Trump improved in polls, a bit

Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been better for most of the last two months (February, March) than they have been over the last twelve months, but they are still negative:

It’s difficult to know why there has been an improvement this year – it will be a combination of factors. Getting tough on trade may be having an effect, and recent recovery may have been influenced by Trump joining the international condemnation of Russia. There is no obvious sign of the Stormy Daniels affair affecting support.

RCP Poll Average trends:

Interestingly the latest poll result is from Rasmussen which has Trump on -8% overall approval (45-53). In late February they had his approval slightly ahead of disapproval (50-48) but his approval has slipped gradually since then.

Despite the improvement Trump is still well below the approval of Obama and GW Bush at the same time into their eight year terms, as shown by FiveThirtyEight:
It’s difficult to predict how things will go from here.

The tax cuts will have pleased many. Time will tell how they work out – Trump has just agreed to a huge spending bill and the US is significantly increasing deficits and debt levels, and that will impact over time.

Much may depend on Trump’s trade ‘wars’ and the economy – the US sharemarket had improved significantly right through last year but ironically dropped steeply at about the same time Trump’s approval ratings improved at the start of February.

Jobs were a big deal in the 2016 election campaign. Success or failure there can only be judged over time.

Trump seems to have had some success in his confrontation with North Korea, and has agreed to meet with Kim Yong Un, but that has not been organised yet – the north Korean leader has just visited China and has said he will denuclearize.

The Middle East could go any way – if Trump can move the region towards peace he will win a lot of credit, but Syria and Afghanistan are still looking very dicey.

Trump’s White House administration has always struggled to get staff and has turned over a lot of high level staff – this could reflect the rush to fill positions when unexpectedly winning the presidency, with a gradual sorting out of who fits his leadership style and policy preferences – or it could be rats jumping ship. Trump’s manner or firing and humiliating people who fall out of favour may discourage potential replacements.

And the Russian election interference issue is still simmering away without a clear idea whether that will damage Trump or his family, but he must have concerns given his attacks on the inquiry and the FBI. This could all fizzle out at the Trump level, or it could blow up big time. The jury is still out on that, with a lot of the investigation details still under wraps.

Idiocracy, celebritoxicity, president

Actors have become successful politicians in the Unites States before – for example Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – but Donald Trump has taken US democracy to a new level, where reality TV has become a continuous real life drama being acted out in the White House.

And now either Oprah Winfrey or some of the media seem to have launched a presidential campaign based on another commercial television success taking advantage of a public obsession with ‘celebrities’.

‘The media’ has been complicit in Trump’s rise to the presidency, and collectively seem unable to see where they are taking democracy. It could be a death spiral.

Idiocracy is a 2006 movie, described in Wikipedia:

The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military human hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant, and which is devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.

Aspects of advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism that were depicted are already recognisable in today’s society.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, writer Etan Cohen and others expressed opinions that the film’s predictions were converging on accuracy, which, during the general election, director Mike Judge also said.

Judge also compared Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the movie’s dim-witted wrestler-turned-president, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

When asked about predicting the future, he remarked, “I’m no prophet, I was off by 490 years.”

Trump has been called an idiot, promotes policies favouring corporations, and has just described himself as a genius. However this is confused by a 2013 tweet:

Trump also claims to be a super successful star of reality TV.

Vice: How Reality TV Made Donald Trump President

Ever since Donald Trump first appeared in the 1970s, he has seemed tacky, an archetypal Ugly American in an ill-fitting suit. He was wealthy, sure, but in that Las Vegas used-car-salesman way. Queens, not Manhattan. For years, he was a footnote skulking around the edges of American culture, showing up in episodes of Sex and the City and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

He was such a cartoonish presence that when writers made jokes about someone absurd becoming president, they thought of him.

The Simpsons famously joked about a Trump presidency in 2000.

“As you know we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump”.

In Back to the Future II , Biff turns Hill Valley into a hellish version of Las Vegas, a dystopia the movie’s screenwriter recently admitted was based on what life would be like under Trump. That movie came out in 1989.

Now, Donald Trump has been elected president.

There are many reasons why Trump was elected, but none of it could have happened without the rise of reality television. The link between Trump the candidate and Trump the Apprentice star has been remarked uponbefore, but it it seems more urgent than ever now that it turns out that his unorthodox campaign actually worked. Reality television not only legitimized Trump, his campaign exploited reality TV formulas and used them to his advantage.

Time: Donald Trump Is the First True Reality TV President

It’s official. We have our first reality TV president.

