Tuesday 16th of July 2024

election-mania olympics 2024.....

French President Emmanuel Macron is taking the bull by the horns. On Sunday evening, after being roundly defeated in the European elections, Macron announced a new election for the French parliament, the National Assembly.

Following the European elections, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), has also had to face up to the clear drubbing of his coalition government, known as the "traffic light coalition" because of the parties' colors, with the environmentalist Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP)

The SPD is calling it a "bitter defeat" after the party's worst outcome ever in a national election, with 13.9 %. There were also long faces among the Greens, who dropped to 11.9 %. The FDP came in at 5.2 %.

Surveys have long shown that about three-quarters of Germans are dissatisfied with the work of the federal government and the poll ratings of the coalition parties have long been in a slump.

But the European elections turned out even worse than expected. Even the far right AfD (Alternative for Germany) came out ahead of the governing parties with 15.9%.

The clear winners of the election are the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the allied Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), which together won 30% of the vote. Their strategy of turning the European elections into a test of approval for the coalition government paid off. "Another reason to vote for the CDU — the 'traffic light' coalition,” was the CDU's slogan in the final days before the European elections.

New elections like in France?

CDU leader Friedrich Merz and CSU leader Markus Söder are calling for new elections in Germany. After a CSU executive meeting in Munich, Söder said that the European elections were a "vote against the traffic light coalition" and a "clear vote of no confidence" in the Chancellor.

Söder said Scholz had lost his legitimacy and the confidence of the electorate. "Olaf Scholz is a king without a country," he said. If the traffic light government carries on like this, "people will be deeply frustrated."  

But the coalition government is not considering new elections — not even "for a second," government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said on Monday. In Germany, the next Bundestag election is expected to be held in the fall of 2025. "We will achieve what we set out to do," he said. 

That is probably also because of the fact that the German chancellor — unlike the French president — would probably be out of office if new elections were held. The French president is elected directly by the people and Macron is set to remain in office until 2027. The German chancellor is elected by a majority of MPs in the Bundestag.

 New elections pose risk for SPD, Greens and FDP

In the interests of political stability, it is not that easy in Germany to dissolve the Bundestag and call new elections. That would only be possible if the Chancellor cannot get a majority of MPs in parliament to back him. In this case, Scholz could apply to the Federal President to dissolve the Bundestag and call new elections.

But the SPD, Greens and FDP would have no interest. In addition to losing the chancellorship and their power to govern, many MPs would also likely be afraid of not being re-elected to the Bundestag.

This raises the question of whether the fear of losing power will be enough to overcome the rivalry and problems in the coalition. The relationship between the SPD, Greens and FDP has not been good for a long time.

Political disputes are a daily occurrence, and it is been repeatedly made clear that the political interests of two fundamentally left-wing parties and one economically liberal party are very far apart.

This is one reason for the Social Democrats' poor performance in the European elections, SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert said after the party's executive committee met in Berlin. He also stated that it should not be overlooked that this is also due to the conduct and perception of the ruling coalition.

In recent months, the coalition partners have repeatedly warned each other that their work must improve and become more constructive and goal-oriented. Little has come of it, and according to Kühnert, at any rate, there is a growing realization that the conflicts will not go away. "It's simply not realistic to assume that everything will run smoothly the next time around if everyone just pulls themselves together."

 Infighting over 2025 federal budget

An even bigger dispute is likely on the horizon. On July 3, the federal government plans to present its draft for the 2025 federal budget.

There is a multibillion-euro gap between what the state is projected to take in and what the parties want to spend. Federal Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner is keeping quiet about exactly how big the gap is, but estimates range from €25 billion to €50 billion.

Lindner would prefer to save money by cutting social spending in order to comply with the debt brake. Anchored in the German constitution, the rule stipulates that the state may only spend as much money as it earns. Many in the SPD and the Greens, on the other hand, would like to lift the debt brake and plug the holes in the budget with fresh loans.

