Monday, June 19, 2017

New France

The elections in France are probably a new French way of running its own government and will certainly give us a new French roll in world affairs, starting with European affairs.  

This Sunday’s second round of national legislative voting stands out for:

  • Record numbers of citizens who didn’t vote.  
  • A new party taking the absolute majority.  
  • More women in the assembly than ever before. 
  • The exit of most of the French old guard political class from the game. 

The Fifth Repulic constitution assumed a three or maybe four party country that would choose between the left and right in runoff elections.  

That broke down with the rise of the ultra right National Front as a major force causing France to vote democracy vs neofascist in the runoff for Chriaq’s second term partly because then there were five and partly because the splintered left could not make the runoff despite getting the majority of the votes.  

It broke down again this election with the addition of yet another major group made this election cycle start a six way first round for president, leading to a runoff between the new center movement and the new neofascist leader.  Again the left was divided and could not make the runoff despite again collectively having the largest number of first round votes.  

At the first round the of legislative elections, the new center, En Marche, made runoff in the overwhelming majority of districts with a third of the votes of those who voted.  

So who the hell is En Marche and didn’t France already have a liberal party?  

From a policy point of view, En Marche is capitalist liberalism with a new image, one more akin to Trudeau in Canada.  The new deputies that form the En March majority come from a pool of people who are mostly younger, have backgrounds from outside of traditional politics and were half women.  This election I have been following a twenty something farm owner who ran successful in what was once a traditional Socialist district.  

Yes there was already a Democrat party with similar liberal views in step with the US Democrats and the Canadian Liberals and they have done well in this election too as allies of En Marche. This is a movement that once elected presidents, but now is second fiddle to En Marche. 

But no, this has not been the year of the incumbent or the old faces.  France has had more variety and choice in government than we in the US are ever offered and because of this, both the left and right have had time to govern and time to dissapoint. 

The last government has been voted nearly out of existence.  The Socialists came in behind the Eurocommunist wing in the first round of the presidential vote.  In the new legistlature the party that had the majority and the held the presidency has gone to obscurity in 2017.  

In the presidential primaries, President Holland made history by not even trying to go for a second term, the prime minister resigned to run in his place and was beaten by a more left leaning candidate only to find themselves fifth in the six way first round.  

The Repubicans usually governed France with the Socialists as their opposition and twice the Socialists were the alternative government with a Republican opposition.  They are the group usually called Galulists.  This historical party of power  took a similar beating at the presidentials.  Their former president, Sarkozy, was beaten at the primaries to be replaced by a Mr. Clean of the right wing of their movement who played the anti immigrant card in competition with the neofascist National Front.  That weak candidate turned out to also have a nepotism habit.  They came in fourth in the presidential, and did better in the legislature becoming the key opposition.  

The liberal Marcron and his En March movement took two thirds of the votes in the presidential finals, which sounds great until one thinks that a third of France voted for a women who represented barley masked racist, chauvinist and intolerant Catholic values.  

The En March third of the national legistlature vote and Macron’s first place showing in the presidential first round is probably a better indication of their significant core support, with the rounding up to majorities representing French voters having to choose between what they were offered after the group that represented them got knocked out of the running.  

But be clear, the dissapointment with politicians in France includes a dissapointment with politics itself.  Having seen both the Republicans and the Socialists fail to deliver jobs, development, and better conditions many of the French have turned to En Marche, but many others have just plain turned their backs.  

The French measure voter abstention based on POTENTIAL VOTERS, not registered voters as our press loves to do.  By that measure, half the people did not vote, which in France is unheard of.  The first round the of the legislative election had France's second highest abstention rate and this round makes the new record.  Note that this new French record low is a bit higher than our normal US election participation rate.  

So now we have it.  A new president with a new National Assembly working together will be the French government for the next five years.  What should we expect?  

  • Liberal “reforms” starting with employment guarantees.  
  • Strong pro European Union policies, including support for Merkel's austerity (service cutbacks). 
  • An Obama like interventionist military posture that will continue to intervene in North Africa, the Middel East and continue to be hostile to Russia.  
  • We should also expect some serious changes and reforms, some of which will be of value to everyone but most of which will be of value to the new generations of capitalists.  

And PR, expect lots of PR.  We will get the new look, constantly being told how young they are, how innovative they are and how inclusive, especially female, they are.  

Expect New France to have economic policies and military posture that would make Ronald Reagan smile while the public show will make them look like the republic of cool, hipster, business people.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

The U.K. Elections Numbers Racket, version 2017

British elections do not accurately represent the British people. 

Even when the side you like does well in an unfair election system,
you lose.

Even when an unfair electoral system gives your own side a boost,
it is unjust.

Today we wake up to a new Tory government in the UK as a coalition with the small regional Democratic Ulster Party propping up the Conservatives who lost their majority of seats.

