Project Anxiety prevails in Austria. Italians give their ruling class the middle finger

Posted by Guessedworker on Sunday, 04 December 2016 18:17.

So, somewhat against poll forecasts, Nobert Hofer lost considerable ground to his rival Alexander Van der Bellen in the period between the presidential votes.  The liberal Establishment’s fear strategy is probably responsible for that, and for now, at least, its internationalism project and its race project are secure, much to the satisfaction of the elites in Brussels.

Nonetheless, there is not much despondency among the defeated nationalists.  Rather, I would say they look as if they are banking their gains and sizing up the next challenge, which will be the legislative elections in or before 2018.  Let it be noted that those gains include knocking the Establishment party candidates to pieces in the first round of this year’s vote.  But there has also been some marked back-sliding on EU membership.  Nationalist parties cannot be internationalist.  Chasing after the liberal voters won’t work.  Challenging them is the only viable option.

For the wider nationalist movement this defeat is a wasted opportunity.  Hofer as president would have provided a useful precedent for Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in the Dutch general election next March and to Marine Le Pen in her struggle for the French presidency in April.  The idea that an irresistible wave of anti-Establishmentarianism and populism is sweeping the continent has taken a knock - even if that lasted only a couple of hours because in Italy the government of Matteo Renzi and, by extension, the banking and corporate class has been humiliated in a vote on a narrow constitutional issue of enhancing executive powers.  Italy, of course, has a sclerotic constitutional and legislative system, more politely known as checks and balances, which makes it impossible to take the kind of decisive action required to address the terrible crisis afflicting the economy.  But it would seem that Italians don’t mind sclerosis and inaction, because they voted today by up to 60-40 against Renzi’s proposals on a 70% turnout, and Renzi himself has now honoured a pre-vote promise to resign if he loses.

The putative winners in this strange affair are Beppe Grillo, the ex-comedian leader of the chaotic and wildly unconventional 5-Star Movement, Renato Brunetta, the parliamentary leader of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia, and Matteo Salvini, the head of the Lega Nord (the only party which definitely wants to leave the EU, drop the euro and return to the lira).  But the electoral maths are complex.  Some of those who voted against Renzi’s proposal only did so because they want to stay in the EU and keep the euro, and fear that a future populist government could use the powers Renzi sought to take the country out.

For now, though, the immediate question is whether the government, or some combination of the present governing class, will seek to stay in office, thereby ignoring the spirit of the vote, or whether an early general election will be called.  If the latter - and it really should be the latter - Spring 2017 is going to be a hectic time for European political dissent.



Comments:


1

Posted by Guessedworker on Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:10 | #

This sounds pretty likely to me:

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/12/italy-will-soon-haunted-inability-reform/

Matteo Renzi has resigned from being Prime Minister of Italy but he has not resigned from the Democratic Party.  He has not done a David Cameron or David Miliband and left public life. This means that he will be back next year, and it also means that he will act as kingmaker in the coming days.  Right now, he will be working away behind the scenes to help organise the next coalition government that will soon be ushered in to pass the Budget law and to ensure the smooth passage of the banking bail out. 

There is zero appetite among Democratic Party members or their junior coalition partners to call a general election.  It is clearly in everyone’s self-interest to come to a consensus on a coalition cabinet so as to freeze out the insurgents.  We can expect to see someone like Pier Carlo Padoan, the Minister of Economy and Finance, or Pietro Grasso, the President of the Senate, step in to reassure the markets.  And tellingly, the banks which have been lined up to underwrite the bail out of the indebted Italian banks all met today and – perhaps contrary to the expectations – they have said that they have not yet decided to walk away from the bail-out deal.

... M5S were part of an anti-establishment rainbow protest vote but they are still a million miles from a majority.  Indeed, slightly counter-intuitively, morale is up among sections of the Democratic Party: they point out that even with everyone from the far left to the far right lining up against Renzi, he still won 40 percent of the vote.  When Renzi’s popularity recovers next year and the voters are faced with the normal unappealing selection of electoral candidates rather than a yes/no referendum, Renzi will be an election winner once again.

So, in a nation in which any desire for change meets with inherent systemic resistance, blows to the governing class can be ridden out and policies which the people have rejected can be pursued regardless.  Democracy as toujours la meme chose.  The cynical heart of Italian politics, but also the essence of European Union.


2

Posted by DanielS on Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:28 | #

From my perspective, one of the worst things about the Hofer defeat is losing-out on his aspiration to join forces, Austria and The Intermarium. That would have been great - Promethian indeed.

Add to that a cooperation between the Intermaium - The UK and Asia and we really would have been able to put the squeeze on Merkel and her friend, Captainchaos )


3

Posted by Guessedworker on Tue, 06 Dec 2016 03:42 | #

Change of that order requires not so much a Hofer presidency as an FPO majority in the legislature and, thereby, an FPO government with a free hand.  That won’t come in 2018, but there will be a significant advance, very likely bringing the FPO into government again, but only as a partner.

Not much was lost with Hofer’s defeat.  The Austrian electorate will have time to reflect on the liberal predilection for open borders, internationalism, and immigrationism.  The Visegrad countries, meanwhile, will model a functioning alternative of loyal conservatism.

So, for the FPO it’s back to “worse is better”.  But its rise, like the rise of nationalism everywhere in Europe, is facilitated via the proxy of a democratic reaction, not by any form of true revolution.


4

Posted by Stugatz on Wed, 07 Dec 2016 12:33 | #

All I could think of was that scene from The Godfather:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kVw7TEffQU


5

Posted by Austria: FPÖ Plans New Assault on Thu, 08 Dec 2016 06:15 | #

New Observer, “Austria: FPÖ Plans New Assault”,  7 Dec 2016:

Even though Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) lost last weekend’s presidential election, it is now the country’s single largest party, having polled 2.2 million votes—up from a previous national high of just 962,313.

Party leader HC Strache told a press conference that it was clear that the FPÖ would win the next National Council election set for 2018.

“We will continue to work at full speed to become the strongest party in the next National Council election and assume governmental responsibility,” Strache said, adding that “never before in the history of the Second Republic [of Austria] had there been such a mass mobilization against a candidate” as there had been against Norbert Hofer.

He said the establishment had tried to make out that Hofer “was a demon who would have brought fire and sulfur into the Hofburg,” he said. (The Hofburg is the presidential residence.)

Strache’s reason for optimism is not ungrounded. In the 2013 National Council (Austrian Parliament) elections, the FPÖ polled exactly 962,313 votes, or 20.5 percent of the vote. That gave the party 40 of 183 seats in National Council.

During the presidential election cycle, FPÖ support jumped to a high of 2,220,654 votes.

All Austrian political commentators have admitted that this now represents the “core” FPÖ vote—and that most of these voters are unlikely to switch support to any other party.

Translated into a National Council election, this “core” vote would mean that the FPÖ would poll some 46 percent of the vote—a total which would give it 89 seats. A government needs just 92 seats for an absolute majority.

Such a result would be unprecedented in modern Austrian electoral politics, where most governments have been made up of coalitions between parties of 40 to 50 seats each.

A final result would, of course, depend on the overall turnout. However, given that in the 2013 elections, the two main establishment parties (and current coalition government partners), the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) polled 1,258,605 and 1,125,876 votes respectively, the full meaning of the FPÖ’s 2.2 million-strong vote can be seen in context.

At the post-election press conference, Strache pointed out that the presidential election had transformed Austrian politics and had given rise to a “broad movement,” and had boosted the FPÖ’s membership base.

“We have arrived in the center of society,” he said. “Nobody should believe that we are depressed and have retreated to lick our wounds. This was the election before the election.”



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