Weakening the debt brake would require finding another political majority, Lindner warned before the European elections. Budgetary discipline is a political credo of his party, and it cannot afford to back down on this point politically. They would rather leave the coalition.

Scholz is determined to keep the alliance together. This is why he has shown his full agreement with Lindner on the debt brake. To the chagrin of the SPD, which could be heard grumbling about this even before the European elections. "What is not acceptable is simply cutting 30 or 40 billion from the federal budget," said SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil.

 Future of the coalition

Kühnert said it was obvious that the SPD would not support cuts that would jeopardize social integrity. Kühnert said he could not imagine "any scenario" in which the SPD would agree to such a budget.

"Pure social democracy, more SPD in the coalition" — these are the demands that are being sent from the party headquarters to the Chancellery. Will Scholz be able to deliver? So far, Scholz's approach has been to score points with levelheadedness and make a name for himself as a moderator. For the European elections, he presented himself as the chancellor of peace, but that obviously didn't work.

Scholz appears neither despondent nor pensive about the election defeat. On election night, he strolled through the election party at SPD headquarters as if nothing had happened, calmly taking selfies with his colleagues.

The crisis shows once again that Scholz is not the type to just throw in the towel. On the contrary: opposition and defeats have not been able to stop him. In his political career of more than three decades, this has been proven more than once. When he is knocked down, he just gets up and carries on undeterred.

But FDP leader Christian Lindner also shows little willingness to compromise. Although the FDP lost support in comparison with the 2021 Bundestag elections, it gained a little compared with the 2019 European elections. Linder interprets this as "a strong signal of stabilization that we also want to use politically."

The Greens may already have an inkling of what lies ahead for the coalition. Green co-leader Omid Nouripour has warned the coalition partners that they must remember to "put the country before partisan colors." This is especially true for the budget negotiations. As if he were almost pleading, he added that it makes no sense to "continue to fight this out in public."

This article was originally written in German.






results are in....

While much of the European election reaction has focussed on French President Emmanuel Macron's bombshell snap election announcement after the far-right National Rally won there, parties in other countries across the EU have been considering their gains and losses.

Although far-right and nationalist parties have made gains, the centre-right also performed well, holding its position as the largest grouping and managing to gain seats. 

Centre-right parties came out top in Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain, and made significant advances in Hungary.

Here are some key takeaways from our correspondents around Europe. 

Germany coalition suffers losses but no snap election

Damien McGuinness in Berlin

It has been a sorry sight for Germany's three-party coalition government, but unlike Emmanuel Macron, Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he will not call for an election.

The alliance between the Social Democrats, Greens and liberals was already tricky, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant breaking economic and energy ties with Russia and renouncing former pacifist feelings.

This alienated some core supporters, created party rifts, and overall rattled voters. A huge surge in migration has also put strain on the resources of local councils.

While the government has managed to boost military spending and pivot away from cheaper Russian energy, it means money is tight.

Step in the populist far-right and far-left, who promise a quick return to peace and prosperity: "Just negotiate with Putin, and buy Russian gas again," says the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

AfD came second with 15.9% and Scholz's social democratic SPD came third with 13.9%. Coming up top was the conservative CDU party with an impressive 30% of the vote.

"We want to end the war so just stop sending arms to Ukraine and stop migrants coming," says the new populist far-left party BSW led by ex-communist firebrand Sahra Wagenknecht.

Most German voters and politicians believe dealing with Moscow and migration is not that straightforward, and a majority in Germany support Ukraine.

But in times of insecurity and uncertainty, simple messages are seductive.

Italy's PM made the vote about her - and it paid off

Laura Gozzi in Rome

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has cemented her grip on Italian politics.

She used the European elections to boost her own popularity by putting her name at the top of her party's ballot, and it proved a successful gamble: with 29%, she has increased the vote gained by her party in the 2022 general election.

But there is another success story in Italy. The opposition centre-left Democratic Party (PD) performed better than hoped, with 24% of the vote - its highest result since 2014.