The news that President-elect Donald Trump is going to remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice while also running the national government from the Oval Office in the White House (first reported by Variety) should not have surprised anyone.

And yet, somehow, it still does. It’s a jarring reminder that we have entered a brand, new era of presidential politics, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

A month into the Trump era, we know enough now to see what the first year of his presidency will look like. It will be chaotic and defiant—but opportunistic and focused on a small number of exceedingly large fights that make great political theater and play well to big, populist crowds.

It will look and feel a lot like a political reality TV show played out on a grand stage, with producers scripting the biggest fights behind the scenes while leaving plenty of room for unrehearsed, populist public drama. Trump is the first truly made-for-television president. Every day will literally be a new episode shot in real-time, in front of a public and a world that simply can’t get enough of the spectacle.

Now nearly a year on the Trump residency looks to be all of that and more.

Much of the media are complicit in helping him get there and in the ongoing running of his ‘reality’ show from the White House (when he is not holidaying at one of his resorts).

But wait, there could be more celebrity politics.

This week the media has picked up on a speech made by Oprah Winfrey and has virtually launched a presidential campaign for her. See Oprah Winfrey’s “a new day is on the horizon!” speech and a lot of stuff in US media over that last few days.

In a bizarre twist, Ivanka Trump (who is also claimed to have eyes on a presidential bid in 2020) tweeted:

Perhaps Ivanka sees the political future as the celebrity president’s daughter pitted against the “Queen of All Media”.

But LA Times asks: Oprah for president? Have we learned nothing?

We don’t know whether the idea of Oprah Winfrey for president, inspired by Winfrey’s eloquent speech Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards, will prove an ephemeral excitation or a movement with staying power. But we find it depressing.

We mean no disrespect to Winfrey, who strikes us as much better informed and more intellectually curious and presumably less reckless or dishonest than the incumbent president. But it’s bizarre that Americans who are appalled by Trump’s oafish and ignorant conduct of the nation’s highest office would gravitate to another television star untested in politics.

That’s what many of them did Sunday evening. Twitter throbbed with speculation that Winfrey’s speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award was the beginning of a presidential run.

It wasn’t just Twitter. there was a lot of breathless coverage in mainstream media too.

This may just be a passing, Golden-Globes-inspired moment of Twitter hype. But it is also a reminder that when the last out-of-the-blue celebrity candidate entered a presidential race, the media shrugged him off as a joke.

As we know, the joke continues, but not everyone is laughing. The joke is on American democracy.

… as the first year of the Trump presidency demonstrated, there are colossal risks in electing a political neophyte to the most demanding public office in the world. Just because the Republicans were foolish enough to travel down this dangerous road — in the process sacrificing many of their party’s best qualities and most valuable principles in a desperate, craven hunt for votes — doesn’t mean the Democrats should follow suit.

Winfrey might possess a more stable temperament than Trump — who doesn’t? — and her political positions would undoubtedly be more in line with those of liberals, Democrats and The Times editorial page, but she would face the same steep learning curve in dealing with foreign and domestic issues.

What is there to suggest that she is any better prepared than Trump was to work productively with Congress or tackle international trade negotiations, the North Korean nuclear threat or the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

What is there to suggest that US voters care about whether someone is prepared to be president or not? Or at least sufficient voters to elect a celebrity president.

It’s a measure of the trauma inflicted on the country by Trump’s election that some people honestly believe that the way to unseat a celebrity president is to nominate another celebrity.

Back in September, John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post: “If you need to set a thief to catch a thief, you need a star — a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine — to catch a star.”

Podhoretz called Winfrey the mirror image of Trump — “America’s generous aunt” to “America’s crazy uncle.”

Regardless of those descriptions, neither have backgrounds that should give anyone any confidence they could handle one of the toughest and most powerful jobs in the world.

But the United States doesn’t need another TV star running the country — even a talented and accomplished star such as Oprah Winfrey.

What it needs is someone who has prepared for the job, who has made tough decisions, who is familiar with the issues, who has a history of public service. Not all senators or governors make good presidents, to be sure, but they’re a better bet, by and large, than the typical movie star or businessman.

Trying to sell common sense and actual relevant experience to the media or the voters could be a tough task. Not all media and not all voters have become obsessed with ‘celebrity’, but enough have to make a difference.

The road to Idiocracy may be paved with Celebritoxicity.

Celebritoxicity – the degree to which an obsession with celebrities can harm humans.