Theresa May is on her way to talk to the Queen to ask to form a new government.

The popular vote shows the Conservatives gaining votes and losing seats. The Labor Party, with Corbyn as leader gained even more new votes and gained some seats. All of the other parties have fewer votes and a mix of more or less seats. The Liberal Democrats lost votes and came up with a big “win”. The Scottish Nationals lost votes and came up with a big loss.

For quick reference here is % popular vote / seats in Parliament

Election 2017: Conservatives win with a house minority of 317 seats
Conservatives 42% / 318, Labor 40% / 261, Scottish National 3% / 35, 
Liberal Democrats 7.4% /12 , Democratic Ulster Party 0.9% /10, Sinn Fein 0.8% / 7
Green 1.6% /1, UK Independence Party 1.8% / 0, Plaid Cymru 0.5% / 4 

Election 2015: Conservatives win with a house majority of 330 seats 
Conservatives 36.9% / 330, Labor 30.4% / 232, Scottish National Party 4.7% / 56
and Liberal Democrat 7.9% / 8 (smaller parties omitted) 

So, with 36% of the vote, how did the Tories have that majority in Parliament to lose in the first place? And how does a new coalition with only 43% of the vote now form the next government? 

Different news sources give uneven and usually insufficient coverage of the full popular vote, the difference with the election run just two years ago and the difference between what the people voted for and what they got for Members of Parliament based on a system that awards seats based on who got the MOST votes no matter how low their percentage is. What changed is that in many cases, the math of a 3 way or 4 way race led to a different “winner” in a system that is neither proportional nor allows the public a runoff.

May will probably form her new government with that right wing Ulster Party and life in the UK will go on. Do not expect a reform of this skewed electoral system any time soon. By definition, those who it works for end up in government. Most Brits have not seen a majority government with a majority of the people’s votes behind it in their lifetime.

Despite the distorted results this Parliament does not give the Tories an artificial majority, as it did the last time. Smaller parties are not represented in anything like the percentage of the vote, but the larger ones are. The representation of the Liberals and the Scottish Nationalists and others is exaggerated, yet they add to keeping the Parliament more plural than our own US Congress. 

There was a significant movement of the real votes this time. People cast ballots for the two major parties in an historic high. Some of that may be people who voted Tory or Labor because they didn’t feel that their own preferred movement stood a chance of winning. Much like a US election, Brits and Canadians are often voting for lesser evil. We should not read from these election results who the British People support by percentage. In proportional European elections the outcomes are very different. The far right does better and the vote is very far from their version of a two party system. In this election, the far right party most linked to the successful Brexit vote last year did not win a single seat. 

If anyone won this election, it is Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Labor. 

He is the Bernie Sanders of the U.K. and the Blair faction of Labor has been undermining him with open public criticism. They used their members of Parliament to force a second Labor party leadership vote. Corby won that too.

The Blair faction is called New Labor, and it is similar in its shift to the right to the Clinton-Gore Democratic Leadership Council. Clinton followed Reagan/Bush into Nicaragua, Iraq, Yugoslavia, etc. and Tony Blair followed our W into Iraq Two among other things. Both New Labor and DLC Democrats led us to a destruction of social services, war on drugs, and other actions that showed that they have been drinking the market fanatics’ Cool Aide. 

Corbyn would have none of that. He maintained an anti-interventionist, respect-for-the-sovereignty-of-other-nations foreign policy and advocated socialist reforms at home including the expansion of public services and the renationalization of the British Rail.

The media has been demonizing Corbyn from day one too, with endless referrals to him as impractical, un electable, out of date, unrealistic and all that drivel we hear about any progressive here in the US coupled with personal comments on him being unfit illustrated with bad photo shots. 

Labor under Corbyn has increased its popular vote by 10%, which is good at any time. Like Sanders and Melanchon in France, he has shown that a firm left voice resonates with the people.

The big loser is Theresa May. She thought she could call an early election because Tory numbers were up. They were up, but the system that rewarded the Conservatives in 2015 bit back in 2017.

The UK goes into negotiations for the Brexit from the European Union inside of two weeks as a government with less credibility than it had two days ago. May’s Conservatives have lost credibility at home and abroad and the UK’s political system has joined the US’ political system in its loss of reliability. First-past-the-post in a culture with more than two major parties is inherently unstable. 

What this means for Scotland and Scottish independence is up in the air. Much is being made of the Scottish National Party “loss” in this election while ignoring that the number of seats held was way over the number of votes to justify holding those seats. Brexit may well mean another referendum on independence, and depending on the May negotiations with Brussels, it might win.

The U.K. will be governed by a coalition that will not show much in the way of leadership for the whole of their divided country and they will have another election following Brexit with their flawed political system unreformed.