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Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 28th, 2015 at 06:37:09 AM EST

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

Promoted by DoDo

Read more... (28 comments, 4391 words in story)

Orbán's Next Plan

by DoDo Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 02:59:37 PM EST

If you think the Orbán regime's handling of refugees bottomed out morally with the situation at Röszke, wait until next week, when Hungary's recently passed tough anti-migration laws come into effect.

Until the late summer, Viktor Orbán's government had no migration policy: they only had a premature election campaign, a xenophobic drive aimed at the domestic population. But when reality struck back and not managing the situation resulted in a crisis (eventually shutting down the most important transport route of the country), the regime had to consider actual policy – and their policy of choice is deterrence. Some say the refusal of UN and EU help or the apparent total incompetence of authorities at the refugee gathering site at Röszke is a first conscious part of this. True or not, the real deal is the plan set in motion with a legal package adopted last week and coming into force on Tuesday next week. One that is both vile and impractical.

Stuff like the reinforcing of the border fence, sending down the army, and criminalising illegal immigration and any aid given to migrants reached the international media. But there is more: the practical negation of the right for asylum. To achieve the goal of turning away just about everyone, refugee processing camps are to be set up directly at the Serbian border, in front of (not behind) the border fence. There, Kafkaesque courts housed in containers are to go through the legal motions to arrive at a guaranteed rejection, on the basis that people can take refuge in Serbia which is a safe country.

This plan can easily turn deadly: if, like at Röszke, the government does little to feed and protect the heath of the waiting crowds, or if there is a crowd crush. Furthermore, the plan is way too optimistic about managing crossings of the fence and smuggling (not to speak of people running along the tracks when the gates are opened for a train). Finally, it guarantees even less cooperation from Serbia than before. IMHO the only way it can avoid becoming a total disaster is if the onset of cold weather throttles the refugee wave.

Comments >> (23 comments)

A mini Eurotrib funding drive for UNHCR

by epochepoque Tue Sep 8th, 2015 at 02:37:12 PM EST

UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis - Guardian

Click on the link to see the complete graph. The first bar is the current unfilled request of the UNHCR for $2.89 billion for the Syria regional response plan. Only $0.9 billion of the total $3.8 billion have been funded. If some European governments had had the foresight (yeah I know), they would've just funded the rest long ago which would've been that much cheaper. Bygones, but it's not too late to make a difference.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

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The 2nd Migrant Wave to Germany

by DoDo Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 08:12:27 AM EST

Back in 1989, around the time school started for me at the start of September, Budapest was full of East Germans hoping to leave for West Germany (for a mix of political and economic reasons), hopeful because Hungary started to dismantle the Iron Curtain a few months earlier. A large group camped out at the West German embassy, but there were makeshift camps around the city. The government finally opened the borders for them on 11 September, launching a mostly car-riding emigration wave (at least 70,000 people in three months). A few weeks later, East Germans camping out in Warshaw and Prague were taken to West Germany in sealed trains.

Yesterday, something similar happened, only this time the refugees are dark-skinned and faced much worse treatment. In line with both the government's xenophobic campaign and the EU's Dublin Agreement (whose main aim was to keep refugees from moving to the richer EU members), Hungarian authorities prevented the mostly Syrian refugees without EU visa from boarding trains bound for the west. Most of the stranded refugees who refused to be taken to Hungarian camps stayed in the underpass at main station Budapest Keleti (up to two thousand), in a makeshift "transit zone" lacking basic hygiene and only cared for by an NGO.

I don't know whether it was concern about image (to have such misery as the first sight of arriving Western tourists), or anger at the German foreign minister's denouncement of the anti-refugee wall built at the Serbian border, or anger at general Western hypocrisy; but yesterday, the government decided to withdraw police and let refugees board the trains. Without any plans about how to manage the thousands of extra passengers (all transit countries refused to send extra trains), entirely predictably, the result was utter chaos, from Budapest to Munich: ticket counters were (actually, still are) clogged, some trains left with an hour delay due to over-loading, the first train was stopped in the last city before Munich but local police didn't have the capacity to process more than half of the refugees on-board; other trains were stopped at the Hungarian–Austrian border station, but after the filtering-out of refugees who already filed for asylum in Hungary the trains still travelled on over capacity; on the parallel highway, Austrian police started checks of all trucks, causing a 50 km traffic jam.

For the hectic events since, especially today, check the comments.

