Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday said he would not sign a law put forward by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that would have effectively meant that no small party in Poland would have a chance at European Parliament elections next year. “I’ve decided to veto this bill. This change would mean that the effective electoral threshold would rise to as much as 16.5 percent from 5 percent,” Duda said on public television.
Editorials: Democracy is under threat from the malicious use of technology. The EU is fighting back | Julian King/The Guardian
Alongside traditional canvassing, political parties can now get their messages across using the internet and social media, tools that have not only made it possible to reach large numbers of people but also, increasingly, to micro-target individuals with tailormade messages. This should, in theory, mean an electorate better informed than ever before. But those same tools can easily be hijacked by malicious actors – both state and non-state – to subvert our democratic systems and be used as a weapon against us. And unfortunately, such interference has become increasingly common in the past few years, be it regarding a referendum on an EU agreement with Ukraine or a US presidential election. Preventing our democratic processes, the very building blocks of our society, from being affected is not a concern for the future. It is a task of the utmost importance now, one that requires immediate action. Indeed, we have been working on addressing this threat for a while and are looking to step up our response, together with our member states.
European leaders on Monday called for a new presidential election in Venezuela, saying they will “swiftly” levy a new round of sanctions targeting those close to President Nicolas Maduro. Despite widespread calls for a return to democratic rule, Venezuela’s election showed the country was further straying from constitutional order, the European Union’s foreign ministers said. The threat from the EU’s foreign ministers drew backlash from Maduro, who said that and any more sanctions will only further hurt Venezuelans. “This is the European Union that arrogantly wants to put its nose in Venezuela’s business,” Maduro said. “Enough of this old colonialism.”
The European Union Mission to Liberia has reportedly deployed ten long-term Election Observer Teams across the country ahead of next month’s elections scheduled for October 10. The EU said the group of election experts consists of one woman and one man each. They are part of the EU Election Observation Mission to Liberia that will observe the Presidential and Legislative Elections. After three days of intensive briefings and preparations in Monrovia, the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Liberia deployed all 20 long-term-observers and drivers into the regions of the country. Ten woman and ten men from 20 different European countries are observing the Presidential and legislative elections in all 15 Liberian counties.
A more robust EU cyber agency could help member states defend their elections against “hybrid attacks”, the European Commission has said. Speaking at the launch of new cybersecurity proposals in Brussels on Tuesday (19 September), Julian King, the Commission’s security chief, said some hacker attacks had “political objectives”. “They can target our democratic institutions and can be used with other tools, such as propaganda and fake news, in hybrid attacks,” he said. “We need to be as serious about security online as we are offline,” he said. He also hailed Finland’s new “centre of excellence” on hybrid warfare, which is designed to help EU countries fight novel assaults. King did not name Russia, but Russian hackers and media recently attacked the French and US elections.
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have announced to provide an additional 1.6 million euros grant as part of their electoral assistance to Nepal to reinforce their cooperation with the Election Commission of Nepal. The grant will be used to provide needful electoral assistance to the EC through the UNDP-managed Electoral Support Project (ESP), according to a press statement issued jointly by UNDP and EU Office in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
Angola has rejected conditions demanded by an EU election observer mission that had been preparing to witness next month’s polls in the country, state media reported on Monday. The European team had called for unfettered access to polling stations across the vast southern African nation during the August 23 vote. “So this is Africa. And we do not expect anyone to impose on us their means of observing elections or to give lectures,” said Foreign Minister Georges Chicoti according to the Journal de Angola newspaper. “The invitation stands. But we do not want to have separate agreements with all of the organisations (sending observers).”
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks, following a planned vote on April 16 that could give him sweeping new powers. “Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the (EU) accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there,” Erdogan told a joint forum with Britain in the southern city of Antalya. His comments came a day after he vowed to review all political and administrative ties with the EU, including a deal to curb illegal migration, but it would maintain economic relations with the bloc.
