Belgium’s ‘Super Sunday’ of elections shifts to the right

Last weekend, Belgium held a ‘Super Sunday’ of European Parliament, national, and regional elections that resulted in a shift to the right in more prosperous Dutch-speaking Flanders and to the left in French-speaking Wallonia. The strongly polarized results will make negotiations to form the country’s federal and regional governments difficult. Belgium holds the world record for the longest period without a government at 589 days from 2010 to 2011.

The results showed continued decline of the traditional mainstream parties, the liberal Reformist Movement, the Socialist Party (PS) and the Christian Social Party (CSP) – cumulatively down from 70 percent in the 1990s to 45 percent today.

Flanders moved sharply to the right in support of the nationalist Vlaams Belang (VB) party, at the expense of the more moderate separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party that had participated in the last federal government. VB is allied with other nationalist parties in the movement spreading across Europe, led by Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France. Topping the results, VP gained 23 seats from six, taking 19 percent of the votes – an incredible 13-point surge on the last triple elections in 2014.

VB party leader Tom Van Grieken boasted the new Belgian federal parliament will possibly “never have been so massively Flemish nationalist” as Belgium’s King Philippe has begun to broker the new governing coalition. The constitutional challenge for the King is to get parties representing both of the country’s major linguistic communities, Flemish and Walloon, to collaborate in a coalition that can command a parliamentary majority.

There was a clear vote of no-confidence in the liberal Reform Movement (MR) party’s outgoing government coalition under Prime Minister Charles Michel leading up to the triple election. Prime Minister Charles Michel’s liberal Reform Movement (MR) party has been running the country of 11 million people in a caretaker capacity since December. Belgium effectively runs two separate elections in the Dutch and French-speaking regions, with no national parties, after which forms a sort of federal coalition government from both sides of the linguistic divide.

 

India’s pro-nationalism PM Modi earns a massive election win

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a dramatic election victory on Thursday, giving his Hindu nationalist party an increase in its majority with a mandate for business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security. His re-election reinforces a global trend of nationalist conservatives sweeping to victory in the United States, Brazil, and across Europe.

Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies capturing 316 seats out of 542 in the Parliament, compared to the Congress Party (UPA) led by Rahul Gandhi and its allies dropping to 87 seats. The BJP now has the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.

Data shows the BJP outspent the Congress party by six times on Facebook and Google advertising and by as much as 20 times overall. PM Modi was showered with rose petals as he arrived at party headquarters by thousands of cheering supporters who waited for hours in a thunderstorm for his arrival Thursday evening. He said to his critics who believed he would not succeed, “The political pundits of India have to leave behind their ideas of the past.

Investors welcomed the victory, hoping PM Modi’s government will push through reforms. PM Modi has slashed red tape in the world’s fifth-largest economy and faces demands to provide jobs for the tens of millions of Millennials and to boost depressed farm incomes. In addition to a harder line on national security, BJP members expect PM Modi to allow progress on a project of building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindus in the northern holy town of Ayodhya in 1992.

Leader of the main opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi, who has now been twice defeated in general elections by PM Modi, refused to rule out resigning as party chief in a brief televised news conference. Mr. Gandhi, whose father, grandmother, and great-grandfather all served as Prime Minister, lost his own seat to the BJP candidate in the northern constituency of Amethi that the family has held almost continuously for the last four decades.

Rahul Verma, a fellow at the center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said, “The Congress party has not been able to improve at all. One big story is the emerging challenge for the Congress to remain a national alternative to the BJP. That now is under question.

 

Australia’s conservatives re-elected despite polls claiming the opposite result

Australia’s conservative coalition government is thriving following the national election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison representing the Liberal-National parties coalition announced the electoral victory as a victory for all the Australians who voted for a safe future. PM Morrison will continue to lead the government for another three years.

In foreign policy, the Liberal Party favors of maintaining and strengthening the country’s traditional alliances the United States and Britain, which sometimes damages relations with its Asian neighbors.

16.5 million Australians are heavily incentivised to vote in elections, whereas failing to can result in fines, or in some states, losing one’s driver’s license. The Liberal-National victory was highly unexpected, given that polls had shown the left-wing Labor party in the lead for at least the last two years.

Polls became used as a tactical political tool when former Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull challenged then-Liberal PM Tony Abbott in 2015 on the basis that Abbott had lost 30 consecutive Newspolls. It turned out to be a gross lapse in judgment, as Mr. Turnbull was then judged by the same criteria and himself lost.

The main newspapers have become increasingly partisan resulting in the reporting of polls shifting from straightforward accounts of the data to stories dominated by analysis, comment, or wishful thinking on the part of the writer or the editor.

Support for communist ANC government falls in South Africa election

The African National Congress (ANC) retained control of South Africa’s government in last week’s national election with 58 percent of the vote, below both its 62 percent performance in 2014 and the symbolic threshold of 60 percent. The ANC narrowly won in the economic and political capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria with 50 percent. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who promised to fight corruption (of which his own party is among the accused), was granted a five-year term to govern and will face ongoing voter anger.

Steven Friedman, a political scientist at the University of Johannesburg, said, “The black middle-class has given up on the ANC — there’s no evidence it’s ever going back. The ANC is now a party of the working class, shack-settlement dwellers and people in the townships who say they’ve had enough with the party, but think it’s worth a try because they see no alternative.”

This was the sixth general election after the end of apartheid, and the results underscore growing disillusionment with South Africa’s political system, particularly among Millennial voters. Voter turnout fell to 66 percent, down from 73 percent in 2014, which is considered low for the young democracy. Recent polling data shows Millennial South Africans are increasingly concerned about their future and that of their country, reflecting the same challenges of legitimacy faced by numerous democratic nations across the globe.

In the poll commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a South African charitable organization, the findings revealed that respondents feel limited by the choices on the ballot. Though 58 percent said they would vote in favor of the ANC, 52 percent of respondents stated that they are distrustful of the party. 76 percent of young South Africans were expected to cast a ballot in this election, compared to only half who were polled ahead of the 2014 vote. When asked which word best described feelings on South Africa’s future, 42 percent identified ‘concerned’, which points to growing uncertainty about the nation’s future prospects. The findings are indicative of deeper trends amongst South Africa’s youth, where trust in institutions and political parties has reached alarming lows.

Prior to the election, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Ichikowitz Foundation, philanthropist Ivor Ichikowitz said, “Our findings indicate that South Africa faces challenges not unlike those of other democracies across the world in the modern age, with our youth expressing deep concerns regarding the state of the nation and its ability to work for the people. However, while lack of faith in both our institutions and political parties is clearly low, there is reason to believe that our historic determination to foster greater social cohesion will prevail. As the nation prepares to head to the ballot box, we must all consider the impacts that declining trust and confidence could have on our democracy – and how to change the narrative to a more optimistic outlook.”

Mr. Ichikowitz added, “I’ve always believed that the future of our country is assured by the optimism, energy and resilience of our youth. It was their voices throughout history that led by example and spearheaded change in South Africa. These findings should be deemed an alarm call that must be heeded by our nation’s leadership; they need to result in a call to action by the new government. Should they fail to do so, the future of our country’s 25-year ‘Democratic Experiment’ will be placed at risk”.

 

PM May and Labour punished and severely weakened in Britain’s local elections

Whereas high voter turnout is typically a strong indication that a change in government is coming, in the case of England’s local elections this week the same was true for low turnout. Voters clearly expressed their anger over the refusal of the British government and Labour opposition to accomplish Brexit. The election was dubbed a ‘plague on both houses’ where the Conservatives were nearly wiped out in the south and Labour was punished in the north, perhaps foretelling the end of the two establishment parties’ dominance in British politics going forward.