 

Mugabe has resigned

What we know:

Mugabe is out: After 37 years in power Robert Mugabe has resigned. Read our full report.

Zimbabwe celebrates: People are out on the streets of Harare waving flags, holding signs, dancing, singing and celebrating the end of an era.

How it happened: The announcement came as Parliament began proceedings to impeach Mugabe, six days after the military seized control in the capital city. The Speaker of the house read a resignation letter from Mugabe prompting applause and cheers from lawmakers.

What we don’t know: The whereabouts of Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace are unclear.

 

US nuclear general discusses illegal order to strike

This seems to be hypothetical musing but it is seen as significant that a US General involved in nuclear strike decisions openly discussed what he would do if given an illegal order to launch nukes.

Reuters: U.S. nuclear general says would resist ‘illegal’ Trump strike order

The top U.S. nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

As head of STRATCOM “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I‘m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

His job requires him to resist any president who might give illegal orders. This is one of the checks and balances on presidential power.

But why is the General being asked about this now?

They came after questions by U.S. senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the U.S. president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

Trump’s unpredictability and impetuousness seems to be raising concerns, as they should.

The world has raised concerns about the nuclear risk. As long as we can be assured a nuclear strike can’t be ordered via Twitter it may not be as bad as it seems.

Trump and GOP struggling

With a GOP majority in both the House and the Senate it was expected that President Donald Trump should be able to achieve a lot, but after 6 months in power both the White House and the Republicans are struggling for traction.

Politico: Senate Republicans still at impasse after late-night health care meeting

GOP senators engaged in talks late Wednesday night to try to revive their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare after Trump told senators they shouldn’t leave town without action.

NY Times: Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

That is sure to raise a few eyebrows, if they haven’t disappeared over the back of heads already.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Honeymoon With China Comes to an End

  • Economic talks end with no joint statement from two countries
  • Ross says trade imbalance not driven by market forces

Three months ago, President Donald Trump had warm words for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after the two leaders bonded at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Within weeks, the Trump administration was touting early wins in talks with China, including more access for U.S. beef and financial services as well as help in trying to rein in North Korea.

Now, the two sides can barely agree how to describe their disagreements.

High-level economic talks in Washington broke up Wednesday with the two superpowers unable to produce a joint statement. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross scolded China over its trade imbalance with the U.S. in his opening remarks, and then both sides canceled a planned closing news conference.

It is not just the pressure on Trump to achieve results that’s growing, the pressure is also growing on him and his family.

Bloomberg: Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

  • Special counsel examines dealings of Kushner, Manafort, Trump
  • Trump lawyer says this goes beyond Mueller’s mandate

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Reuters: Trump’s son, close associates to appear before Senate

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday that it had called Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Manafort to testify on July 26 at a hearing.

The president’s son released emails earlier this month that showed him eagerly agreeing to meet last year with a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The meeting was also attended by Manafort and Kushner, who is now a senior adviser at the White House.

Kushner is scheduled to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, July 24, behind closed doors.

Trump, who came into office in January, has been dogged by allegations that his campaign officials were connected to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in last year’s election. Trump has denied any collusion.

The current list of news links at Real Clear Politics paint a fairly grim picture, as does their rolling average of disapproval for Trump, dipping again recently to 39.7% approve, 55.5% disapprove.

And it’s not just Trump’s White House  that’s struggling.

RCP: GOP Divide Threatens 2018 Budget — and Tax Overhaul

The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year Wednesday evening with unanimous GOP support, but intra-party divisions threaten to derail the measure in the full House, jeopardizing plans to pass an overhaul of the tax code, a key legislative priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans.

It’s a familiar position for the party: Hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that the conference isn’t pushing further to curb spending; moderates are wary that they’re pushing too far; and those supportive of the budget are concerned that detractors are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Signs of a lack of strong or credible leadership, and also a lack of unity.

Johnny Depp’s assassination comments

In a time of growing concerns about talk of violence and actual violence against politicians in the US Johnny Depp has added fuel to a fomenting fire with outlandish comments about president assassination.

Fox News:  Johnny Depp talks about assassinating Trump

At an appearance in England on Thursday, actor Johnny Depp joked about assassinating President Trump.

“I think he needs help and there are a lot of wonderful dark, dark places he could go,” Depp said.

Depp, noting his comments would “be in the press,” began discussing prior assassinations of presidents.

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” he asked, referencing John Wilkes Booth assassinating President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

“I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living,” Depp said. “However, it has been a while and maybe it is time.”

