Thursday, Mar. 2

Thursday, Mar. 2

The stories that matter before they happen.

HOPE FOR EUROPE: MACRON REVEALS CAMPAIGN PLATFORM

Photo: Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

Photo: Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron – currently France’s best hope for remaining in the EU – is due to unveil his policy program on Thursday. The 39-year-old pro-European centrist is competing with conservative Francois Fillon and populist-nationalist Marine Le Pen in the first round of the presidential elections on April 23. Current polling suggests that Macron will narrowly edge out Fillon – who is currently mired in scandal – and go on to beat Le Pen in the second round. Yet polls have been fickle this past year, so voters’ reaction to Macron’s program will be decisive.

The former economy minister offers a mixed platform of tax reforms, economic stimulus and deep spending cuts that aim to boost France’s sickly 1.1% growth rate. His major challenge is expanding his appeal to blue collar workers, a voter segment dominated by Marine Le Pen. Such voters are uncomfortable with Macron’s embrace of globalisation, multiculturalism and the EU.

The young reformer’s campaign will be closely followed – if he fails to defeat Le Pen, she may well lead France out of the EU and Eurozone, which would be calamitous for the Continent and the global economy.

Go deeper: Europe at the crossroads: France’s election

DIVIDED OR UNITED? NORTHERN IRELAND VOTES

Photo: NH53

Photo: NH53

Elections will be held for Northern Ireland’s parliament on Thursday after the collapse of a coalition government last month.

While smaller, secular parties may build on gains made last year, their influence on Thursday’s vote will be minimal. Rather, the real race will be between the parties that have dominated the devolved parliament since a power-sharing deal was forged last year: the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionists and pro-Remain Sinn Fein.

The coalition’s collapse was catalysed by a bungled renewable energy scheme. This exposed the deep and historic resentment between Northern Ireland’s political parties – a bitterness that will only be exacerbated by Brexit turmoil.

Brexit may force the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to close, potentially jeopardising valuable cross-border trade and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of sectarian violence. Fears of economic and border chaos could reinvigorate calls for Irish unity, a cause championed by Sinn Fein.

Whichever party (or parties) win on Thursday, Brexit will continue to cause deep divides in Northern Ireland.

SNAP IT UP: IPO AT LAST

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Snap Inc, the creator of Snapchat, is poised for its long-awaited initial public offering on Thursday.

The company has yet to turn a profit but is aiming for a valuation somewhere around the $20 billion mark, the highest of any tech company since Facebook went public in 2012. The comparisons don’t stop there: Snap experienced its slowest growth in daily users late last year when Facebook launched an almost identical service on Instagram (which it owns).

How then is Snap seeking to gain the upper hand on its rival? Similarly, of course, with plans to ride the political wave to foment greater millennial engagement. The campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton poured big money into video ads and geo-filters during the election, and with good reason: two-thirds of millennials on Snapchat were likely to vote, compared to just 50% nationwide.

As the platform’s first ‘breaking news’ partner, the Washington Post’s foray into Snapchat Discover – an area containing curated content from major publishers – is a novel attempt to marry traditional media with the new. Partners will seek to capitalise both on the app’s ubiquity among young viewers and its high view-rate: average users check in 20 times a day. The firm thinks the climate is right for Snap to flourish, and on Thursday they’ll find out whether investors agree.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Flanked by a business delegation, German leader Angela Merkel is expected to highlight strengthening trade ties on a visit to Egypt. She’ll meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and inaugurate a power plant built by German firm Siemens – part of a $9 billion deal signed in 2015.

In a different part of Cairo, a top appeals court is set to deliver the final verdict on the retrial of fallen president Hosni Mubarak. Last year, the former leader was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzlement. It’s likely that Thursday’s ruling will overturn this sentence.

Ghana’s finance minister will unveil the country’s budget. The new administration, elected in December, was swept to power on a platform promising to revitalise the country’s economy; President Akufo-Addo’s cry of “one district, one factory” will be put to the test on Thursday.