Read more... (265 comments, 705 words in story)

It's "Whose Economy, Stupid?"

by Helen Mon Aug 3rd, 2015 at 03:58:51 PM EST

Owen Jones has had a good go at trying to describe why the zombie-followers of Blair are being rejected: Guardian - Owen Jones - Jeremy Corbyn's supporters aren't mad - they're fleeing a bankrupt New Labour

How have the Labour left, from arguably its lowest ebb in the party's history, apparently ended up on the brink of taking the leadership on a wave of support? If you listen to many self-described "centre-left" voices, it's because the Labour party has gone quite, quite mad. Cod psychology now abounds to describe the rise of Corbynism: narcissism, people wanting to show off how right-on they are on Facebook, mass delusion, an emotional spasm, and so on. Corbyn supporters are having a temper tantrum against the electorate, so this patronising narrative goes, they think voters have "false consciousness" on a grand scale. Some sort of mass psychological disorder has gripped one of the great parties of the left in the western world, and the only real debate is how it must be cured or eradicated. And the tragedy is this: the great "centre-left" condescenders are able to identify any factor for Corbyn's spectacular rise other than the culprit: their own political cause, or rather its implosion.

Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement. And that's the problem: this snarkiness is all some seem to have left. Much of the self-described "centre-left" - I'd say Blairism, but some embrace the label more than others - now lack a clear vision, or a set of policies, or even a coherent distinct set of values. They increasingly define themselves against what they regard as a deluded, childish left. They have created a vacuum and it has now been filled by the Corbyn left.

Their plight is quite straightforward....

However I want to make a stab at a slightly larger question : Why Corbyn, like Bernie Sanders in the US, is managing to attract such enthusiasm from all quarters of political opinion except the gate keepers and agenda setters of the professional commentariat.

Clinton famously had a sign on his desk that read "It's the economy, stupid!!". And he was right, but the follow-on question that always needs to be asked is "what economy?" or, more precisely, "whose economy?"

Read more... (38 comments, 942 words in story)

The Prague moment of the European Left

by Migeru Fri Jul 17th, 2015 at 08:31:59 AM EST

Cross-posted on The Court Astrologer.

Prominent heterodox economist James Galbraith, who enjoyed an inside view of the last five months of Greek negotiations as an advisor to Yanis Varoufakis, writes the following for a mainstream American audience: Greece, Europe, and the United States (Harper's, July 16, 2015)

What will become of Europe? Clearly the hopes of the pro-European, reformist left are now over. That will leave the future in the hands of the anti-European parties, including UKIP, the National Front in France, and Golden Dawn in Greece. These are ugly, racist, xenophobic groups; Golden Dawn has proposed concentration camps for immigrants in its platform. The only counter, now, is for progressive and democratic forces to regroup behind the banner of national democratic restoration. Which means that the left in Europe will also now swing against the euro.
The parallel between the Greek crisis and the Prague Spring, with a ruthless mainstream left crushing the hopes of an idealist left in defence of a system, is illustrated with poetic irony by the following tweet by a Social-Democrat finance minister from the former Czechoslovakia:Meanwhile, in an interview with Jacobin Magazine which we have already been discussing in previous threads on this blog, Left Platform Syriza MP Stathis Kouvelakis says the following about the ideology of "left-Europeanism": Greece: The Struggle Continues (Jacobin, July 14, 2015)
I think that in this case we can clearly see what the ideology at work here is. Although you don’t positively sign up to the project and you have serious doubts about the neoliberal orientation and top-down structure of European institutions, nevertheless you move within its coordinates and can’t imagine anything better outside of its framework.
I imagine that you could have written the same of Communist parties in the 1960s and their support for the Soviet Union. Out of the disappointment of the Prague Spring (on top of the invasion of Hungary a decade earlier) was born the Eurocommunist strand of the 1970s.

Read more... (79 comments, 918 words in story)

I'm done with the EU

by tyronen Mon Jul 13th, 2015 at 05:58:47 PM EST

I've changed my mind. I will be voting for the UK to leave the EU.

Whatever deal the UK Conservatives negotiate will only make matters worse.

I think leftists across Europe worthy of the name should transform themselves into Eurosceptic parties. The euro is an abomination. It must be abolished and national currencies restored. The Maastricht Treaty should be repealed.

These policies are nothing more than attempts to force ordoliberal policies across the continent. The EU is a thuggish, vicious oligarchy and I want no part of it anymore.

Further analysis and good discussions in the comment section - Bjinse

Comments >> (228 comments)

There's a (awful) deal open thread.

by Colman Mon Jul 13th, 2015 at 03:58:46 AM EST

Your regularly scheduled mourning open thread on the Greek clusterfuck.