Depp’s comments come a week after the politically-motivated shooting of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.

Very unwise and irresponsible comments from Depp.

A White House official told Fox News, “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms and its sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead. I hope that some of Mr. Depp’s colleagues will speak out against this type of rhetoric as strongly as they would if his comments were directed to a democrat elected official.”

Fair call – comments like those Depp made should be condemned regardless of the politics involved.

People: Johnny Depp Apologizes for Joking About Trump Assassination: ‘I Intended No Malice’

“I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump,” he said. “It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone.”

This is a very poor apology.

“Intended no malice” is a poor excuse for making a comment that is inflammatory and provocative. “I was only trying to amuse” is a lame excuse – actually it isn’t an excuse at all.

“It did not come out as intended” doesn’t stack up – he talked about assassination and presidents, so it’s hard to see what he intended that was different.

What Depp should have done was give an unqualified apology, and he should also have  condemned all political violence and talk that could be seen by anyone as promotion of political violence.

Trump “did not make…any such recordings”

On May 13 Donald Trump appeared to threaten James Comey by implying their conversations had been recorded:

This prompted a lot of discussion. Trump eventually said he would reveal whether there were any recordings.

Yesterday: Schiff: Subpoenas possible if Trump tapes, Comey memos aren’t turned over

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that subpoenas could be the next step if the White House doesn’t comply with a Friday deadline to hand over information on any tapes of President Donald Trump’s meetings with former FBI Director James Comey.

Half an hour ago:

A bizarre response, six weeks after implying/threatening there were tapes.

Why did Trump make the claim in the first place? It looks like he was threatening Comey.

Why did he take so long to now claim he didn’t make any recordings?

He could have easily clarified as soon as his initial tweet raised questions, but chose to delay a denial that contradicted his initial tweet.

He seems to have deliberately fed a sideshow of his own making.  Whether he is playing trivial or serious games it is unbecoming of a President.

Why should anyone believe the initial tweet, today’s tweet, or any tweet from Trump?

Whether he is bullshitting or bluffing or whatever Trump’s tweets should be seen as flaky as he is.

French presidential election

It looks very likely that no candidate will get a clear majority in the first presidential election in France, meaning that a second election will be held next month. But it is uncertain which two candidates will make the run-off, with a poll predicted 25% of voters undecided.

Guardian: French election: vote heading for nailbiting climax – live

Final polls show four leading presidential candidates so close that any two could go through to runoff in two weeks’ time

It’s not exactly nail biting if the result won’t be known until after a second vote in two weeks.

There are 11 candidates but four seem to have a chance of getting through:

Emmanuel Macron

Party: En Marche! (On the Move!). Centrist: liberal economically, left socially
In brief: Fresh, internationally-minded, upbeat

Marine Le Pen

Party: Front National. Far-right.
In brief: Imperious, combative, theatrical, ruthlessly determined; France first.

François Fillon

Party: Les Républicains. Centre-right, conservative.
In brief: Family, faith and the free market; now also alleged abuser of public funds

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Party: La France Insoumise (France Unbowed). Radical left
In brief: Power to the people, sharp tongue, fiery oratory, great showman

Only one candidate to the left of centre.

France’s 2017 presidential election has been one of the tightest and least predictable in generations. After the final set of opinion polls on Friday, of four candidates leading the first round any two could conceivably make it to the runoff.

FrenchPresidentialPoll2017

What’s more, up to 25% of voters were estimated to be undecided on the eve of the vote. No one, in short, should be under any illusions: anything could yet happen.

How does France’s system of vote estimates work?

The initial vote estimate in French elections – in use and steadily perfected since 1965 – is based on an actual vote count.

Pollsters select about 200 polling stations around the country, in rural areas, small towns and urban agglomerations, carefully chosen to be as representative as possible of the country as a whole.

When the polling stations close – all are among those that close early, at 7pm – and as the votes are being counted, a polling official records, for a sizeable sample of the ballots, the number of votes for each candidate.

Those numbers are then run through a sophisticated computer program that adjusts them for past results and assorted variables, and produces a national vote estimate. This is not the official result, but nor is it an opinion poll.

It is usually very accurate, to within a percentage point of so – but this being an exceptionally close race, a percentage point may be decisive. So either we will have a reliable result at 7pm, or we won’t.

That must be 7 pm UK time, it is currently 7:48 pm in France (5:48 am NZ) so we may have an idea of how it might be going soon.

That means beware of fake vote estimates on social media.

