The world this week - 01.08.2016

03 August 2016 10:48


Monday, 01 August 2016

Trump overtakes Hillary in the polls

On Monday, July 25, the US Democratic Party Convention opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the worst possible way. The website Wikileaks published around 20,000 emails extracted from the Republican National Committee servers, which show the various maneuvers underway by the leadership of the party, with a view to favoring Hillary Clinton in the race to the primaries, and creating obstacles for her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The affair has triggered something of a scandal, to the point that the Chair of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been forced to step down from leading the Convention, subsequently resigning as head of the party. Clinton's staff have accused the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of being the instigator of the leak, claiming that Republican candidate Donald Trump is supported by Moscow. And indeed, the possibility that it was in fact Russian hackers who were responsible for "piercing" the defenses of the Democratic servers has not been ruled out, but in any case, the revelations have served to further inflame supporters of Sanders, who made an appearance in Philadelphia to express his support for Clinton, but was heavily criticized by his own delegates. It appears that Trump, moreover, is in the process of wriggling out of the accusations thrown in his direction, asking Moscow himself to find and publish the thirty thousand official emails sent from Hillary's personal server, in the years when she was Secretary of State, and which have not been handed over to the forces of law and order. This ruthless move has led to the condemnation of the Republican candidate by a number of commentators, but has nonetheless confirmed Trump's capacity for playing outside the normal rules of institutional etiquette, further consolidating his image as a political "outsider". Fortunately, First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand to save the Democratic Convention, with a passionate speech that united the Democratic delegates behind Hillary as leading candidate to take over at the White House. After her, support for Clinton was further consolidated by the actions of her daughter, Chelsea, with contributions by Michael Bloomberg, the New York billionaire owner of the eponymous financial media group, and finally, by President Barack Obama himself, who stated that no-one has ever been so well prepared to take on the Presidency of the country as the former Secretary of State is today (erring into dangerous territory, since Trump is building his own success on the very fact that he is not a professional politician ...). For Hillary, the battle is far from over, as the confirmed candidate of the establishment; most polls suggest that Trump is making a strong recovery, overtaking his opponent by 0.9 percent, with 45.6 points against Hillary's 44.7.

Spain is still without a government

In the wake of the Conventions in the US, the race for the White House between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is now on,         igniting minds and spirits, and Europe is not far behind, with foiled coups and elections just around the corner. This week, all eyes are on Spain, as outgoing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who won the elections last June, accepted the role bestowed on him by King Felipe, to form the new government.  However, the leader of the People's Party does not have the numbers he needs to pass a vote of confidence in Congress - of the 350 seats, only 137 are held by the People's Party. With the exception of Ciudadanos (32 seats) and Coalición Canaria (1), which could abstain, all the other parties have announced that they will be backing a vote of no confidence. In the coming weeks, Rajoy is set to convene the leaders of the various parties, but in light of the figures and of the difficulty in reaching a compromise, the situation looks more or less identical to that seen over the course of the last few months: In short, although Spain has a Prime Minister, there is no majority to govern - the political situation in the country thus remains very complex. It is now seven long months (since the elections in December 2015) that the government has been lacking a fully functioning Executive Council. In truth, no one wants to go back to the polls, but the political divisions and the sudden surge in popularity of Podemos and Ciudadanos (which has put an end to Spanish bipartisanship) mean that if no candidate has won the confidence of Congress two months after the first confidence vote, the King will be forced to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and call a new election.

