Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Irish Elections (3)


The Leader of the Irish Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore, announced his resignation in Dublin yesterday following the Party's massive losses in last Friday's Local government and European Parliament elections. Labour lost it's three European MEP's and over two-thirds of its representation in local government in Ireland, swamped by the surge in support for Sinn Fein, left-wing and anti-austerity candidates throughout the country. The move came just hours ahead of a back-bench revolt which was proposing a motion of no confidence in Gilmore's leadership.

Gilmore (59) was elected leader in 2007. He has represented the Constituency of Dún Laoghaire in Dáil Éireann since 1989. Active in Left politics since his student days and subsequently as a Trade Union official, firstly in the Worker’s Party (a split from 1970’s Sinn Féin following division on events in Northern Ireland). The Worker’s Party espoused Marxist policies and developed links with the Soviet Union but, after the collapse of the USSR in 1990, Gilmore and others split from the WP and Formed “Democratic Left” in 1992 and after a period in Government in 1994-97, DL merged with the Labour Party in 1999.

The back-bench revolt was supported by Minister of State at the Health Department, Alex White, who is a likely nominee himself for the leadership contest, but, the action by the group now known as the "Gang of Eight" has been criticised by other Ministers and senior members as disloyal and premature which might now affect White's chances of gaining the leadership. Front runner for the job is Deputy Leader, Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection, who has a large following in the rank and file membership whose votes will decide the outcome by postal voting over the next month or so.

In the European Parliament elections there were significant changes in Ireland's representation.

Sinn Féin gained three seats, one in each constituency, and Labour lost its three sitting MEP's. Independent Ming Flanagan gained a seat in North West and Fianna Fail lost its long-time MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher. SF are part of the GUE/EL group in the Parliament which increased its representation to 45.

Across Europe there were gains by extreme right-wing and neo-fascist parties especially in France where Marine Le Pen's Front National topped the poll ahead of the Socialists of President Hollande and the conservative UMP formerly headed by NIcolas Sarkozy.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble described France's Front National as "fascist". "My conviction is we have to make Europe better, not become eurosceptic," he said. While Herr Schäuble is extremely quick to recognise fascists in France, he seems unable to comprehend the same phenomenon in Kiev where he seems quite happy to to provide billions of Euros to finance the Kiev Fascist Junta occupying the Ukrainian Parliament since February last.

In Germany, Chancellor Merkel's CDU held the majority of seats but with a reduced vote since the recent general election and the SPD also lost votes. There is an element of hysteria about the right-wing advances but, the majority of seats in the 751 member parliament will still be held by the Conservative EPP(221) and the Socialists(189). There is little coherence among the right-wing elements as the British UKIP has declined to link up with Le Pen's attempts to form a right-wing parliamentary group for which she needs MEPs from seven countries.

The right also made gains in Austria;

The FPÖ (Freedom Party) made significant gains in the election but fell short of its goal to finish second. Support for the FPÖ - which has been trying to set up a far-right group in the European Parliament with like-minded parties like France's National Front and Italy's Northern League - jumped up five points to 19.7 percent, compared with the 2009 EU election. But, the party, which has raged against an "anti-democratic" EU which encroaches on national sovereignty, failed to bump one of the ruling parties to third place and finish second as it had hoped.

The ÖVP (Conservative) and SPÖ (Socialist) - which have ruled Austria together or separately since the end of World War II - each take five seats in the incoming parliament. The FPÖ will have four, up from two in the outgoing legislature, while the environmental Greens have three seats with 14.5 percent of the vote. A new liberal NEOS group won 8.1 percent and gains one MEP. The Alliance for Austria's Future, founded by the former far-right leader Jörg Haider before he was killed in a car crash in 2008, will leave the EU parliament after failing to scrape together even half a percentage point.

Against that, the left in Greece and Italy gained ground. Greece's Left Alliance, Syriza, headed the poll with over 26% and Italy's new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, whose
centre-left Democratic Party (PD) claimed 40.8 percent of the vote, giving the party the highest number of MEPs among Europe’s leftists. “Italy is here and is stronger than the fears that traverse it,” he was quoted in Corriere della Sera as saying. “Now our strength will help change Europe. We are no longer in tow.” Renzi added that Italy now has the strength to play a pivotal role in shaping EU policy. Italy takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1st. Renzi said he wanted to use the six-month presidency as a way to challenge the EU and influence policy "so that it is no longer seen as the champion of austerity and pointless rules", and that it moves towards the role of "boosting growth and jobs", he said.

The next event in the politics of the EU is the election of the Commission President, an “election” not by popular vote as for the European Parliament, but, by the heads of Government at their next meeting of the European Council.

Luxembourg's former premier Jean-Claude Juncker is confident that he will be elected president of the executive European Commission, despite opposition from some countries, including FranceGerman newspaper Bild reported Sunday.

"In the European Council, a large majority of heads of state and Christian-Democrat and Socialist governments back me," Juncker told Bild, according to extracts of the interview released in advance by the newspaper.

The former Eurogroup chief said he would "rally others" in the next three to four weeks to his cause. While he has the recent backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was initially lukewarm in her support mentioning Christine Lagarde of the IMF as her favourite, Juncker faces strong opposition from leaders of other major European economies, including Britain's David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.


Hollande  reportedly told Merkel this week that the EU needed to send a signal to French voters, after the far-right eurosceptic  Front National topped EU-wide polls in France with nearly 25 percent on May 25. He put pressure for a large-scale investment programme and put the name of his former finance minister Pierre Moscovici on the table as well. German magazine Der Spiegel meanwhile reported that British Prime Minister Cameron had warned that his country could leave the European Union if Juncker got the top commission job. Quoting "sources close to the participants" of Tuesday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the German magazine reported that Cameron had issued the warning to Merkel. Cameron reportedly told Merkel that picking Juncker for the job would "destabilise his government to such a point that it would bring forward a referendum on whether to exit the EU", a move which is likely to result in a popular mandate  to leave the 28-nation EU. "A figure from the 80s cannot resolve the problems of the next five years," Cameron reportedly said, according to the Spiegel article.

Cameron is deeply wary of Juncker, an EU federalist, particularly after his party suffered a humiliating defeat to eurosceptic UKIP in the European elections. He has already pledged to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017.

Juncker served as Luxembourg premier for 19 years, making him Europe's longest-serving leader until he was defeated in a general election last year. He is a true EU insider, having led the eurozone group of finance ministers through the current zonal crisis and he is well advertised as a staunch supporter of a federal European state.

EU leaders have traditionally named the Commission head on their own, but under new rules they now have to "take into account" the results of European parliamentary elections, though exactly what that means remains unclear. Cameron is obviously playing to the gallery of Eurosceptic backbenchers in his own Party and trying to recover some ground from the rampant UKIP before the next General election in Britain in 2015.

There really is nothing much to offer from the main party candidates except more of the austerity programmes promoted for years by the Three Stooges of Brussels, Barosso, Herman Van Reptile and Mario Draghi; so the outcome will make little difference to the lives of the ordinary people many of whom voted in anger and despair for extreme right-wing and neo-nazi parties who don’t have any solutions either except blame immigration and foreigners for the woes of the EU rather than the neo-liberal capitalist economics which has caused the current crisis.