The result will boost the PD and lend credibility to its leader, Elly Schlein, who has seemingly managed to find her footing after just over a year at the helm of the country's biggest opposition party.

Smaller parties in the governing coalition will have some thinking to do. Forza Italia - the party founded by late media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi - won slightly more votes than the once-mighty and now floundering League party, headed by Matteo Salvini.

Even the League's founder, Umberto Bossi, declared he would vote for Forza Italia to signal his discontent at the direction the League has taken. Two centrist parties - one led by former PM Matteo Renzi - failed to hit the threshold required to send MEPs to the European Parliament.

But despite these internal going-ons, Italy has, rather unusually, emerged from the European elections as a pretty stable country - much more so, in any case, than some of its neighbours.

Dutch gains for Green-left and far-right

Anna Holligan in The Hague

Last November, anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV) leader - and long-time Marine Le Pen ally - Geert Wilders won a shock victory in the Netherlands’ national election.

The EU election predictions suggest the public sentiment hasn't changed much since then.

The headlines: Green-Left parties secured the most seats, while the Freedom Party made the greatest gains.

The nuances: Centre-right parties had a strong showing.

Dutch and EU political veteran Frans Timmermans said: “This shows that a majority in the Netherlands wants to strengthen Europe and certainly not destroy it.”

While Geert Wilders - who until recently promised a referendum on Nexit (i.e. Netherlands' exit from the EU) - posted five red love heart emojis on X. "Still the biggest winner with five more seats.”

Interestingly, the biggest celebrations I witnessed in the parliament bar last night were being held by two relative newcomers, at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Pro-EU Volt (from none to two MEPs) cheered and toasted beneath an archway of blue and yellow balloons. 

While outside the revolving doors, the unmistakable Farmer Citizen Movement leader Caroline van der Plas was taking in some fresh air alongside the party's new MEP Jessika van Leeuwen. 

Both were initially predicted to gain two MEPs, although the latest prediction suggests BBB will win just one.


Hungary sees a new opposition appear

Nick Thorpe in Budapest

In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party won both the European and municipal elections.

But the real victory of the night went to Peter Magyar, a 43-year-old lawyer whose centre-right Tisza party replaced the old opposition.

Fidesz got 44% and Tisza 30%. Tisza was created just three months ago. They will have 7 MEPs, to 11 for Fidesz, and will apply to join the European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament.

"We defeated the old and the new opposition," Viktor Orban consoled his supporters.

But in practice the political system he built, in which Fidesz acts as a "central force field" in which several other small, ineffective parties have to operate, is over.

Far-right party claims 'new era' in Austria

Bethany Bell in Vienna

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader, Herbert Kickl, has told a crowd of cheering supporters that his party's victory in the European elections marked “a new era in politics”.

And the next step, he said, is the chancellery.

Austria will hold parliamentary elections in the autumn. Neither of the past two leaders of FPÖ, Hans Christian Strache or Jörg Haider, were able to deliver first-place for their party. But now the party is feeling confident.

Writing in the centre left-leaning Der Standard newspaper, editor-in-chief Gerold Riedmann said the FPÖ had become a melting pot of people who have "concerns about migration; who don’t think Putin is all that bad; who felt humiliated by vaccination and coronavirus; who think climate protection is unnecessary; and who simply want to teach everyone a lesson".

With most of the votes counted, the FPÖ won 25.7% of the vote, just ahead of the conservative People’s Party at 24.7%. The Social Democrats got 23.3%, the Greens 10.9%, the liberal Neos 10.1%.



With fewer than 20 council seats left to declare in the Irish local elections, the two biggest government parties are far out in front of their rivals.

Fianna Fáil have 242 seats, ahead of Fine Gael on 241. Independent candidates are faring well - they have secured 182 council seats. 

The main opposition party, Sinn Féin, has won 100 seats so far, well below its own target of 200. The Labour Party has 56 seats and the Social Democrats 35.