In their worst result since 1995, the Conservatives lost 1,269 seats and now hold 3,559. Labour lost 63 and hold 2020 and UKIP barely registered with a loss of 36 seats and hold 31. The biggest wins were for the Liberal Democrats who gained 676 seats and now hold 1,351, Independents and Others gained 285 seats and now hold 1,1199, and Green gained 185 seats and hold 265. The new Brexit Party and Change UK Party did not put forward candidates, as they focus on the upcoming European Parliament vote in a few weeks.

The weakness and backsliding over Brexit promises by both the Conservatives and Labour have seriously damaged public faith in their democracy. However, PM May continues to spend her time attempting to get her Withdrawal Agreement – despite it being made abundantly clear even before these elections that the Agreement as is is unwanted by the public – pushed through with the support of Labour. At the Welsh Conservative conference in Llangollen on Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May was interrupted by a Conservative Tory activist who shouted, "why don't you resign," and "we don't want you," before being escorted out of the room.

Conservative candidate Michelle McGrath from Trafford, which the party won with a majority of more than 1,000 in 2015, lost her seat to Labour. She blamed her defeat fully on the Prime Minister, saying, "Theresa May has been dilly dallying, shilly shallying. I just do not want to look at her face again. Absolutely it was the national issues. It was Brexit without a doubt - the handling of it.” Calling for PM May to go, she added, "As far as I am concerned, she was never capable of negotiating for the UK."

Lord Hayward said, “You can overdo the Brexit bit. This is about the rebelling middle classes, be they leavers or remainers, voicing their frustration with our fractured political system. If you look at some of the Lib Dem gains in areas such as Chelmsford, the Cotswolds, North East Somerset - this is not a rebellion of remainers. The Lib Dems are there because they can deliver - literally deliver leaflets but also local politics.”

Co-founder of Deltapoll Joe Twyman warned that the European elections on May 23 would be a different story entirely. According to the latest European Parliament election polls, the Brexit Party is gaining rapidly and is already polling in the 30 percent range, while the Conservative support have plummeted to 13 percent. Labour is polling in the 20s and the Liberal Democrats, Greens, and Change UK are each polling at 10 percent.

Additionally, Sir Tony Robinson, who is an actor and former member of Labour's executive, quit the party after 45 years citing Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, anti-Semitism, and Brexit. On Twitter, Sir Robinson wrote, “I've left the Labour Party after nearly 45 years of service at Branch, Constituency and NEC levels, partly because of its continued duplicity on Brexit, partly because of its antisemitism, but also because its leadership is complete s---."

Spain elects a record number of nationalists amid a slim socialist majority

In the latest nationalist surge across Europe, Spain’s Vox Party earned record gains in last week’s election, where voter turnout reached a record high of 76 percent – up from 67 percent from the previous general election – as the governing Socialists struggled to hold on to power.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) won 122 of the 350 seats in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, leading all other parties but failing to win a parliamentary majority. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will now need to negotiate a coalition, likely including Pablo Iglesias’ Podemos party, which won 42 seats, and will still require support from other parties to form a 176-seat majority. This is the third national election in four years, after the first two eroded the decades-long dominance of the two biggest parties, the Socialists and the conservative Popular Party (PP). The PP won only 66 seats compared to the 137 seats won last election in June 2016.

PM Sanchez had called for the snap general elections in February after failing to pass his 2019 budget. He had said he hoped the election would provide a parliamentary majority to allow him to pass social and political reforms. Yet the election was dominated by cultural values and national identity rather than the economy, and the campaign by the nationalist Vox Party was marked by passionate reference to Spain’s history, customs and survival as a nation.

The country’s fragmented conservative vote is coalescing with Vox (Latin for ‘voice’), which won 24 seats in the election and became the first nationalist party to win more than a single seat since the country returned to democracy in 1975. Vox was founded in 2013 by former Popular Party members, which had been the country’s traditional political defender of right-wing values. On election night Vox official Rocio Monasterio said, “They said it was impossible for us to get here, and we’ve done it.”

Vox held rallies in Madrid and Valencia in the face of its exclusion from two televised debates between the main party leaders, supposedly on the grounds of it having no deputies yet in parliament. Google noted search enquires for Vox were three times higher than searches for the Socialists or PP. At a Barcelona rally, Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal told supporters to forget about tactical voting and just back the party that best matches their political convictions, saying the “cowardly right-wing has abandoned you. We need a radical change. Vox has come to defend Spain above all else.”

Vox was formed to defend traditional Spanish values from “left-wing extremists” such as Socialist PM  Sanchez and separatists in Catalonia and the Basque region. During the Catalan crisis of October 2017 Vox was catapulted to prominence and wants Catalonia’s regional government abolished as part of a sweeping recentralization of power. Vox defends traditional hunting and bullfighting while arguing that the gender equality laws brought in by the Socialists have led to discrimination against men.

Vox leaders say Madrid should give priority to immigrants from Latin America who share cultural ties and values with Spaniards. The party advocates building a border wall around Spain’s North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta to keep out illegal immigrants coming through Morocco.

Vox doesn’t share the euroskepticism of the continent’s other right-wing populists, but Mr. Abascal has engaged with France’s Marine Le Pen and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, recently met with the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party Jaroslaw Kaczynski to discuss “alliances to defend the only possible Europe, one based on the respect of its sovereign states and the Christian cultural roots,” he said.

Finland’s election give Social Democrats a narrow victory over surging nationalist party

On Sunday, 72 percent of Finnish voters turned out to elect their new national government in the tightest race in over half a century. The left-wing Social Democrats were given a razor’s edge victory with 17.7 percent of the vote over the conservative nationalist Finns Party at 17.5 percent, leaving a separation of only 0.2 percentage points.

The Social Democrats received 40 seats compared to the Finns Party’s 39 in the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature. The conservative National Coalition Party received 37 seats and the Center Party, which was the senior coalition partner in the outgoing government, received 32 seats. Altogether there are nine parties represented in the parliament.

Former trade unionist Antti Rinne is now Finland’s first Social Democrat Prime Minister in 16 years, winning by less than 7,000 votes. The leader of Finland's progressive Social Democratic Party vowed to focus on climate and social policies and called on them to "take the Finnish society toward a sustainable climate, social and economic policies." Climate change dominated the campaign, even overshadowing topics like reforming the nation's generous welfare model.

Chairman of the Eurosceptic Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho received the most votes by a large margin of any candidate, leading the Finnish media to suggest Mr. Halla-aho could become a kingmaker in the next government. Mr. Halla-aho’s party ran an aggressive campaign, winning back support lost after the group splintered in 2017 as more moderate elements left. Its anti-immigration message resonated with voters as well as their characterization of the liberal elite’s obsession with climate change.

Center Party leader Juha Sipila tweeted Tuesday "the election result leaves me with no choices," referring to the party’s 13.8 percent result support, representing a loss of 18 parliamentary seats. Mr. Sipila will step down at a party congress on September 7. The Center Party is a major political establishment in Finland and Mr. Sipila has chaired it since 2012 and had been the Nordic country's Prime Minister since 2015. Mr. Sipila continued to lead a caretaker government after his three-party coalition resigned in March.

Mr. Rinne must now form a coalition government comprised of several partners before it can secure a parliamentary majority to govern. On Tuesday, the center-right National Coalition indicated that a deal on policy plans was possible. The Social Democrats have refused to consider and cooperate with the Finns Party.

