Tag Archives: Macron

How Absenteeism Could Undermine the French Presidential Elections

My dear friends and followers, I worry about the outcome of the vote tomorrow: France could well elect Marine Le Pen to the presidency and that would be a catastrophe for both France and Europe.

Such an unfortunate outcome would be the direct result of absenteeism, of a rising number of French people, turned off by the choice presented, and choosing not to exercise their right to vote. Thereby helping to bring to the Elysée the most dangerous and ill-adapted candidate in recent history: Marine Le Pen. The only person who would benefit from such an outcome is Russia’s Putin. 

The problem is absenteeism and I examined in an article published on Impakter the day after the TV debate between the two contenders (April 20) why it’s such a risk this time:

French Presidential Elections: Why Absenteeism is a Dangerous Choice

If absenteeism is high, Macron could lose to Marine Le Pen who would become the first Euroskeptic, anti-climate French President with a worrisome dependence on Putin and no government experience

The duel between President Macron and extreme-right Marine Le Pen does not mobilize the French electorate as had happened in a similar situation 20 years ago when President Chirac was challenged by Le Pen’s father. Last night, the one and only debate between the two candidates during the second round of elections took place, a two-and-a-half-hour marathon that was universally viewed as too long, and in fact drew a slightly smaller audience than the last one in 2017, some 15.6 million viewers. 

It was a better show back then as both candidates were fresh in the eyes of the public and there was interest to see them up close. This time, it wasn’t the case; Marine Le Pen did not collapse in confusion like the last time and remained serene, almost aloof, while Macron was more offensive, scoring points, highlighting her climate skepticism, her anti-Islamism (she would ban the hijab in public spaces), her anti-Europe stance (the only “sovereignty” that exists, she says, is France’s), her lack of government experience (she is vague about the role of government, what can and cannot be done, and simplistic in her approach to state debt management), and her dependence on Putin as a direct result of the $9 million loan her party took from a Russian bank close to Putin and still hasn’t finished paying back.

Will this duel on television change anything, move indecisive voters to go to the voting booths? Most observers think it is unlikely, by now most people have made up their minds. Macron supporters feel Macron won the duel, and Marine Le Pen supporters say the same about their candidate. Following the debate, a snap survey by Elabe for BFM TV found that 59% of polled viewers found Macron more convincing than Le Pen. In 2017, the same polling firm found that 63% of those surveyed found Macron more convincing.

So Macron is doing better than Le Pen as he has all along, with the latest polls of voting intentions showing that Macron is set to win with around 55.5% of the vote. Again, that is less than in 2017 when he beat Le Pen with 66.1% of the vote. His present margin, 5.5%, is not that comfortable if you consider that this is three times less than it was in 2017 marking a considerable drop in consensus for the President.

Under the circumstances, with such a small margin between Macron and Le pen, everyone agrees that the level of absenteeism could determine the outcome. Absenteeism can be very dangerous and prevent democracy from functioning correctly. In this case, it could lead to the victory of Marine Le Pen, putting France in the hands of a notorious Euro-skeptic and anti-climate, anti-Islam, anti-German and pro-Putin President. 

This is exactly what Europe and the world do not need while the war rages in Ukraine. Not a happy prospect.

Why absenteeism in the French presidential election is so dangerous

The danger of absenteeism on Sunday in France should not be underestimated. There are numerous historic examples of absenteeism leading to deeply undesirable results, not reflecting the will of the majority – on the contrary, disregarding the majority will and leading to a breakdown in the functioning of democracy. 

Read the rest on Impakter, where I compare the Brexit referendum with what could happen tomorrow if too many French people stay at home and don’t vote: Click here to read.

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The Logical Way to Reform Europe – Why it could Fail

Just published on Impakter:

French President Macron addressing the Sorbonne 26 September 2017 Source: Elysées

Everyone agrees that to reform Europe is a priority. And there’s only one logical way to do it, as proposed by French President Macron. His plan is simply brilliant. Exactly what Europe needs now. But there are many reasons why it will not be adopted – in spite of its brilliance and evident relevance.

It should come as no surprise that the author of this reform plan is French. France has always been the country of logic since Descartes’ days. The sad thing is that logic is not a winner these days with nationalist populism reviving everywhere – including in Germany and Italy and in most of Central and Eastern Europe. There are other reasons too militating against Macron’s plan: Germany’s fixation on austerity, Italy’s anti-establishment government. Italy, as I will show, is the unexpected linchpin – the country that could kill the dream of a United Europe.