Ireland has three EU constituencies which send 14 MEPs to Brussels, and Fine Gael's Seán Kelly is the first elected, topping the poll in Ireland South.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald admitted she was "disappointed" by her party's council election performance but confirmed she has no plans to step down as party leader.

In total there are 949 council seats to be filled across 31 local authorities.



France leftwing parties present united front for snap elections

French left-wing parties including the Socialist Party, the French Communist Party, the Greens (EELV) and France Unbowed presented a united front Monday evening, a day after President Emmanuel Macron called for snap legislative elections. Macron’s shock announcement Sunday came after a bruising loss to the far right in the European elections. Campaigns for the first round will begin on June 17. Read our blog to see how the day's events unfolded.









the big one....




NEW YORK — Wall Street executives spent three years doing everything they could to distance themselves from former President Donald Trump. Now they’re busy coming up with reasons to vote for the guy.

Many high-dollar donors at banks, hedge funds and other financial firms had turned their backs on Trump as he spun unfounded claims that the 2020 election had been stolen and savaged the judicial system with attacks. Today, they’re setting aside those concerns, looking past qualms about his personality and willingness to bulldoze institutional norms and focusing instead on issues closer to the heart: how he might ease regulations, cut their taxes or flex U.S. power on the global stage.

“I don’t know that anyone really believed he was a threat to democracy,” said Point Bridge Capital founder Hal Lambert, an investor and Republican donor. Lambert had backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 primary but is now supporting Trump.

Republican business titans from hedge fund executive Nelson Peltz to hotel mogul Robert Bigelow have come out in favor of the presumptive GOP nominee. Even those who loudly denounced Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election are backing his bid to return to the White House.Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman — who once labeled the U.S. Capitol insurrection that followed a Trump speech on Jan. 6, 2021, “an affront to the democratic values” of the country — is once again one of the former president’s most important allies on Wall Street. Top financiers like hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who called on the then-president to resign over the riot, and Citadel’s Ken Griffin, who dubbed Trump a “three-time loser” in elections, are considering offering their support. 

The new embrace of Trump threatens to further blunt the fundraising edge that President Joe Biden maintained through the opening innings of the 2024 campaign. But beyond that, it suggests that a key Biden argument — that Trump’s actions since his 2020 defeat have made him unfit to lead the country again — is falling flat with a pivotal constituency that has an especially large stake in the rule of law.

The former president “is a much better choice than what we have now. Just check out the four years that Trump was in office versus the three years that President Biden was in office,” said John Catsimatidis, the billionaire New York radio station owner and real estate investor. Gas and food prices were lower. It was easier to conduct business, he said, and it was a lot cheaper to secure financing for second homes.

“I remember I got a mortgage on one of my homes I bought in the suburbs for 2.75 percent,” said Catsimatidis, who is estimated by Forbes to be worth $4.3 billion. “It’s horrible what’s going on.”

Though he’s a longtime Trump ally, Catsimatidis is no longer an outlier among the Republican Party’s top donors. Trump will have a major opportunity to persuade even more corporate leaders to support him when he speaks to the nation’s top CEOs at the Business Roundtable’s quarterly meeting on June 13. Biden will be traveling to Italy for the G7 meetings, so White House chief of staff Jeff Zients will address the Roundtable in his stead.

“Donald Trump is a self-obsessed convicted felon who would do anything to regain power — and if he does, has made clear he intends to rule as a dictator on day one,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. “But for some billionaires none of that matters. They’ll prop up a convicted white-collar crook so long as Trump slashes their taxes.”

“But for some billionaires none of that matters. They’ll prop up a convicted white-collar crook so long as Trump slashes their taxes.”

 Ammar Moussa, Biden campaign spokesperson

Corporate America’s dismay at Trump’s behavior around Jan. 6 has faded — even after his recent criminal conviction for falsifying business records about payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels. What’s more, Wall Street firms and Silicon Valley venture capitalists have grown increasingly antagonistic toward Biden as appointees like Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler move to tighten rules around markets and mergers.