed a controversial gender change bill yesterday, allowing Greeks to change their legal gender at the age of 15 years already without medical treatment. The bill not only fuelled a political storm in parliament, it also alienated the Church of Greece, with the archbishop appealing to politicians not to support the bill. It is thus no wonder that the coalition partner Anel, with its close ties to the church, did not support the bill. Will this have further repercussions on the coalition? Macropolis does not think it will, after all divergences in votes happened before. The coalition was an unlikely one from the start, but has lasted astonishingly well through the political storms. Instead of Anel the bill was supported by Potami, the centre party which is in the process of creating a centre-left umbrella party together with Pasok. 

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