France’s Socialist Party hold primary vote and Bulgaria’s pro-Russian president takes office.
FRENCH SOCIALISTS HOLD PRIMARY VOTE
Left-wing voters in France will vote for their presidential candidate on Sunday. If, as is expected, no candidate receives a majority, voters will return for a Jan. 29 runoff.
Former PM Manuel Valls, long-favourite to lead the Socialist Party (PS) to April’s election, came off second best in last Sunday’s debate; a poll conducted shortly after showed voters found other candidates “more convincing”.
Beyond the primaries, PS is expected to perform poorly. President Francois Hollande has earned the unenviable title of being France’s least popular leader, tarnishing his party’s image. Instead, left-wing voters are increasingly turning to radical anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen – who’s adopted traditional leftist economic policies – and independent Emmanuel Macron.
While the 39-year-old Macron served under the Hollande administration, he’s successfully forged a path as a centrist. A former investment banker, Macron is running on a strong pro-EU platform, insisting more regional cooperation is needed to address France’s security and economic woes.
While Sunday’s vote may not be consequential in itself, those voters participating have an important decision to make come May’s second round presidential vote: support Le Pen’s protectionism or, as seems increasingly likely, vote for Macron’s pro-EU agenda.
NEW BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE
Just two days after Donald Trump assumed the leadership Bulgaria’s new president, Rumen Radev, takes office on Sunday. A political novice, the former air force commander clinched a landslide victory of 59.4% over the ruling party candidate’s 36.2% in November.
Radev swept to victory on an anti-immigration platform and is considered pro-Russian, urging Western sanctions to be lifted during his presidential campaign. Nonetheless, Radev – who studied at the US Air War College in Alabama – says he aims to consolidate Bulgaria’s role in NATO and the EU, as well as pursuing closer ties to Moscow.
Following his party’s loss on Nov. 6, PM Boiko Borisov announced his resignation, dissolving the coalition government. Radev’s first duty will be to assemble a caretaker government and announce parliamentary elections in the first half of 2017.
Given that the presidency is largely ceremonial, the parliament must approve all major policies. If the ruling GERB party maintains its current popularity at the local level, Radev may see his presidential influence tempered by a non-cooperative parliament.