Terrorism hits Germany too

In just a few days, between Monday 18 July and Sunday 24, Germany fell victim to a total of four terrorist attacks, including the first suicide bombing in the history of the country. Each of these episodes was unique, in the sense that they appeared to defy common logic, and yet succeeded in leaving a deep impression on the country's general public. Three of the attackers were refugees from the Middle East, while the fourth was an eighteen year-old of German nationality, from an Iranian family. All were psychologically unstable, and yet the idea that each of these attacks was simply random, and totally isolated from the others, does not seem credible. France, too, continues to be a key target for terrorists, as demonstrated by the massacre of a priest in a church in Rouen. In Paris, the government has been at the center of violent controversy over their apparent inability to prevent such attacks, as demonstrated in particular in Nice, where on July 14, a Tunisian terrorist was able to massacre dozens of unarmed citizens, in the complete absence of security forces. Unlike the massacres that occurred in France in January 2015, organized by groups supported by solid logistical networks, the attacks in Germany have not seemed to be targeting the German system as a whole, but rather Chancellor Angela Merkel's acceptance of refugees, which has become characteristic of her policy. And now, the Chancellor's approach has come under fire from large swathes of the political world, from representatives from the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party to those from the Left Party, who have particularly strong roots in the western Ruhr industrial region and former East Germany. For Merkel, however, the real issue lies in the growing disconnect with the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian party that has always been a close ally to her Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) party. The leader of the CSU, Horst Seehofer, has directly attacked the chancellor, clearly expressing his party's hostile position regarding the open-door policy advocated by Merkel. In a long and somewhat unusual summer press conference, Merkel reiterated her point,
referring to the UN Convention on human rights, but was also roundly criticized for her failure to visit any of the sites hit by the recent terrorist attacks, and for having waited days before commenting in public on the issue. For some time now, there has been talk regarding the possibility that the Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, could perhaps be looking to take the helm of the CDU. The general election is not due to be held until September next year, but we cannot rule out the possibility that the events of recent days may serve to undermine German confidence in the Chancellor. A man of order and a lover of budgetary rigor, Schäuble is much loved by the people, and may well assume an even more important role in the future. Sincerely pro-European, he may in truth be the most suitable leader for convincing the German people to accept a less rigid policy with regard to public budgets.

EUROPEAN UNION - Spain and Portugal avoid EU sanctions, thanks to Germany

In a classic European-style compromise, the Commission has decided that despite the fact that Spain and Portugal have clearly breached the budget deficit targets agreed, no penalty will be applied. Right up until the last minute, it looked as though for the first time in its history, the EU would impose a fine in the region of hundreds of millions of euros on two of its members, as punishment for not respecting the Stability and Growth Pact. Surprisingly, it appears that it was the intervention of the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, which served to convince the Commission to change its mind, lobbying supporters of Juncker - especially the European populists - to show clemency. Summing up the situation, Juncker himself stated that the Commission should look to avoid being more Catholic than the Pope, whilst acknowledging that the Pope - Wolfgang Schäuble in this analogy - wants to keep the sanctions at zero. The reasons behind Berlin's desire to prevent the imposition of these sanctions are various. On the one hand, it is clear that the country wishes to support its ally, Rajoy, at a time when Germany has already clashed with the center-left governments in Italy and France; on the other, this process clearly indicates the weight of the views of Europe's key capitals, Berlin first and foremost, in the Commission's decisions. Finally, we must not overlook another key factor - the fear that such measures could lead to further growth of anti-European feeling, surely the last thing that Europe needs right now.

EUROPEAN UNION - Michel Barnier, "the scourge of the City," will lead Brexit negotiations for the EU

Jean-Claude Juncker has appointed former European Commissioner Michel Barnier to head the Commission task force which will be in charge of negotiations to release of the UK from the EU. The reaction of Downing Street was rather cold, while in financial spheres, talk has been centered on this move as a deliberately provocative action by Juncker. In the last EU Executive Committee, in fact, Barnier, who is French, also became known at the "scourge of the City of London", for his role in imposing the wave of financial regulatory measures that hit the sector in the aftermath of the crisis. It is now up to him to take a close look at the team responsible for overseeing the technical details pertaining to the Brexit negotiations, navigating the difficult task of finding a balanced solution which will allow London to untangle itself from forty years of European regulations. Those who know him well, however, know that the description of Barnier by the British media was more related to the position he occupied in a given historical period, and less to his personal attributes. As such, the UK will not be dealing with a sworn enemy, but rather with a skilled political negotiator, an expert on the Brussels scene and a dedicated supporter of the European cause.