First, let’s examine Macron’s plan, and then see why its chances for success are slim. Slim but not totally hopeless: There is an on-going revival on the left, especially with the Greens in Germany and some inspiring figures like Carlo Calenda in Italy.

Macron’s Plan to Reform Europe: Making it a Sustainability Champion

So what is Macron’s plan? As Bloomberg put it, Macron’s goal is to make Europe “fit for a globalized world”.  In a landmark speech at Paris’ Sorbonne University in September 2017, he outlined a six-pillar plan (he calls them “keys”) to reform Europe and make it “sovereign, united and democratic”:

For the video of the full speech in English translation, click here

Macron’s six “keys” are:

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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The Future: America vs. Eurasia

Europe and China could change the course of History as Trump’s America First policies move America to the sidelines…Here’s the opening of my new article, just published on Impakter:

Bosphorus Bridge (Turkey) linking Europe to Asia – PHOTO JORGE1767


How will the future play out? Will Europe follow America’s example and sink into nationalist populism that will inevitably tear apart the European Union and open the way to Trump’s divide-and-conquer America First strategy? Will America’s trade war with China escalate in a real war that could go global as Trump’s stranglehold on world trade tightens further? I believe there is hope that neither will happen. Instead, we might witness something utterly different and much more likely: the rise of Eurasia.

Two events these days are early signs of such a shift for anyone who cares to look. One just took place in Paris at the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I organized by French President Macron. The other, thousands of miles away in Singapore, is the ASEAN Summit, from 11 to 15 November where a major new trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that for the first time included China, was on the agenda.

The trip was a diplomatic disaster for Trump. He started on the wrong foot even before leaving for Paris. On 9 November, Trump, misunderstanding a Macron statement about the formation of a “true European army”, sent an insulting tweet:

The misunderstanding was soon clarified: Macron had referred to the announced U.S. withdrawal from the I.N.F. nuclear arms treaty with Russia as a reason for establishing an independent army, not that the U.S. was an enemy. Macron in a speech welcoming 84 world leaders to the celebration on November 11, made another statement that shook Trump who considers himself a nationalist:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’ I do defend my country. I do believe that we have a strong identity. But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody.”

From the ashes of the two World Wars came hope, he said. “This hope is called the European Union, a union freely entered into, never before seen in history, a union that has freed us of our civil wars”. Trump appeared “grim” and clapped only tepidly afterward. Significantly he missed the opening of a 3-day conference, the Paris Peace Forum that followed the ceremony to discuss how to strengthen multilateralism.

The next day, on 13 November, Trump took again to Twitter in a series of five aggressive tweets, astonishingly rude and misinformed, including this one:

Not the way to treat the leader of an American allied country. He forgets (or doesn’t know) that his own approval rating in France is abysmal (around 9%).  Macron was forced to respond. France, a historic ally, is “not a vassal state” he said in an interview on French TV: “At every moment of our history, we were allies, so between allies, respect is due. I don’t think the French expect me to respond to tweets but to continue this important history.”

Now that Angela Merkel is on her way out and Brexit is wobbling to its pell-mell conclusion – barring a last-minute legal reversal or a political crisis – there is no doubt that Macron is emerging as the main defender of a United States of Europe. A Europe increasingly under assault by Trump’s America First policies.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Euroasian continent, in Singapore, RCEP is the second major trade deal under discussion since Trump ditched the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in January 2017. A serious political blunder considering that the goal of the TPP in the Obama administration’s intention, had been to exclude China. In March 2018, the situation had been reversed and it was America that was isolated: the remaining TPP members (including Canada and Australia) signed the first major Pacific trade agreement, keeping the original TPP content largely intact but renaming it the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – to take effect soon, on 30 December 2018.

Brookings Institute experts see the new RCEP as something much bigger, “an optimistic answer to populist and protectionist trends around the globe”.

Massive, the new RCEP brings together 16 countries covering 3.6 billion people for a total GDP of some $25 trillion, exceeding that of the United States. The point is that it brings China in for the first time, together with India, Japan and South Korea. It builds on commitments already taken in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Not without difficulty of course. Of the 21 chapters of the treaty, so far agreement was obtained on only seven.

RCEP negotiations are expected to be completed only at the next ASEAN summit in Thailand in 2019. Predictably, problems range from India’s fear of being overrun with products from China, Korea and Japan to Trump’s trade wars, making some countries anxious of “losing” the American market.