During the election campaign, Mr. Rinne promised voters he would increase public spending, including a promise to increase all state pensions of less than 1,400 Euros a month, prompting National Coalition Chairman Petteri Orpo to call his economic policies “irresponsible”. However, Mr. Orpo, whose party pushed for spending cuts and austere budgets in the outgoing government, did not rule out supporting the spending increases, but said he wanted Finland’s economic performance to guide them, saying, “It’s possible for the National Coalition to participate in a government coalition if we can agree on a realistic understanding over the state of the national economy.

Mr. Rinne’s other coalition option, the Center Party, which came fourth with a record low vote share of 13.8 percent, became a less likely partner after the party’s leadership acknowledged voters had clearly not supported them enough for a government role.

Division unites Albertans under a vision for their future and Canadian confederation

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Premier-elect Jason Kenney shared the story of meeting a 17-year old boy three years ago at a rural Alberta gas station, who asked him to please hurry up with the next election. Mr. Kenney responded that the timing wasn’t up to him, but he was doing the best he could to prepare. Tears welled up in the boys eyes – he said, my father’s been unemployed for many months and he’s starting to get depressed, and I’m the only source of income for my parents and four siblings. Mr. Kenney said he’s thought about that boy every day for the last three years and it’s people like him that the United Conservative government will fight for.

An astounding 70 percent of Albertans voted in the provincial election on April 16 with overwhelming support for a majority UCP government. The advance polls saw triple the turnout from the 2015 election, an indication that a change in government was coming. With these early votes still to be counted, the UCP sit at approximately 63 seats out of 87 in the legislature. The official and only opposition in the legislature are the NDP at approximately 24 seats – all other parties completely shut out as the Liberals lost their only seat and the Alberta Party lost their three, despite offering a full slate of candidates for the ballots. Albertans were exceptionally clear about the direction they want and that is conservative governance.

The UCP is a brand new party with most of its candidates new to the political game, though not in their professions, under experienced leadership, suggesting an interesting dynamic to come. In particular, legislative debate will be interesting because the NDP changed their public tune while in government to that of supporting (in rhetoric only, not in action) petroleum development and will now have no choice but to remain supportive or mute on the topic as official opposition, lest their hypocrisy become even more evident and lose further seats in the next election.

Over the past several election cycles, the left-wing has pushed the narrative of fear, hate, and division to the repulsion of most voters. On Tuesday, Albertans solidly thumped that narrative in favour of what really matters – facts, integrity, and a strong, transparent agenda and vision for the economic and social well-being of not just those in the province, but as Mr. Kenney conveyed in his speech, for all Canadians, including those who are Indigenous.

In a direct appeal to Quebec’s Premier for collaboration between the two provinces, the Premier-elect spoke at length in French that the two leaders must find common ground to strengthen the self-sufficiency of both economies. Two years ago, TransCanada pulled the plug on its proposed Energy East pipeline, which would have both provided the eastern provinces with oil and natural gas from home instead of foreign dictatorships and opened a market to Europe, due to opposition from politically charged federal regulators, local politicians, and paid environmental activists.

Premier-elect Kenney gave a taste of his leadership style over the next four years by directly calling out the foreign sources of anti-Canadian funding that have targeted energy production and infrastructure, in addition to other industries such as fishing – the Rockefellers, Tides, and the Suzuki Foundation among those in his sights for potential legal action. Another was Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has stonewalled energy infrastructure projects and introduced a carbon tax that only harms individuals and economic competitiveness while doing nothing to protect or improve the environment. The scene is set for another showdown between Alberta and a noxious Trudeau Prime Minister, and as an adversary, Justin is nowhere near as tough or clever as his father was.

Outgoing NDP Premier Rachel Notley had focused on name-calling and division, pressuring the wrongful ejection of two UCP candidates – Randy Kerr and then Caylan Ford – even going so far as to slander Mr. Kenney regarding the two without facts in the televised leaders’ debate. In the case of Ms. Ford, the NDP showed the extent of their dishonesty when they slandered her as a white supremacist, when the truth is Ms. Ford was manipulated and blackmailed by a sociopath connected to Press Progress – a propaganda organization for the left. How utterly disgusting and hypocritical for the left to claim championship of women while simultaneously smearing a reputation that may last beyond the election. It also highlights the mainstream media’s inability to conduct quality journalism and refuse to publish stories without even scraps of evidence. As all the losing parties lamented in their concession speeches, the UCP need to prove they are better – absolutely, and they can begin by righting the wrongs endured by Mr. Kerr and Ms. Ford. Premier-elect Kenney’s character will be tested and judged as much by his accomplishments for Alberta as the manner in which he treats those who are loyal to and supportive of him.

The media continued to push their narrative of how divisive the election was. No, only the NDP and the media were divisive because it’s the only game plan they know. Albertans, who have been suffering under years of prolonged economic recession without much hope that the compounded situation of provincial, federal, and foreign obstruction would change, demanded and manifested an opportunity to restore the Alberta Advantage. Canadian confederation has weakened as Alberta has suffered. It’s time to unite behind a positive and fact-based vision for the highest and best interests of all Canadians and deny the politics of division going forward.

Nationalism gains in Israel’s election ahead of the Trump administration’s peace plan

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu won his fourth consecutive, and a historic fifth overall, term as Israel’s Prime Minister on Tuesday. His conservative Likud party increased its parliamentary majority, gaining an additional 5 seats for a total of 35 out of the Knesset’s 120. Likud won more seats than it has in any election since 2003, and the most under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership, with a vote share of approximately 30 percent.

Out of the top four parties, three are conservative and one is centrist, all of which will support PM Netanyahu to lead a coalition government. Benny Gantz, a former military chief, was PM Netanyahu’s primary opponent in the election, with his centrist Blue and White party. Israel’s political left-wing has essentially collapsed, leading a trend in global politics toward conservative – or populist, as the mainstream news media calls it – parties and leaders. The bloc of right-wing and religious Jewish parties is much larger than the bloc of left-wing and Arab parties, altogether earning 65 seats.

Israel is becoming more Orthodox Jewish, a dominance that has been rising since the late 1990s and a trend that will continue. The electorate has largely turned to the right since the 2000-2005 violent Palestinian uprising. Nationalism is increasing in political and cultural life, and the country’s media culture is becoming more conservative as well. Studies show that when elections are called within months of terrorist attacks there is increased conservative support, including in typically left-leaning areas.

PM Netanyahu has a reputation for getting things done. He showcased his rapport with United States President Donald Trump, who recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and is massively popular in Israel, by erecting billboards in the cities showing the two smiling leaders shaking hands. The veteran leader is an ex-commando who served his first term as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999 and has remained in that role since 2009. Amotz Asa-El, a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, said, “Much of the electorate evidently feels there is no worthy rival to him, and his political base does not believe that he is a crook,” regarding potential bribery charges.

On the campaign trail, PM Netanyahu dominated the news cycle. He traveled to the US as President Trump signed a decree recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War. PM Netanyahu visited Russia to thank Moscow for honoring his request to recover the remains of an Israeli soldier lost in Syria. He announced his intention to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected; Palestinians seek a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 after five years of that era of Palestinian uprising, while maintaining a blockade of the enclave.