As the European project grew from six reasonably cohesive members to 28 more diverse and less controllable ones, it was faced with two big questions. One was what to do if a country decided to leave. The response of the United States to South Carolina’s secession in 1860 seemed excessive, so instead the treaty was amended to include Article 50, which sets out the procedure for exit. The hope was that it would never be used, but now Britain is invoking it. Untried though the procedure is, one thing seems certain: it will be long-drawn-out and painful for everyone. The second question was what to do if a country started to trample on the democratic standards that are a condition of membership. Europe has had to consider this issue before, in 2000, when Austria brought Jörg Haider, a far-right politician, into a coalition government. The EU tried to isolate Austria by freezing contacts, but when that failed to oust Mr Haider it gradually thawed, and has since tacitly accepted governments sustained by extremist parties. In the 2000s several commentators suggested that Italy under Silvio Berlusconi would have failed the Copenhagen criteria for membership because he wielded such enormous power over the Italian media, but at the time nothing was done about it.
Russia’s meddling in the US election is well documented. It is now accused of doing the same in France. France is a more important target for Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader abhors the idea of blocs of countries acting together. Multi-national groupings like the EU give their members a combined clout he cannot match leading a country whose economy is no bigger than Italy’s. It makes sense for Mr Putin to seek the break-up of the European Union. His intervention in the US elections helped bring to power a man who championed Brexit and whose rhetoric undermines the EU. Mr Putin knows Marine Le Pen can helped deliver his strategic goals in Europe. The far-right French presidential candidate has threatened to pull France out of the eurozone and a hold referendum on EU membership. Many economists doubt the single European currency can survive the former and predict an ensuing economic catastrophe across Europe. The EU is also unlikely to remain intact if a majority of French people voted for a Frexit.
When Italians vote on a much-awaited popular referendum on Sunday, they will also be deciding the fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government—and expressing the country’s appetite for change. The ballot is ostensibly over Mr. Renzi’s proposal to overhaul Italy’s legislature. But with his popularity waning and the economy stalled, it has become a make-or-break vote on the premier himself and his vision for a nimbler and faster-growing Italy. A loss would likely drive Mr. Renzi from office and usher in a period of instability amid growing support for a large populist party. Italy’s referendum kicks off a momentous electoral year in Europe, where populist parties are expected to do well. On the same day as the Italian vote, Austrians go to the polls to elect a new president, in a race that could install the country’s first right-wing populist head of state since World War II. Support for anti-establishment parties is surging in France and Germany, too, both of which have elections next year.
With Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, 2016 has already contributed its share of major political upsets. Yet another upset may be in the making. The upcoming Italian referendum on constitutional reform could possibly have disastrous consequences for Europe and the world. It may seem strange that a national constitutional referendum could have global consequences. The reason it may have larger implications has to do with the euro zone — the club of European Union members that share a common currency. As political scientists like Mark Blyth have noted, the euro zone is badly designed. Although it has a common currency, it does not have a central fiscal authority to make financial transfers across states to balance out shocks and assure shared economic growth and prosperity. This means that over the past eight years of economic crisis, it has destabilized European politics, driving a political wedge between poor southern European states and richer northern European states. This, together with the refugee crisis, has encouraged nationalist parties to mobilize against E.U. institutions across the continent and pro-integration mainstream parties to try to fight back. It also means that a shock in one country can possibly have broader reverberations for Europe and the world.
The government-backed candidate in Moldova’s presidential race withdrew on Wednesday, saying it was a tactical move to ensure the presidency remained in pro-European hands. The frontrunner ahead of Sunday’s election is pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon, who wants to hold a referendum on the ex-Soviet nation’s Association Agreement with the EU. On Wednesday government choice Marian Lupu said he would step aside to boost the chances of fellow pro-Western candidate Maia Sandu. Sandu last week told Reuters that a split among pro-European politicians could harm Moldova. “This is a tactical decision. Moldova needs a pro-European president. Polls show she (Sandu) is more favored,” Lupu told journalists.