Apparently there's a deal.

Read more... (235 comments, 150 words in story)

National unity splits the party

by Migeru Sat Jul 11th, 2015 at 05:41:22 AM EST

Use this as an open thread.
In this series:

Read more... (232 comments, 466 words in story)

Would you capitulate already?

by Colman Tue Jul 7th, 2015 at 03:19:20 AM EST

In a coordinated press statement, the leaders of France and Germany called on Greece to come up with “serious and credible proposals” at Tuesday’s summit consistent with its wish to stay in the eurozone. (Guardian)

"Serious and credible", in this context, means "do as we tell you, implement our insane austerity programme."

Read more... (206 comments, 192 words in story)

Greek referendum aftermath open thread

by Migeru Mon Jul 6th, 2015 at 05:05:17 AM EST

Yanis Varoufakis: Minister No More! (July 6, 2015)

Like all struggles for democratic rights, so too this historic rejection of the Eurogroup’s 25th June ultimatum comes with a large price tag attached. It is, therefore, essential that the great capital bestowed upon our government by the splendid NO vote be invested immediately into a YES to a proper resolution – to an agreement that involves debt restructuring, less austerity, redistribution in favour of the needy, and real reforms.


I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum.


We of the Left know how to act collectively with no care for the privileges of office. I shall support fully Prime Minister Tsipras, the new Minister of Finance, and our government.

In this series:

Read more... (67 comments, 358 words in story)

Greek referendum day open thread

by Migeru Sun Jul 5th, 2015 at 01:59:42 AM EST

Politico EU: Tusk: ‘Nobody here is an angel’ (3/7/15)

No matter how Greeks vote Sunday, the EU is looking for ways “to keep them inside” the single currency, though that may require “a completely new” approach to allow the eurozone to coexist with a bankrupt country, Donald Tusk told POLITICO.

Striking a notably conciliatory tone, the European Council president called on Athens and its creditors to stop the mutual “blame game,” work to “rebuild trust” and promptly resume negotiations after the July 5 referendum in Greece.

“The main aim for us is to keep the eurozone united,” he said.

Read more... (115 comments, 236 words in story)

Media Onslaught? Open Thread

by afew Wed Jul 1st, 2015 at 12:21:20 AM EST

Greece Misses $1.7 Billion IMF Payment, Joining Zimbabwe's Ranks - Bloomberg Business

Greece became the first advanced economy to miss a payment on IMF debt, joining the historical ranks of delinquents from Cuba to Zimbabwe after the Mediterranean nation’s bailout talks with creditors collapsed.

The International Monetary Fund’s board has been informed that Greece is now in arrears, spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement, after a 6 p.m. Washington deadline Tuesday for Greece’s $1.7 billion payment, coinciding with the expiration of the nation’s European bailout. Greece’s request for an extension will go to the fund’s board “in due course,” Rice said.

The European Central Bank must now consider the effect of any missed payment on the solvency of Greek banks when they discuss emergency assistance on Wednesday. The outcome may affect Greece’s euro membership. Klaus Regling, the head of the main euro-area bailout fund, has said it has the option of demanding accelerated debt payments from Greece if it doesn’t pay the IMF.

Read more... (212 comments, 301 words in story)

Greek capital controls open thread

by Migeru Sun Jun 28th, 2015 at 03:55:35 PM EST

Proto Thema (English): Breaking: Capital Controls taken – Banks closed for one week! (June 28 2015)

... The government said the decision came after a request by the Bank of Greece.

According to reports, the bank holiday will last throughout the week, with the maximum daily withdrawal reportedly set at a … princely 60 euros.

Another unconfirmed report deal with whether ATMs will function on Monday at all, given that technical modifications are necessary to cap withdrawals.


Capital controls will reportedly also affect credit cards issued by Greek banks, regardless if they are part of an international credit corporation, like Mastercard or Visa. If this measure goes into effect, cards will be useless both in Greece and … abroad. So much for Greek travelers without a lot of cash on hand.

Conversely, credit cards issued by foreign banks will not be affected, welcome news amid the ongoing “readjustment period” for tourists in the country.

Read more... (53 comments, 327 words in story)

Greek referendum open thread

by Migeru Sat Jun 27th, 2015 at 11:59:46 AM EST

Prime Minister of Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ address concerning the referendum to be held on the 5th of July (June 27, 2015)

Council of the European Union: Eurogroup Statement on Greece (with a footnote)
[1] Supported by all members of the Eurogroup except the Greek member.