Once the new coalition government is sworn is, President Trump is expected to release a peace plan for the region, authored by advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, with input from U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Mr. Kushner’s aide Avi Berkowitz. Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt have limited the plan’s distribution over the past two years while they crafted it, and kept it secret “to ensure people approach it with an open mind” when it is released,” according to a senior administration official.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to say whether the administration favored a two-state solution and that “Ultimately the individuals in the region will sort this out.” Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt toured Middle East states in February to promote the economic part of the plan and get opinions about it, without providing a detailed view of its political contents. Gulf governments want to know the details before committing resources to a Palestinian fund.

Runoff vote for April 21 in Ukraine after a newcomer comedian leads the presidential election

A television comedian with no political experience earned a sizable lead in Ukraine’s Sunday election, over 38 rival candidates. Without a clear first-round victory, Volodymyr Zelenskiy will advance to a runoff vote on April 21 with Petro Poroshenko, the incumbent President.

Mr. Zelenskiy garnered 30 percent of the vote, while incumbent President Poroshenko was a distant second with about 17 percent, and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 13 percent to round out the top three. The results closely aligned with a major exit poll.

The country of 44 million people has a struggling economy and the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has killed 13,000 people since 2014. Ukraine suffers from endless endemic corruption, and the strong showing for Mr. Zelenskiy appeared to reflect Ukrainians’ desire for new blood in their political system and a new approach to trying to end the war with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east that has wracked the country for nearly five years.

Mr. Zelenskiy stars in a TV sitcom about a teacher who becomes president after a video of him denouncing corruption goes viral and his supporters hold out hope that he can fight corruption in real life. As one voter said, “Zelenskiy has shown us on the screen what a real president should be like. He showed what the state leader should aspire for — fight corruption by deeds, not words, help the poor, control the oligarchs.”

There were many allegations of widespread vote buying and police said they had received more than 2,100 complaints of violations on voting day alone, in addition to hundreds of earlier voting fraud claims, including bribery attempts and removing ballots from polling places. Concern about the election’s legitimacy were brought forward by Ukraine’s Interior Minister, who said his department was “showered” with hundreds of claims that supporters of Mr. Poroshenko and Ms. Tymoshenko had offered money in exchange for votes.

Like the popular character he plays, the 41-year-old Mr. Zelenskiy made corruption a central tenant of his candidacy. His lack of political experience helped his popularity with voters amid broad disillusionment with the country’s political elite. During his campaign, Mr. Zelenskiy held no rallies and gave few interviews to the mainstream news media, but his extensive use of social media appealed to younger voters. He proposed a lifetime ban on holding public office for anyone convicted of graft.

Mr. Zelenskiy called for direct negotiations with Russia on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Zelensky's readiness to speak both Russian and Ukrainian was an asset at a time when language rights are a sensitive topic, lending him support in Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking east.

His potential weakness lies in his relationship with Ukraine's most controversial oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, who owns the TV channel 1+1 and gave extensive support to Mr. Zelensky. Mr. Kolomoisky lives in self-imposed exile and faces numerous investigations in Ukraine into his business dealings.

53-year-old President Poroshenko is a chocolate tycoon and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest people who was elected five years ago in a snap vote after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in the February 2014 Maidan Revolution following Russia's annexation of Crimea and a Russian-backed insurgency in the east. He pushed successfully for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be recognized as self-standing rather than a branch of the Russian church. However, he saw approval of his governing sink amid Ukraine’s economic woes and a sharp plunge in living standards and his campaign has been dogged by corruption allegations, including a scandal over defence procurement, which erupted last month.

Erdogan’s dictatorial grip on Turkey slips after municipal elections support democracy

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian hold over Turkey was shaken following municipal elections across the nation last Sunday. His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of two major cities and won little more than 51 percent of the overall vote.

More than 57 million people in the country were registered to vote for mayors and councillors, with high turnout at 85 percent. The elections were considered a verdict on President Erdogan's rule, during an economic downturn. President Erdogan’s political success has rested on years of stellar economic growth in Turkey, but the currency, the lira, has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018.

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas won in Ankara with nearly 51 percent against the AKP's Mehmet Ozhaseki, who won the support of just over 47 percent. Both CHP and the AKP claim victory in Istanbul, which has been in the hands of parties linked to President Erdogan since 1994, when he was elected the city's mayor. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, "The people have voted in favour of democracy. They have chosen democracy."

This was the first municipal vote since President Erdogan assumed sweeping executive powers through last year's presidential election; the next national election is set for 2023. The AKP, with its roots in political Islam, has won every election since coming to power in 2002. Even though Turkey is a democracy, President Erdogan has assumed broad new powers after a failed coup in 2016 when 300 people were killed, 2,100 injured, and 40,000 detained, including at least 10,000 soldiers and 2,745 judges. 77,000 people were arrested and over 160,000 fired from their jobs, including 21,000 teachers and 15,000 education staff.

Now, the AKP alleges "invalid votes and irregularities” in most of the 12,158 polling stations in Ankara and says it will also challenge the result in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, and the eastern province of Igdir. If the present results are confirmed, the CHP will gain control of municipal budgets with an estimated total value of USD $5.79 billion for 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial hub, and the capital Ankara.

With most media either pro-government or controlled by President Erdogan's supporters, critics believe opposition parties campaigned at a disadvantage. In some 100 rallies, which dominated TV coverage during his election campaign, President Erdogan described the opposition alliance as terrorist supporters linked to the network of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish businessman and cleric whom he claims initiated the 2016 coup, and Kurdish militants. After the elections, pro-government newspapers said there had been a conspiracy against Turkey in the local elections, with the Star newspaper likening this to the attempted coup in 2016 and nationwide protests in 2013. The editor of newspaper Yeni Safak called for a second vote after what he termed a “coup via elections.

President Erdogan, whose two-month campaign included 100 rallies, said the poll was about the "survival" of the country and his party. His pre-election ritual has trended toward picking a fight with foreign governments. Not for the first time, the President sought to rouse his conservative base by inflaming issues in western countries to boost his popularity ahead of elections. At several political rallies in Turkey, he chose to screen footage from the Christchurch, New Zealand shooting, where 50 Muslims were killed by an “eco-fascist” terrorist. The Turkish President also projected excerpts purported to be from the gunman's manifesto onto a giant screen and told the crowd the suspect had made threats against Turkish Muslims. President Erdogan additionally invoked the First World War battle of Gallipoli, where thousands of Australian and Kiwi troops were killed by Turkish forces. He warned anti-Muslim Australians that their grandfathers were “sent back in coffins” and they would share the same fate if they came to Turkey. Ahead of a referendum to change Turkey’s constitution in 2017, President Erdogan accused Dutch and German government Ministers of being Nazis. A month before the 2018 presidential elections, he expelled Israel’s ambassador from Ankara.

Netherland’s Euroskeptic Forum for Democracy wins elections

The new Forum for Democracy party placed first in local elections in the Netherlands this week, becoming the second largest party in the Dutch Senate. The result deals a blow to Prime Minister Mark Rutte's four-party coalition government. In the fragmented Dutch political system, where more than a dozen parties won seats, that relatively small proportion of the electorate was enough to put the FvD on top, with 13 seats in the 75-member upper house of the legislature. The FvD took votes from three of the four parties that make up PM Rutte's ruling coalition, as well as from the anti-Islam Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom and the left-wing Socialist Party.

In his victory speech, 36-year-old leader Thierry Baudet emphasized that FvD is now one of the largest parties in the country and a profound change has been set in motion, where "economic and political capitulation is coming to an end." He attributed the FvD’s rapid success to support for ‘Nexit’ – the Netherlands leaving the European Union – and as punishment for the "arrogance and stupidity" of the Netherlands' current leaders. Mr. Baudet told the De Volkskrant paper, “I am ideologically against the EU, against the internal market, against the open borders, against the euro, against the whole thing.

