Sunday, June 25

Sunday, June 25

CATCHING MERKEL SOCIAL DEMOCRATS UNVEIL ELECTION PLATFORM Germany’s Social Democratic Party will unveil its manifesto for September’s election during its

CATCHING MERKEL

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS UNVEIL ELECTION PLATFORM

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Germany’s Social Democratic Party will unveil its manifesto for September’s election during its party conference today.

After crushing defeats in three recent state elections, Martin Schulz—who inspired a ‘Martin mania’ not so long ago—will have to work miracles if he wants to replace incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Recent polls give Merkel’s Christian Democrats a staggering 15% lead over Schulz’s SPD. To close the gap, the SPD’s election manifesto will focus on cutting taxes and social contributions for low- and middle-income earners, while also raising the top tax rate from 42% to 45%.

But Ms Merkel remains the country’s most popular politician by far and Schulz’s ascent appears increasingly improbable. Despite this, the SPD will likely remain part of the governing coalition—of which it forms 193 of 503 government seats. The Greens, a party some analysts said could form a government with CDU and FDP, made same-sex marriage a precondition for entering a coalition—a demand the Merkel’s conservatives are unlikely to meet.

With other coalitions unlikely to gain a majority at this time, German national politics appears to be poised for another grand coalition over the next four years.

LOCAL RUNOFFS IN ITALY

THE FIVE STAR MOVEMENT FLOPS

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

Italians will vote in local election runoffs today, choosing between the top two finishers from June 11’s first round. Most races will see mayoral candidates aligned with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) compete with a “centre-right” coalition of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s right-wing Northern League.

The first round was a surprise setback for the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which made the runoff in just one of the 25 provincial capitals up for grabs. Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, PD’s leader, was delighted by the populists’ “flop.” He will be happier still if the PD outperforms the centre-right Sunday.

By making nearly every major runoff, the two right-leaning parties—which shared their candidates—have defied a PD-M5S dichotomy. But divisions between the two may offset any momentum; both parties plan to go it alone for the next general election and Mr Berlusconi is actively campaigning to curb Mr Salvini’s ambitions.

Early elections are no longer expected after M5S scuttled cross-party negotiations for a new voting system earlier this month, while recent local results have further spoiled their appetite for fresh elections. As such, Sunday’s runoffs will likely be the last major contests until parliament’s natural dissolution in March 2018.

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

SOCIALISTS HOPE FOR A MAJORITY IN POSTPONED VOTE

Photo: albanianblogger.com

Photo: albanianblogger.com

Albania’s Socialist PM Edi Rama will seek a second term today as the country votes in a parliamentary election that’s stirred some controversy.

The vote was originally scheduled for June 18 but postponed over a threatened boycott by the centre-right Democratic Party’s Lulzim Basha, who cited fears of election rigging. US and EU officials successfully negotiated an agreement, in which the opposition would appoint the head of the election authority—alongside international election monitoring—in return for participating. The opposition also agreed to help pass legislation before the election to sack corrupt judges.

Polling shows the Socialists ahead by 15 points; whether they can win a majority is uncertain. If Mr Rama governs alone, he could pursue more aggressive reforms to Albania’s corrupt judiciary and simply confusing property rights laws. His current coalition partner, the Movement for Socialist Integration, has slowed those efforts from the justice ministry.

The pre-election judicial reforms should also clear a requirement for Albania to join the EU. Further reforms would ease accession talks; the larger—and cleaner—the Socialist’s victory in Sunday’s poll, the faster the country can enact the reforms required to become a member state.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Indian PM Narendra Modi will arrive in Washington DC, beginning a two-day visit to the United States. Mr Modi will meet President Trump on Monday. We’ll bring you full coverage of this event in tomorrow’s edition.

The official results of Cambodia’s June 4 local elections will be released. Unofficial exit polls suggest the country’s ruling People’s Party will secure some 70% of communes—a substantial drop from the 97% it won in 2012. The opposition is striking a positive tone ahead of next year’s general election.

Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, will begin. Islamic religious holidays have recently become a target for extremist militants. Saudi authorities foiled a planned attack targeting the Grand Mosque in Mecca on Friday.

A gay and transgender march was due to take place in Istanbul today but has been cancelled for the second year running. The city’s governor cited “safety concerns”. Last week, ultra-nationalist groups issued threats against the event and its organisers.