Montenegrins are heading to the polls on October 16 in a parliamentary election that is being billed as a choice between Russia and the West. The long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists is facing pro-Russian and pro-Serbian opposition groups that strongly oppose the country’s NATO bid and path toward joining the European Union. Pro-Western Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has led the tiny Balkan nation as president or prime minister for more than 25 years, is facing his toughest challenge yet to cling on to power. “Everyone is aware that the fate of the state will be decided…whether Montenegro will become a member of the EU and NATO or a Russian colony,” Djukanovic said on October 14 at an election rally. Some 530,000 registered voters will be voting for 17 lists, including a total of 34 parties.
Montenegro is entering the final week of its most significant electoral encounter for over a decade. The result could affect the process of NATO and EU enlargement in the Balkans. On Sunday October 16 Montenegro goes to the polls for the fourth time since it declared its independence in 2006. 18 electoral lists will compete for 81-seats in the parliament. The election campaign is deeply divided among those who favor and those who oppose European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban is asking Hungarians to reject quotas for the settlement of refugees in a referendum that may solidify his power at home and boost his leverage in an increasingly divided Europe. Polls show overwhelming support for a “no” vote backed by Orban, leaving turnout as the main hurdle for the premier, who needs at least 50 percent participation to make the referendum binding. The question on the ballot is “Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?” European leaders have sought to show unity this month after a tumultuous year for the region, with the biggest wave of refugees since World War II and the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU tearing at the seams of the bloc. Orban has been the staunchest opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy and he may use the vote to showcase support for his zero-immigration approach. The Hungarian prime minister is also looking to harness political momentum before parliamentary elections in 2018, where he’ll seek a third consecutive term.
Hungary: National Election Office: 18 percent of mail-in ballots spoiled in Hungarian referendum | Hungarian Free Press
Hungary’s National Election Office has processed 32,254 mail-in ballots for the Sunday referendum against EU-wide “migrant quotas” and has deemed that 18% of them (5,708) were spoiled by voters. Hungarians living abroad and holding dual citizenship are eligible to vote by mail-in ballot, but thus far only 28% of the 274,573 registered voters have chosen to participate in the October 2nd referendum. The National Election Office will continue to both receive and process mail-in ballots on Thursday and Friday, but participation among those who live abroad and hold dual citizenship is far below the 50% +1 threshold. It’s hard to tell if the large number of spoiled ballots are deliberate, or merely an indication that Hungarians living abroad are not completing their voting packages as per the National Election Office’s instructions. It takes several steps to cast a valid mail-in vote. Voters must complete a declaration form with their name, date of birth and other personal information, and must include this form alongside their completed mail-in ballot, but must not place it together with their ballot into the small white envelope (which goes into the larger self-addressed and stamped envelope) that voters have been provided.
The European Union (EU) has called for voter education to enhance effective participation in next month’s elections. EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) chief observer Cecille Kyenge said this yesterday when she met some Copperbelt civil society organisations at Mukuba Hotel in Ndola to discuss their activities and contributions to the electoral process. Ms Kyenge said the voters were an important component in the electoral process and that having met Ndola-based civil society organisations, the mission was pleased with their strong dedication.
United Kingdom: Scotland should look to ally with Nordic nations, not EU, says legal expert | The Guardian
Scotland could succeed as an independent country outside of the UK and the EU, a constitutional expert has said, advising it to ally with Nordic countries instead. With Spain threatening to veto any future independent Scotland from joining the EU, the woman who drew up Iceland’s post-crash constitution said the Scots should not fear being outside Brussels’ sphere of influence. Katrin Oddsdóttir, elected to draft a new Icelandic social contract after the financial collapse, said her country’s recovery showed that smaller nations could survive outside big unions. Speaking at the weekend following a lecture during the Galway international arts festival in Ireland, Oddsdóttir said that if there was a referendum to join the EU in Iceland, she would vote no – describing the union as a “gang” and a “bullying association”.