Voters have grown increasingly critical of how the government and law enforcement agencies handle immigrants and radicalism. Using classical references, Mr. Baudet also said, “We stand here in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization. We are going to start a renaissance in which our self-confidence is restored, in which we can live safely in a trusted environment, in which the democratic state is repaired, and economic and cultural dynamism can return."

In his address, Mr. Baudet slammed Holland's mainstream media, universities, and the "cartel of ruling elites" for indoctrination attempts and undermining the Dutch people. He cited "economic simpleton" PM Rutt, who raised taxes at the deepest point of the financial crisis, which resulted in the stagnation of purchasing power, “pensions cannot be indexed, and now a total 2.5 million people in our society are below the poverty line — unemployed, or quasi-unemployed. After that, the next Rutte cabinet opened the borders, breaking one immigration record after another".

Mr. Baudet emerged on the political scene two years ago with the founding of the FvD, which took two seats in the much more powerful 150-member lower house of parliament following the 2017 elections. In one of his books ‘Oikophobia: The Fear of Home’, Mr. Baudet laments cultural relativism and multiculturalism, which, he writes, lead to loathing of one's own culture. In another book, ‘Break the Party Cartel’, he describes the Dutch political class as a cartel. During the campaign, Mr. Baudet criticized elites, journalists, multiculturalism, and "political correctness" as he warned of the threat posed by immigration and the European Union to the nation-state and Dutch identity.

FvD is only two years old and only existed as a political party for two months before entering the general elections. Gaining 14 percent of the national vote, they can now help block immigration, climate, and other leftist bills supported by establishment parties and advance their anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and Euroskeptic voice in the Netherlands. The party also opposes funding for climate change legislation and seeks a referendum on the Netherlands' membership in the European Union.

Those elected will take their places in government at the provincial level and also select the composition of the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. That will take place in May, with new members taking office on June 11. The outgoing members will conduct their final scheduled official business on June 4.

Anti-democratic chaos for Brexit after multiple votes create doubt the UK will leave the EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, approved by the European Union (EU), has now been voted down twice by the House of Commons and will face a third attempt. The House of Commons has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit, and also voted against an amendment to force a second Brexit referendum, in an effort to extend Article 50, by 334 votes to 85.

A third vote for PM May’s Brexit deal will take place on March 20. Power to dictate what happens next remains with PM May and Cabinet, not MPs, as a cross-bench amendment vote by MPs to seize control of Brexit failed by two votes, at 314 to 312, which would have allowed backbenchers to debate different Brexit options that day. The Prime Minister said if her deal does pass, she will ask for an extension to June 30. Lack of agreement around how the UK will leave the EU has divided the Conservative Party caucus, primarily between those who want Britain to remain part of the union and the Euroskeptics who support leaving.

Then on Thursday, MPs voted 412 to 202 in favour of the government's motion to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit beyond 29 March, upwards of three months or more. However, the Brexit deadline is legally binding, and cannot be extended without the agreement of all 27 other EU countries. The motion states that Article 50 will be extended until June 30, if MPs approve the Prime Minister's deal by 20 March, and should an agreement not be reached by March 20, the government will seek a more substantial extension. An extension would have to be agreed to by the EU, who would set the terms. Naturally, the EU has indicated that it wants a longer deadline since the longer and more frequent the delays the better chance they think there will be of the UK remaining part of bloc.

Brussels is furious in the face of PM May’s announced plans to hold a third meaningful vote on her Brexit deal just one day before an EU summit to approve an extension to the Article 50 negotiations. The European Council will next meet on March 21. While the 27 EU leaders are divided over the length and conditions for the extension beyond the March 29 deadline, they are united in their irritation that the Prime Minister will give the bloc very little time to consider their response and prepare a joint position.

The Article 50 treaty demands a period of consultation between the leaving member state and the remaining members before an extension was granted. Brussels remains concerned about the risk of a no deal Brexit by accident. EU sources have pinpointed July 2 as the absolute latest deadline Britain could name without holding European elections.

A long extension would mean Britain holding European Parliament elections in May, according to the European Commission and the British Prime Minister. If the UK did not elect MEPs, the new parliament could be subject to legal challenges on the European Court of Justice.

Estonian Center-Right Forms Government as Nationalist Vote Triples

Estonia’s opposition center-right Reform party ran on a low-tax, small-government platform and beat out the governing center-left Centre party, led by Prime Minister Juri Ratas, in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. The Eurosceptic Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), which is against the illegal mass migration faced by western Europe, more than doubled its seat count in parliament with 17.8 percent of the vote, becoming the third largest political force in the country. Centre received 23.1 percent.

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas is the country's first female Prime Minister after her party finished with 28.8 percent of the vote, giving it 34 seats. She is a 41-year-old lawyer and former European Parliament member who became Reform’s leader less than a year ago. The party’s founders include her father, Siim Kallas, a former Estonian Prime Minister and EU commissioner.

PM Kallas’ government is holding talks with the conservative Fatherland Party and the Social Democrats, which won 12 and 10 seats in the election respectively, on a new Cabinet. Together, the three parties, which formed a coalition in 2015-2017, would have 56 seats in the 101-seat-parliament. The Reform party's move follows the Centre party's rejection of an overture from PM Kallas because of disagreements over tax reform plans. Reform said before the election it would not consider EKRE as a potential governing coalition partner.

EKRE’s success could lead to a coalition of Estonia’s main rivals, Ratas’ traditionally pro-Russian Centre and pro-Western Reform, which have not governed together since 2003. Estonia enjoys strong economic growth and low unemployment, but regional differences in the country of just 1.3 million people are vast. EKRE’s heartland consists of the counties farthest from the capital, Tallinn, areas where its promise to shake up politics resonated with many voters. A fiercely anti-migrant message lifted its support during the European migration crisis in 2015 and it has held on to the gains since then.

EKRE also promised to cut income and excise taxes, where Reform and Centre support the continuation of austerity policies, which despite leaving Estonia with the lowest debt level in any Eurozone country, have also created anger among the rural population who feel left behind by these measures.

EKRE was formed in 2012 through a merger of an agrarian and a populist party. It defines its platform as nationalist-conservative and its goal is to protect the benefits of ethnic Estonians. Martin Helme, who runs EKRE with his father and leads its parliament caucus, has said publicly that only white immigrants should be allowed into Estonia. On election night, Helme said the party's growing popularity was "no different than almost all other countries in Europe, where there's a serious public demand for political parties who will stand up against the globalist agenda" and EU policymakers. He said the "biggest achievement" the vote count reflects is "we are dictating the Estonian political agenda."

Increasingly, over the past several years and accelerating in recent months, political parties with nationalist agendas has grown in Europe, which has seen an estimated 15 million migrants enter the EU within the past decade. In some countries, such as Italy, nationalism surged after large influxes of illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa landed on their shores. In countries like Poland and Estonia, this has been a source of anxiety even though the number of arriving migrants has been smaller, from a position of preventative measures.

Estonia is a former Soviet republic with 1.3 million people and its population declines each year due to low birth rates and emigration to richer Western countries. Ethnic Estonians make up 70 percent of the population, or around 900,000 people. In explaining his party's success in the election, Mr. Helme, 42, said its message promoting traditional values has appeal to voters when demographic changes are causing worries. "Emigration is a big thing in Estonia," he said. "The replacement of the population in Estonia. Estonians are leaving and others coming in. These are big issues. Compared to those issues, tax issues are just meaningless." The party leads an annual torch-lit Independence Day march through Tallinn's Old Town. During the February event, hundreds of participants shout the party's slogan "For Estonia!" Mr. Helme's father, party chairman Mart Helme, is a former diplomat and a historian specializing in ancient Estonian civilization.

