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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

12-13 January 2018

Czech Republic Presidential Election

A presidential election will be held in the Czech Republic on 12-13 January 2018, with a runoff being held on 26-27 January. Unlike some other Central European countries such as Austria and Hungary, the president is much more than a ceremonial head of state and holds a considerable amount of political power.


The Czech Republic has a recently elected Prime Minister, Andrej Babis of the anti-establishment ANO party, a tycoon with a populist bent. Babis is a centrist and doesn’t have affiliation to any of the main parties, as well as lacking a coherent ideology to guide his actions. Foreign or EU policy is not his priority. His main view on Europe is the need for a more restrictive EU migration policy. Outside of immigration, there is not much in his foreign plans. It is fair to describe Babis as a conservative Eurosceptic who rejects EU federalisation. He does not want the Czech Republic to join the eurozone - a stance held by most Czechs. This however makes his political success, posing as an anti-elitist outsider, even harder to understand.


Milos Zeman, the current president of the Czech Republic previously served as the Prime Minister from 1998-2002. He was the first president directly elected by the public, with his predecessors both elected by the Parliament. Zeman will run for the 2018 presidential elections. Zeman has disported himself as one of Russia's Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken allies inside the EU, in particular as an opponent of the sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014. There’s also a photograph of him posing with a mock assault rifle labelled “At Journalists.”


Czech President Zerman has asked Babis to try and form a new government. None of the parties has agreed to create a coalition government with ANO because they consider Babis unsuitable to lead the government due to charges he has been facing of fraud linked to EU subsidies.


This presidential election is important, Zeman and Babis share a strong Eurosceptic streak, leaving the question will the Czech Republic leave the EU? Both are also concerning close with Russia, meaning the country may be under threat of falling under Putin’s shadow.


28 January 2018

Finland Presidential Election

Finland's presidential election will take place on 28 January 2018. If no candidate gets half of the votes, there will be a second round in February.


The president of Finland is in charge of foreign and defence policy together with the government, but otherwise has become mainly a ceremonial figurehead with no real political influence in the past few decades. Following the Ukraine crisis and chilly East-West relations, president Niinisto has taken an active role in maintaining relations with neighboring Russia by regular contacts with Putin. Incumbent President Sauli Niinisto, who originally represented the centre-right NCP party, is widely expected to be elected for a second six-year term by a wide margin.


Political surprises are becoming more common worldwide, however, and in Laura Huhtasaari Finland has a candidate looking to ride the nativist wave that resulted in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. The leader of the eurosceptic Finns Party, proposed Finland would leave the European Union and aim to mirror Switzerland to protect its independence.


4March 2018

Italy General Election

The next parliamentary elections in the euro region’s third-biggest economy are due on 4 March 2018, which will not only represent the next big political test for the EU, but the country’s relationship with the euro, it’s increasingly worrying debt levels as well as a troubled banking system. This also means that Italian president Sergio Mattarella will have to dissolve parliament between Christmas and New Year’s and parties will have to fight for seats as coalitions.


Between now and the elections, a budget law which must be approved by parliament by the end of the year, is supposed to lower the structural deficit. Gentiloni, whose party has a slight majority, is overlooking a state intervention to help some of Italy’s biggest and oldest banks. Italy has the second-highest debt in the euro area, behind Greece. On top of that the two Veneto banks has created high stress, both politically and financially.


After populist parties made gains but fell short of power in Europe’s other large economies, recent polls and local election results suggest that the Democratic Party (PD) faces a high probability of defeat in the coming elections in a major headache for the EU. Italy’s Northern League, an anti-EU and anti-immigrant party, has a shot at governing in a coalition with the center-right Forza Italia party, which is backed by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. Also in the run are anti-establishment Five Star Movement, they are predicted to emerge as the largest single party in the next parliament, but it has repeatedly ruled out joining any coalition. As Italy has just introduced a new electoral system, it is expected to handicap 5-Star, favouring instead mainstream political blocs.

Heading into the heat of the election campaign, Five Star is trying to convince a concerned, dissatisfied electorate that they are the answer to Italy’s political corruption and claim back economic sovereignty back from the EU. Proving popular in the polls as well as the PD, they have a realistic chance at gaining power in the elections.


In recent months, both Five Star Movement and the Northern League has softened anti-euro rhetoric. This could be due to the upcoming election, to draw in more votes. Five Star have confirmed they don’t want a populist, anti-European or extremist Italy, and the Northern league have said they will prepare for a collapse of the euro, however, will not trigger it. A softer stance from both parties does not eradicate the impact they could have on the euro and the EU. They both want higher deficit, approve of Russian politics and reject free trade agreements. 


Laura Jones - LiveSquawk News

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