United Kingdom: Second EU referendum petition to be debated in Parliament after receiving more than 4 million signatures | The Independent
A House of Commons debate on a petition calling for a second EU referendum will take place on Monday, 5 September. The Commons Petitions Committee confirmed the record-breaking online petition, signed by more than four million people, will be put forward for debate. The petition, which was set up by a Brexit supporter before the referendum was held, called for the Government to annul the results if the Remain or Leave vote won by less than 60 per cent on a turnout of less than 75 per cent. A House of Commons spokesman said in a statement: “The Committee has decided that the huge number of people signing this petition means that it should be debated by MPs. “The Petitions Committee would like to make clear that, in scheduling this debate, they are not supporting the call for a second referendum.
Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic on Monday set Oct. 16 for parliamentary elections regarded as crucial for his country’s aspirations to join the European Union and NATO. The smallest of the former Yugoslav republics, Montenegro opened accession talks with the European Union in 2011 and was invited to join NATO in December. But to progress on both fronts, it needs to step up the fight against corruption and show its electoral process is transparent and fair.
United Kingdom: Brexit Regret: Will There Be A New Referendum Vote? Huge Online Petition For New Vote ‘Hijacked’ By ‘Remain’ Supporters | International Business Times
An online petition asking for a second British referendum on whether to leave the European Union had collected 3.89 million signatures by Monday evening. But the petition submitted to Parliament didn’t go up recently, nor was it created by a supporter of the U.K.’s membership in the EU. Instead, the petition was created in November by a Brexit supporter, but interest has spiked since Thursday’s narrow victory for the “leave” camp. The losing side in the vote suddenly took renewed notice. Now, the petition, the largest ever submitted to Parliament’s website, has far more signatures than the 100,000 needed to require MPs to consider the demand. By comparison, another popular parliamentary petition to block U.S. presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from entering the U.K. garnered about 586,000 signatures.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government started work on legislation for a new referendum on independence after the U.K. as a whole decided to quit the European Union while Scotland voted to remain. Speaking after an emergency meeting of her cabinet in Edinburgh on Saturday, Sturgeon said she will also be seeking talks with European leaders and the institutions of the EU about ways of continuing Scotland’s relationship with the bloc. The semi-autonomous government will appoint a panel of advisers in coming weeks and convene a meeting of consuls from EU member states. “A second independence referendum is clearly an option that requires to be on the table, and it is very much on the table; to ensure that option is a deliverable one in the required timetable, steps will be taken now to ensure the necessary legislation is in place,” Sturgeon said in a televised statement outside her official Bute House residence. “We are determined to act decisively, but in a way that builds unity across Scotland about the way forward.”
Editorials: Brexit, “Regrexit,” and the impact of political ignorance | Ilya Somin/The Washington Post
Since last week’s Brexit vote, new evidence has emerged suggesting that the result many have been influenced by widespread political ignorance. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, there was a massive spike in internet searches in Britain asking questions like “What is the EU?” and “What does it mean to leave the EU?” Obviously, reasonably well-informed voters should have known the answers to these questions before they went to the polls instead of after. The aftermath of Brexit has also spawned the so-called “Regrexit” phenomenon: Britons who voted for Brexit, but now regret doing so because they feel they were misinformed about the likely consequences, or did not consider them carefully enough. A petition on the British Parliament website calling for a revote has collected over 3.4 million signatures (Parliament is required to consider any petition that gets over 100,000 signatures, though it does not have to grant it).
Editorials: Brexit: a journey into the unknown for a country never before so divided | Andrew Rawnsley/The Guardian
In the speech announcing his resignation, David Cameron included a list of the things he was proud to have done as prime minister. I suspect you glazed over at that point. So will future biographers of his premiership. He has just become one of those leaders who will be remembered for a single enormous mistake. Neville Chamberlain had achievements to his name before appeasement. There was more to Anthony Eden than the Suez debacle. Lord North had a career before he lost America. But each of those premiers is defined by their one towering disaster. So it will be with David Cameron, the prime minister who accidentally ruptured more than four decades of his country’s economic, security and foreign policy by losing the referendum on Europe. That will be the inscription etched deep on his tombstone. He staked his reputation and gambled his country’s place in the world on a referendum for which his party ached but the public hardly clamoured. He timed the vote and chose a moment that has proved to be a calamity for the cause to which he became a belated, and thus not very convincing, champion. He destroyed his premiership because he misjudged the politics and mishandled his enemies. The man who arrived as leader of his party pledging to purge its obsession with “banging on about Europe” has blown himself up over Europe. And potentially much else besides. With Nicola Sturgeon seizing on the perfect rationale for another attempt to gain independence for Scotland, he may also be remembered as the man who unravelled the United Kingdom, achieving the double whammy of expelling his country from one union and breaking an even older one.