Read more... (210 comments, 269 words in story)

What we've learned from the Greek process to date

by Colman Thu Jun 25th, 2015 at 06:32:43 AM EST

Even with a seat at the table, control of an EU member state government and the support, more-or-less, of some of the most prestigious economists in the world it is impossible to break through the EU leadership's cargo-cult obsession with austerity and tax cuts.

Read more... (117 comments, 179 words in story)

End game for Greece?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 20th, 2015 at 07:28:18 AM EST

Yanis Varoufakis has an article in today's Irish Times in which he laments the failure of the Eurogroup to listen to his proposals even whilst they themselves have been kept in the dark about what "the Institutions" are proposing. Apparently no substantive discussions took place on what either "the Institutions" or Greece were suggesting as the way forward. A majority of the Eurogroup Ministers appear to have decided, in advance, that Varoufakis is not someone they can "do business with."

But perhaps the finance Ministers couldn't address, never mind resolve, the Greek crisis because at root it isn't a financial crisis, it is a political crisis which effects the whole European project. If this all goes horribly wrong, we will have Greece spinning, out of control, into the Russian orbit run by a military Junta and with politicians such as Varoufakis in exile, jail, or worse.  

The EU, meanwhile, will start to fall apart with nationalists governments, led by the UK, doing their best to break it apart. We may not have a major European war any time soon, but the slippery slope will have begun.  Meanwhile we will have people starving in the streets and dying en masse for lack of proper medical care.

Read more... (356 comments, 677 words in story)

Ireland votes for marriage equality

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 23rd, 2015 at 07:12:21 AM EST

It looks like Ireland has voted to include a specific provision to legalize same sex marriage in its constitution in the first vote of its kind in the world. Early tallies indicate that the YES side is likely to win in what appears to have been with a very high turn-out election.

The referendum was part of a sequence of referendums on social and moral issues over the past few decades in Ireland's own version of the culture wars which have been fought in many parts of the world. The amendment to the constitution was opposed by the usual suspects in the Catholic Church and assorted right wing pressure groups who sought to turn the vote into a vote on surrogacy and children's rights which were in no way effected by the Amendment itself.

The YES side had feared that a low turnout might enable the NO campaign to win the vote because of the greater propensity of older and more traditional people to vote.  However, in what appears to have been an unprecedented mobilization of younger, more secular, and more liberal voters a high turnout now looks the likely outcome. Thousands, including members of my own family, flew home from abroad so that they could vote. (Irish Embassies do not make provision for Irish voters to vote when abroad).

The outcome, if confirmed, could result in a seismic change in Irish politics.  Some NO campaigners made no secret of their opposition to the measure because they feared that it might lead to an overturn of the 1983 Referendum which outlawed abortion in Ireland.

I will update this story as more vote counts came in.  In the meantime, please feel free to use the comments to discuss the issue. For a list of Referendums to change the Irish Constitution, see here.

[Update] Final Result:
YES: 1,201,647 (62.1%)
No: 734,300 (37.9%)
Margin 24.2%
Turnout 60.5%

This is the highest turnout in a Referendum since the 1996 Referendum which removed the constitutional ban on Divorce from the Constitution by a margin of less than 0.6%. Only one of Ireland's 43 constituencies (Roscommon-South Leitrim) voted no by a margin of 49 to 51%.

Comments >> (34 comments)

On SYRIZA, negotiations and compromise

by talos Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 09:22:49 AM EST

There is a coordinated PR attack against the Greek government, unfortunately also deceiving people from the left, regarding the Greek government's intentions and actions so far. It is far from certain what the results of the negotiations will be, but preemptively announcing SYRIZA's retreat seems to me to be a performative assessment, meant to both flatter the prejudices on which most of the austerian EU governments have built their TINA alternative, and to dissipate international support away from a government that has up to now, in a small but significant way, made the first steps against the dominant narrative, anywhere in the West, over the past 20 years.

So let me put to rest some of the more obnoxious misinformation that is being peddled by "EU / ECB circles" and international media, subservient to the cause of pressuring the new Greek government to submission, by pointing out a few facts...

promoted by afew

Read more... (49 comments, 1716 words in story)

Operation underpants

by Migeru Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 at 04:30:35 AM EST

The recent incidents involving over a thousand dead migrants in Italy and Greece has led to a new European Union strategy on immigration. Behold:

  1. Bomb the smugglers' underpants
  2. ???
  3. Profit!
see the "now, seriously" version below the fold.

Read more... (36 comments, 257 words in story)
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Your take on today's news media

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 Open Thread 5 - 11 Oct

by Bjinse - Oct 5, 33 comments

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