First vote estimate (these vary from different sources):

  • Macron 23.7%
  • Le Pen 21.7%
  • Fillon 19.5%
  • Mélenchon 19.5%
  • Hamon (Socialist) 6.5%

Some sources have Macron and Le Pen level.

The only thing virtually certain from that is that there will need to be a run off election.

It’s now being widely called as heading for a run-off election between Macron and Le Pen.

The French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve:

I solemnly call for a vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round in order to beat the Front National and obstruct the disastrous project of Marine Le Pen that would take France backwards and divide the French people.

I don’t know whether this will help or hinder Macron’s chances.

The centre-right candidate François Fillon has conceded defeat and is also urging support of Macron.

Despite all my efforts, my determination, I have not succeeded in convincing my fellow countrymen and women. The obstacles in my path were too numerous and too cruel. This defeat is mine, I accept the responsibility, it is mine and mine alone to bear.

We have to choose what is best for our country. Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence its intolérance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children.

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris explains what lies ahead politically in France, with the parliamentary elections crucial to how either Le pen or Macron would be able to govern.

Whoever wins the Macron-Le Pen race, the parliamentary elections that follow in June will be crucial. The majority in the lower house will determine how a new president could govern, and France is likely to require a new form of coalition politics.

If elected, Macron – who is fielding MP candidates from his fledgling movement, En Marche! (On the Move) – would have to seek a new kind of parliamentary majority across the centre left-right divide.

If Le Pen did win the presidency, she would very probably not win a parliament majority, thwarting her ability to govern. But her party hopes to increase its MPs in the 577-seat house. Currently Le Pen has only two MPs.

So similar to the US tiered system there is a lot involved in making progress for a president.

Interesting that they vote for president first, then decide what parliamentary support or opposition to give the incoming president.

An interesting graphic of predicted support shifts for the run-off.

Who gets first and who gets second is not very significant as both the leading candidates go to a run off, but the numbers seem to be changing.

UPDATE: Results with 106 of 107 departments counted:

  • Macron 23.75%
  • Le Pen 21.53%
  • Fillon 19.91%
  • Melenchon 19.64%
  • Hamon 6.35%
  • Dupont-Aignan 4.75%
  • Lassalle 1.22%
  • Poutou 1.1%
  • Asselineau 0.92%
  • Arthaud 0.65%
  • Cheminade 0.18%

https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2017/apr/23/french-presidential-election-results-2017-latest

UK & Europe

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


BBC: Turkey referendum: Final campaigning ahead of landmark vote

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to replace the parliamentary system with an executive presidency.

Approval could see him stay in office until 2029.

Supporters say a “yes” vote would streamline and modernise the country; opponents fear the move would lead to increasingly authoritarian rule.

The referendum could bring about the biggest change to the governing system since the modern republic was founded almost a century ago.

It also takes place under a state of emergency which was imposed following a failed coup last July. A government crackdown since then has seen tens of thousands of people arrested.

What’s in the new constitution?

  • The president would be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers
  • He would also be able to assign one or several vice-presidents
  • The job of prime minister, currently held by Binali Yildirim, would be scrapped
  • The president would have power to intervene in the judiciary, which Mr Erdogan has accused of being influenced by Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher he blames for the July 2016 coup against him
  • The president would decide whether or not impose a state of emergency
Grey line

Critics fear the change would put too much power in the president’s grasp, amounting to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems.

Sounds like Erdogan is seeking a mandate for a virtual dictatorship.

If he loses the vote is that going to stop him?

UK & Europe – French election

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


The first round of the French presidential election is due to be held next weekend, on 23 April. There are 11 candidates, and if no candidate wins a majority the top two candidates will have a run-off election on 7 May.

Current president François Hollande of the Socialist Party (PS) has had low approval ratings and won’t stand for re-election.

Front running candidates:

Fillon’s chances took a hit when it was alleged that he has used family members in fictitious jobs as parliamentary assistants in what became known as Penelopegate.

And now French prosecutors seek to lift Le Pen immunity over expenses inquiry

French prosecutors have asked the European parliament to lift the immunity of the far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen over an expenses scandal, deepening her legal woes on the eve of the election.

The move comes just nine days before France heads to the polls for a highly unpredictable vote, with Le Pen – who heads the Eurosceptic Front National (FN) – one of the frontrunners in the 23 April first round.

The request was made at the end of last month after Le Pen, who is a member of the European parliament, invoked her parliamentary immunity in refusing to attend questioning by investigating magistrates.

From the Guardian: French elections: all you need to know