If Marine Le Pen is elected in France’s presidential elections next year, would she organize a “Frexit”? The leader of the far-right National Front party has used the term before, and she has made it abundantly clear that she thinks the European Union has been a “complete disaster,” as she put it in a speech in Vienna last week. The European Union is one of the most frequent targets of her scorn, depicted as a faceless bureaucracy bent on erasing the French nation in all of its individuality. “France has perhaps a thousand more reasons to leave the E.U. than the English,” she was quoted as saying during a gathering in the Austrian capital of representatives of far-right parties.
United Kingdom: David Cameron to Resign After Losing His Big ‘Brexit’ Gamble in EU Referendum | Wall Street Journal
Scarcely a year after a triumphant general-election victory, British Prime Minister David Cameron is already on his way out of office following an epic miscalculation that on Thursday resulted in U.K. voters opting to leave the European Union. Mr. Cameron said Friday morning that he would step down as prime minister within a few months, a consequence of the U.K.’s historic referendum on whether to remain in the EU. Mr. Cameron in effect became collateral damage in a battle he himself launched by promising he would offer the public a vote on the Europe issue if his Conservative Party won the 2015 general election. The referendum’s outcome—nearly 52% of voters cast ballots to leave the EU—instantly reverses the legacy of a man who first became prime minister in 2010 as the leader of a coalition government.
World stocks headed for one the biggest slumps on record on Friday as a decision by Britain to leave the European Union triggered 8 percent falls for Europe’s biggest bourses and a record plunge for sterling. Such a body blow to global confidence could well prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year, and might even provoke a new round of emergency policy easing from all the major central banks. Risk assets were scorched as investors fled to the traditional safe-harbors of top-rated government debt, Japanese yen and gold. Billions were wiped from share values as Europe saw London’s FTSE .FTSE drop 6 percent in early deals, Germany’s .DAX and France’s CAC 40 .FCHI slump 7.5 and 9 percent and Italian and Spanish markets plunge more than 11 percent.
Editorials: Brexit earthquake has happened, and the rubble will take years to clear | Rafael Behr/The Guardian
There is a difference between measuring the height of a drop and the sensation of falling; between the sight of a wave and hearing it crash on to the shore; between the knowledge of what fire can do and feeling the heat as the flames catch. The theoretical possibility that Britain might leave the European Union, nominally the only question under consideration on the ballot paper, turns out to prefigure nothing of the shock when the country actually votes to do it. Politics as practised for a generation is upended; traditional party allegiances are shredded; the prime minister’s authority is bust – and that is just the parochial domestic fallout. A whole continent looks on in trepidation. It was meant to be unthinkable, now the thought has become action. Europe cannot be the same again. The signs were always there, even if the opinion polls nudged Remainers towards false optimism at the very end of the campaign. Brexit had taken the lead at times and always hovered in the margin of error. But the statistical probability of an earthquake doesn’t describe the disorienting feeling of the ground lurching violently beneath your feet.
If the most recent polls are to be believed (and as we all know, that’s a very big “if”), the result of the EU referendum is likely to be very close. But what happens if it’s a dead heat? Statistically this is of course highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible. It’s more plausible that the difference between the two camps is just a handful of votes. The question is: how close would the result have to be to trigger a recount? There is, perhaps surprisingly, no simple answer to this question. The general rules of the game are set out in the EU Referendum Act 2015, and there are specific regulations for conducting the poll. As for all elections in the UK, counting officers are responsible for the votes cast in their voting area and specific guidance rules for this referendum have also been published by the Electoral Commission.