Martin Molder, a political scientist at Estonia's University of Tartu, thinks the party's growing strength is a protest against established elites, saying, "There's a lot of generic dissatisfaction in the electorate in regards to how 'business as usual' is done in politics. Certain parties and politicians have been in power for a long time and they've created a kind of class of professional politicians whose only experience in life has been doing politics.”

Secret Brexit Betrayal Pact Between May and Merkel Uncovered

A memo has emerged that alleges British Prime Minister Theresa May has no intention of delivering meaningful Brexit as outlined in her June 2018 Withdrawal Agreement, which was secretly drafted in collusion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to keep as many European Union (EU) laws and institutions as possible. Together, the two leaders devised a plan for Britain to re-join the EU in full after the next general election.

The memo was published in a blog post by John Petley of the Bruges Group, which was thereafter quickly taken down. The Bruges Group is a think-tank that aims to promote discussion on the European Union and to advance the education of the public on European affairs. Through its work the Bruges Group spearheads the intellectual battle against European integration, EU federalism, centralisation, and enlargement, and promotes the positive alternatives to membership of the European Union along with the need to restore British sovereignty and democracy. The Bruges Group campaigned for Brexit, advocating that Britain should vote to leave the European Union in the EU referendum.

A spokesman for the Bruges Group told Breitbart that it stands by the claims but that it had never meant to publish them in memo form, and a fuller, better-supported version of the article will go up shortly. Mr. Petley told Breitbart he had got the information from an impeccable source which had proved extremely reliable in the past about other matters and said that there were a number of things that appeared to back up the claims in his memo. “I think the backstop was just a smokescreen to distract us from the many worse problems within the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Mr. Petley.

 

The following is a copy of the memo:

 

Tuesday, 05 March 2019

There is no doubt about the veracity of this account since documents have been seen.

On Monday July 9th 2018, several leading French, German and Dutch senior managers were called by EU officials to an urgent meeting.

The meeting was said to be private and those present were informed that Prime Minister May and Chancellor Merkel had reached an Agreement over Brexit. Knowledge of this was attained from the actual transcript of the meeting between May and Merkel.

1) The Agreement was couched in a way to ‘appease’ the Brexit voters.

2) The Agreement would enable May to get rid of those people in her party who were against progress and unity in the EU.

3) Both Merkel and May agreed that the likely course of events would be that UK would re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election.

4) May agreed to keep as many EU laws and institutions as she could despite the current groundswell of ‘anti-EU hysteria’ in Britain (May’s own words, apparently.)

5) Merkel and May agreed that the only realistic future for the UK was within the EU.

The original Agreement draft was completed in May 2018 in Berlin and then sent to the UK Government Cabinet Office marked ‘Secret’.

NB This Agreement draft was authored in the German Chancellor’s private office.

The Cabinet returned the Agreement draft with suggestions, and there was some to-ing and fro-ing during June 5th 2018.

Private calls between the Prime Minister and Chancellor were made.

The Agreement’s final draft came out late in June 2018. The German Chancellor told Prime Minister May that this was a deal she would support, though there would need to be some more small concessions by the UK to keep the EU happy.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister met in Germany. Merkel had this meeting recorded as a ‘private meeting’ though the Prime Minister was probably unaware of that.

The Chancellor had the transcript of that meeting circulated secretly to EU and key German embassies.

Conclusions

Documents make it quite clear that Prime Minister May was negotiating with Germany, not the EU.

The transcript also makes it clear that the Prime Minister intended to keep all this secret from minsters, especially the Brexit group.

She wants to keep as many EU institutions in UK as intact as possible in order to facilitate an easy return to the EU after 2020.

Chancellor Merkel briefed May on tactics to force Cabinet approval.

The Prime Minister and senior civil servants were working with Germany to stop Brexit or water it down to prevent free trade and the ending of freedom of movement, but to keep cash flowing to the EU.

David Davis was kept in the dark while key EU premiers in France, Holland and Ireland were briefed in full.

Key EU heads were actually briefed in full the day before the Cabinet meeting at Chequers.

Uncertain Brexit threatens Conservative defections while Labour wants a second referendum

It is increasingly clear that while the British populace wants the Brexit they voted for, the majority of those in Parliament are determined to ensure democracy does not prevail above their superior sensibilities. This week, in the wake of developments that suggest Brexit may be delayed or prevented, leader of Britain’s UKIP party Gerard Batten said, "Two years and eight months later we're not much closer to leaving than we were... This betrayal has been engineered from the day after the referendum."

Conservative MP and Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg says he fears MPs and Ministers seeking an extension of Article 50 are in fact plotting to stop Brexit, after PM May caved in to their demands for a vote on blocking no-deal. The Chairman of the European Research Group warned colleagues that any attempt to delay Brexit in order to block it entirely would “undermine democracy”, saying, “If it’s being delayed – as is my suspicion – as a plot to stop Brexit altogether, then I think that would be the most grievous error that politicians can commit. It would be overthrowing a referendum result, two general elections – one to call the referendum, one to implement the referendum – and would undermine our democracy.”

Last week, Conservative MPs Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry, and Sarah Wollaston defected to the new Independent Group. In an attempt to prevent more resignations from her Cabinet, Prime Minister Theresa May announced over the weekend that two further votes would be held within 48 hours should she be unable to ratify the withdrawal agreement by March 12, meaning the final vote on her plan has been delayed until just 17 days before the country is scheduled to leave the EU. The first vote will be on whether MPs wish to depart the EU without a deal, and should that be rejected, the second will ask them vote on a “short, limited” extension of Article 50. If PM May fails to get her deal through Westminster, then Britain will leave the bloc on March 29 in a no-deal scenario. A formal request to the European Union (EU) would request a short-term extension of Article 50, while reports from Brussels suggest the EU could demand the United Kingdom (UK) remain in the bloc until 2021.

Three Cabinet Ministers – Amber Rudd, David Gauke, and Greg Clark – signalled over the weekend that they would support a backbench effort this week to delay withdrawal to prevent a no-deal. Between 15 and 25 ministers and parliamentary private secretaries are reportedly prepared to resign in their opposition to the prospect of a no deal exit from the EU. 23 of these met on Monday evening and 18 of them made clear they were ready to rejoin the backbenchers. Their departures would not only gut the Conservative government but also further undermine the Prime Minister’s ability to get any Brexit-related legislation passed.

While the Conservatives continue their infighting, the new Brexit Party has signed up 100,000 members within a week of launching, and this number is only slightly lower than the number of people who are members of the Conservative Party. Some believe the Brexit Party could attract Conservatives who favour a hard Brexit and are disillusioned with PM May’s handling of the EU withdrawal. Founded by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the party was officially registered with the Electoral Commission on February 8. Mr. Farage has stated he will run for leadership of the Brexit Party should PM May delay Brexit by extending Article 50 and in the event of a delay support for the new party will go "through the roof", claiming, "We're the sword of Damocles hanging over the PM's head."

Additionally, Labour under leader Jeremy Corbyn announced it is prepared to back another EU referendum to prevent a "damaging Tory Brexit". Mr. Corbyn has told Labour MPs the party will move to back another vote if their own proposed Brexit deal is rejected on Wednesday. Labour's Emily Thornberry said if the parliamentary process ended with a choice of no deal or the PM's deal, the public should decide.