How Likely is Eurasia to Replace America as World Leader?

Euroasia: A little used term for a vast continent that extends from Cape Dezhnev (Russia) in the East to the Monchique Islet (Portugal) in the West to Dana Island (Indonesia) in the South. A new geo-political entity that is not yet born. The road is rocky but if it emerges, it will be the largest ever, encompassing two-thirds of the world population.

Find out! Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Trump vs. Macron at the United Nations

This 2018 session of the UN General Assembly gave us a special show: Trump vs. Macron. I just published an article about this, here’s the opening:

The fight between US President Trump and French President Macron at the United Nations General Assembly hit headlines around the world. It was a classic clash of values, openness and multilateralism promoted by Macron vs. unilateral nationalism, the “doctrine of patriotism” touted by Trump. Here are the highlights:

But the real differences in the style of the two leaders exploded at the UN Security Council on 26 September, this year exceptionally chaired by Trump.

He started with a long speech that was singularly devoid of specifics but included an unexpected attack on China, accusing the Chinese to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections – unexpected because it was totally off-topic, the agenda of that particular UN Security Council being the question of nuclear proliferation and how to address it (including the question of Iran and the sanctions the US are placing on anyone trading or investing in Iran). Here is Trump’s long-winded, meandering opening of the Security Council session:

See the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Fighting the Next Pandemic and Watching Trump

I must apologize for the long silence: I have been so busy writing for Impakter that I never got around to updating you, my friends, on my blog. My latest in-depth article (out on 17 May) is about something that really worries me: The threat of pandemics and our general lack of readiness.

WHO’s quick reaction to the Ebola outbreak in D.R.Congo should not delude us into thinking we’re safe. We’re not. We really need to do something about this. Here is the start of the article:

 

GLOBAL HEALTH SYSTEMS: READY FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC?

In a world traumatized by Trump’s America First agenda, many worry that nuclear conflict is around the corner. As a result, global health tends to be down at the bottom of the list of things to worry about. Yet, as we learned when Ebola struck in 2014, our lead institution, the World Health Organization (WHO), was shockingly slow on the uptake. Our global health governance was just not up to the task.

Now, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has just sent a letter to WHO Director-General – a letter also signed by the heads of Norway and Ghana – asking his organization to help draft a “Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All” to be discussed at the 10th World Health Summit in Berlin in October 2018.

….

The rest on Impakter, click here.


Then, of course, I continued the series of TRUMP WATCH articles. For those of you who are curious to check them out, here’s a listing since the last one I told you about here – in chronological order:

  • North Korea Talks?  Trump seems ready to treat his upcoming North Korea talks as another game of ping pong, telling reporters on Wednesday…
  • Thank You Mary Matalin! On 22 April, out of a clear blue sky, Trump suddenly fawned over Mary Matalin: “I can die happy now…
  • The United States and France Forever!  Trump’s numerous tweets welcoming France’s President Macron on the first state visit of his administration, have been pompously presidential, replete…
  • A Total Witch Hunt  The Russia investigation is a “total” witch hunt, the just released House Intelligence Committee Report has confirmed it! Trump instantly…
  • Russian Collusion is Fake News! Listen to the Donald: This business about the “Witch Hunt” and Russian “Collusion” needs to stop, it’s all “fake news”,..
  • The Iran Deal and North Korea Show is On Nobody noticed but Trump once more exhibited his fine-tuned Reality TV showmanship when he conflated the news about pulling out…
  • Saving Chinese Jobs On Sunday, Trump tweeted his concern for Chinese jobs, vowing that he was working with the Chinese leader to “save…
  • Beautiful, Clean Coal! Coal, historically, is the dirtiest source of energy ever used. Yet, once again, this week-end, Trump tweeted that it was…

Wow, that’s eight Trump Watch articles in one month, and they all zero in on one of the many character traits of the man – it wouldn’t be so bad if he weren’t the most powerful man on earth. But the closer you get to him (as I do, reading his tweets and his pronouncements every day), the scarier it gets…

Incidentally, when I look back, I see that over the last month I also added another article to my series on Bitcoin, reporting on a new development which is (in my view) deeply puzzling:

Sorry for not posting all those updates here, but you can see that I have been overwhelmed with work this month, with 10 articles published on Impakter. Not to mention the work I usually do as Senior Editor…

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