Mr. Corbyn said PM May is "recklessly running down the clock" in an attempt to "force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous no deal". Labour, who want the UK to remain part of the EU, have not yet made clear what their proposed referendum would be on, but a party briefing paper to MPs says that any referendum would need to have "a credible Leave option and Remain". Mr. Corbyn also said Labour would put down an amendment this week setting out its plan for a "comprehensive customs union" and "close alignment" with the single market.

Eurosceptic parties poised for big electoral gains in May's EU Parliament election

A new European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) report entitled ‘The 2019 European Election: How Anti-Europeans Plan to Wreck Europe and What Can Be Done to Stop It’ is clearly written in the belief that projected gains of Eurosceptic political parties in the European Parliament elections this coming May are credible. The report claims Eurosceptic parties could paralyse Brussels’ agenda when they win a third of seats in the European Parliament elections, at 33 percent of the 751 seats, and could form alliances to destroy the political and economic union from within. The report said long-term influence of such paralysis “would defuse pro-Europeans’ argument that the project is imperfect but capable of reform. At this point, the EU would be living on borrowed time.”

The European Council, which decides the policies and direction of the European Union and is invested in a globalized political agenda, instills fear by positing that anti-EU, or pro-nationalist, political parties might abolish sanctions on Russia to blocking the EU’s foreign trade agenda and prevent further migration. The report’s authors claim “this would put at risk Europe’s capacity to defend its citizens from external threats at exactly the time when, given global turmoil, it needs to show more resolve, cooperation, and global leadership” which is ironic considering the wave of illegal migration has resulted in increased crime and security threats across the continent.

The report marks the start of ECFR’s campaign to strengthen the EU and offers a strategy to prevent the advance of the Eurosceptics by driving a wedge between anti-European parties, “exposing the real-world costs of their key policy ideas, and identifying new issues that could inspire voters: from the rule of law and the environment to prosperity and Europe’s foreign policy goals.” The ECFR also fears the parties could prevent the appointment of the new European Commission president after Jean-Claude Juncker steps down after the elections or stop the EU Budget being approved.

The European Parliament has accrued increasing influence over EU law over the past decades. Most EU law now requires the assent of MEPs to pass and the parliament has, for example, an effective veto on all free trade agreements. MEPs organise themselves into pan-EU groups of similar political leaning to qualify for EU funding and speaking time. The two largest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialists and Democrats are both resolutely pro-EU, which means that most Brussels legislation is passed.

However, if the Eurosceptic surge materialises and parties organise they could, for example, veto free trade deals, including a future post Brexit agreement with Britain, or call for the end of sanctions against Russia. Parties on the far left and right could also align themselves tactically to foment divisions in the bloc. A recent attempt by pro-EU MEPs to ensure that pan-EU groups had “political affinity” was defeated but the bid to prevent Eurosceptic alliances across right and left showed the Brussels establishment’s anxiety about the elections. 

The report predicts conservative nationalist parties will earn 132 seats in total (19 percent), traditional "conservative eurosceptics" 65 seats (9 percent) and other anti-establishment parties, including the hard left 53 seats (8 percent).  Italy's coalition government are expected to see The League with 29 MEPs elected, 23 more than in the 2014 elections, while Five Star are predicted to get 24 seats, 10 more than in 2014.  France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front) and Germany’s Alternative for Germany are also expected to gain in the vote, which has been characterised by the likes of Hungary’s Viktor Orban and France’s Emmanuel Macron as a battle for the EU’s soul. On the Left, Spain’s Podemos, Greece’s Syriza and France Insoumise will also win more seats, with possible ramifications for the bloc’s free trade agreements, the report said.

A huge success in the European Parliament elections could be used as a springboard for nationalist parties to success in 2019 national elections in Denmark, Estonia and Slovakia, which the report treats as a warning. "This shows that the EU needs to wake up and realise that more Europe is not the answer," said Daniel Dalton, a Conservative MEP from Britain.

 

Read: The Anti-Democratic European Union: Part 1 and Part 2

Playing the Long Game

Eurosceptic nationalist parties across Europe are targeting May’s European Parliament election as their chance to wrest control of the EU away from the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Many have postponed plans to hold their own Brexit-style referendums in favour of reforming or dismantling the EU from within.

This week, the Sweden Democrats abandoned their pledge to renegotiate Sweden's place in the EU and hold a 'Swexit' referendum, saying they will now instead “watch and wait” for the impact of Brexit. “To fight against the supranationality of today one needs to be pragmatic,” wrote party leader Jimmie Åkesson in a newspaper article. “While we watch and wait for the outcome of Brexit, the first step [to bring power back to Sweden] is to operate from inside the EU’s high citadel in Brussels.” Sweden Democrat MEP Peter Lundgren attempted to sell the u-turn as the result of propitious circumstances in Brussels. "For the first time, there's a real possibility of reforming the EU from the inside,” he said. "That is what we are going to work for over the coming mandate period and also campaign on in the next election."

Earlier this month, the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) backed away from plans to put a call for German 'Dexit' withdrawal at the centre of its manifesto for this May’s European Elections. “We don’t need to abolish the EU, but to bring it back to its sensible core,” the party’s leader, Alexander Gauland, said.

Sampo Terho, co-founder of Finland’s Blue Reform party called for a ‘Fixit’ referendum in 2017, when he was a member of The Finns. Now Minister of European Affairs, he argues that Finland should instead “fight for a better EU, not to get out of the EU.”

This week, efforts by pro-EU parties failed in their attempt to get the power to dissolve pan-EU political alliances, which bring cash and speaking time. The pro-EU parties wanted to stop groups without “political affinity”, such as Ukip and Italy’s left wing Five Star Alliance from joining forces which would secure them EU money after this year’s election. The Five Star Alliance had vowed to call a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro, but stepped back from that when entering into coalition with Mr. Salvini’s La Lega. Mr. Salvini has regularly attacked the EU for its migration policy, while Five Star rails against its strict fiscal rules. Both parties hope to be successful in the European elections to hand Rome leverage in its battles with Brussels.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Rally, ruled out plans for a ‘Frexit’ referendum in 2017 after losing in the second round of the presidential election and wants to radically reform the EU from within.

Read the Full Report

Historic defeat for PM May's Brexit deal - what comes next?

If Theresa May resigns

The Conservative party will hold a leadership election to replace Theresa May. This process would takes 6 to 8 weeks, or, as last time when PM May was chosen, the new prime minister could be appointed by acclamation if all the other candidates all backed out, which could take a week or 10 days.

If she does not resign

Presuming she survives Corbyn's no-confidence motion, the Prime Minister could soften her deal to win over the significant number of Labour MPs who favour something more along the lines of Norway plus. However, this scenario raises various questions:

  • Would Jeremy Corbyn, who has thus far avoided pinning his colours to any particular policy, be willing to get behind a softer Brexit and risk angering both Labour Leave voters and the party's grassroots, who are calling for a second referendum?

  • Would PM May be able to secure a special permanent customs union arrangement tailored to the needs of Great Britain, as proposed by Mr. Corbyn; EU officials have signalled the EU would be willing to talk on this.

  • Brexiteers fear that for regulatory alignment reasons, the price for staying in the customs union will also be staying signed up to freedom of movement, so Britain would not gain control of its immigration policy.

  • The DUP might walk out of the Government over the Northern Ireland backstop, causing the latter's collapse .

Brexit as a No-Deal exit

There is currently no majority for no-deal in Parliament, however the Prime Minister could opt for the 'nuclear option' - attaching a vote of confidence in the Government to the no-deal vote. In other words, voting down no-deal would automatically lead to the collapse of the Government. After all, how many are genuinely willing to bring down their own administration, risk losing their seats in a chaotic general election, or expose themselves to possible deselection for stopping Brexit, in order to prevent a no-deal?

With support from Tory Brexiteers, more ambivalent Tories, Leave-backing Labour MPs like Kate Hoey, as well as the 10 DUP MPs (who have in the past asserted that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and a no deal is “probably inevitable"), no-deal could scrape together just enough support to get across the line.

A typical strategy of the Prime Minsiter is to run down the clock. Her Plan B may thus be to allow Parliament to debate and vote on all the options on the table in turn, in a series of so-called ‘indicative’ votes - namely EEA membership, no deal, a Second Referendum, and her own deal (perhaps whilst seeking to renegotiate aspects of it with the EU).

Labour’s No Confidence Motion

Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion in the Government within minutes of the parliamentary vote results. The vote could cause PM May to resign, which could cause the Tories to go into further meltdown. The downside for Mr. Corbyn is that Labour seems unlikely to win a no-confidence motion, as the DUP has given no indication that it would ever vote in a way that would help a Corbyn government to power. Once a confidence vote is out of the way, the Labour grassroots would call for Mr. Corbyn to get behind a second referendum, anticipating a Remain result.

If Labour does win a no-confidence motion, then the race for the Conservatives to try and form another Government that commands the confidence of the House begins. If a motion of confidence stating "That this House has confidence in Her Majesty's Government", is not passed within 14 days then a general election must be called.

No Brexit by revoking Article 50

Remainers who would like to stop Brexit without having to bother with the messy, democratic business of a Second Referendum prefer this option. Moderate MPs might vote to revoke Article 50 as a means of stopping the clock to allow renegotiation of the deal, or more time to prepare for a No Deal. The problem is that the EU may be able to veto the revocation if they suspect "abusive practice" – and using the tool to stop the clock, or buy the government more time might be deemed as such. If the latter is the case, then it's hard to see how hardline Remainers could win over more moderate MPs nervous about being seen as stealing Brexit from the people.


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Former head of MI6 says the Brexit deal threatens national security

Sir Richard Dearlove and the United Kingdom’s (UK) former Chief of Defence and head of MI6 Lord Guthrie together took the unprecedented step of writing to Conservative Association chairmen, describing Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal as a “bad agreement” and accused the European Union (EU) of demanding a £39billion “ransom”. Lord Guthrie called on Members of Parliament (MPs) to block the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, warning it “threatens national security”.

 

Their letter states: “Your MP will shortly be called upon to support the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement. As a former chief of the secret intelligence service, with my colleague Lord Guthrie, who served as chief of the defence staff shortly before I was in charge of MI6, we are taking the unprecedented step of writing to all Conservative Party Chairmen to advise and to warn you that this withdrawal agreement, if not defeated, will threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways. Please ensure that your MP does not vote for this bad agreement.

 

Citing a letter Sir Richard and Falklands War veteran Major General Julian Thompson wrote to PM May on November 29, the former defence chiefs claim the withdrawal agreement “threatens to change our national security policy by binding us into new sets of EU-controlled relationships”. They add: “Buried in the agreement is the offer of a 'new, deep and special relationship' with the EU in defence, security and intelligence which cuts across the three fundamentals of our national security policy: membership of NATO, our close bilateral defence and intelligence relationship with the USA, and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. “The first duty of the state, above trade, is the security of its citizens. The Withdrawal Agreement abrogates this fundamental contract and would place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands. Please ensure that your MP votes against this bad agreement and supports a sovereign Brexit on WTO rules, without payment of ransom.

 

In their joint letter of November 29, Sir Richard and Major General Thompson argued that PM May’s deal was the “exact opposite of the people's instruction to take back control”, claiming it surrenders British national security by subordinating UK defence forces to military EU control and compromising UK intelligence capabilities. Arguing it places the vital Five Eye Alliance “at risk”, the letter, which was published in a national newspaper, dubbed the European Commission an “undemocratic organisation” that had “demonstrated how untrustworthy and hostile towards the UK” it is by “using the Irish border as a weapon”.

 

Urging PM May to leave the EU on WTO terms, it warned the British public to “ignore the hysterical demonisation of this course of action by the current Project Fear”, insisting “no risks are greater than the withdrawal agreement's terms of surrender”. Number 10 issued a swift rebuttal of the letter, insisting there would be “no subordination” and that “every sector, nation and region would be better off with this deal than in a no-deal scenario”. It denied the £39billion was a ransom, saying it was a “fair settlement of our obligations as a departing member of the EU”.

 

In the latest letter to Conservative chairman, Sir Richard insisted he and Major General Thompson had repudiated Number 10’s “worryingly poor understanding of the issues”, adding: “Number 10's immediate response to our letter showed we had touched a raw nerve."


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Why Britain should not fear a WTO Brexit, according to Lord Lilley

In a report sent to Members of Parliament (MP) on Monday, Brexiteer and former Conservative MP Lord Peter Lilley offered a list of thirty reasons why the United Kingdom should embrace a “no deal”. He is in favour of leaving the European Union (EU) on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

  1. It will allow the UK to cash in, not crash out - the UK will not have to pay the £39billion divorce bill

  2. It avoids the corrosive uncertainty which the transition period would bring

  3. The UK will be able to use administrative measures to solve Irish border issue, without the need for a backstop

  4. After resolving the Irish border issue, the UK as a whole will be able to enter a Canada +++ style free trade deal, such as the one suggested by Donald Tusk

  5. WTO is a safe haven, not a hard option. Six of the EU’s top 10 trading partners trade under WTO rules

  6. UK exports to countries trading on WTO terms have grown 3x faster than to the Single Market

  7. EU tariffs on exports from the UK would amount to less than half the UK’s current net contribution to the EU budget

  8. The UK is already a WTO member so would not need to rejoin it

  9. We can start to trade on the new tariff schedules as soon as we leave, without waiting for agreement from other WTO members

  10. The UK is making good progress in replicating the EU’s most important preferential trade arrangements. Switzerland has already agreed to carry over existing preferences

  11. The UK could take up Japan’s invitation to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership

  12. Bilateral trade deals do not have to take a long time to renegotiate. The average renegotiation time is 28 months

  13. “Micro” trade agreements will not be a big issue

  14. Scares about delays to imports are ‘ludicrous’, because Britain will control its borders

  15. There will be no medicine shortages

  16. There will be no food shortages

  17. Manufacturing supply chains and other goods deliveries will not be significantly affected

  18. The UK will not run out of clean water

  19. HMRC’s computer systems will be able to handle extra customs declarations, even if its new system is not fully online

  20. France is determined to prevent delays at Calais for fear of losing trade to Belgian and Dutch port

  21. A new traffic routing system will prevent serious delays to incoming lorrie

  22. Planes will continue to fly to and from the EU

  23. Planes will continue to fly to the US and elsewhere

  24. Aircraft manufacturers will still be able to export parts, such as Airbus wings, despite claims to the contrary

  25. British haulage companies will still be able to operate between the UK and the EU

  26. Trade in animals, plants and food will continue after Brexit

  27. UK citizens will not face high mobile phone roaming charges when travelling to the EU

  28. UK car manufacturers have obtained approvals to sell their models to the EU

  29. New VAT rules will not affect the cash flow of importers

  30. British opera singers, musicians and other performers will still be able to tour the EU


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