EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 07/11/2019

Financial Times – Valerie Hopkins & Mehreen Kahn / Romania’s search for stability

  • The country of Romania will hold its first round of presidential elections on Sunday, less than a week after the country got its fourth premier in three years. Incumbent President Klaus Iohannis, who led the conservative National Liberal Party, looks to set to emerge victorious. Nonetheless, whether he will face the ex-premier Viorica Dancila, of the Social Democratic party, or Dan Barna of the urban intellectual Union to Save Romania party in the run-off on November 24 is still up in the air.
  • Romania’s freshly installed premier Ludovic Orban is a political ally of Mr Iohannis, who has emerged as a rare source of stability during years of political turmoil. Mrs Dancila was ousted on October 10 in a no-confidence vote, which makes it “almost existential” for the party to make it to the second round, according to Oana Popescu-Zamfir, director of the Global Focus NGO and a former minister of state for European Affairs.
  • Regardless of the electoral outcome on Sunday, those governing Romania will face significant challenges in the near term to pull the country out of a period of political uncertainty. The next government will need to approve a budget and try to compensate for delays in programs requiring European funding. Moreover, it is also possible that the president could call a snap poll, which would be the first in Romania’s history.

Al-Monitor – Daoud Kuttab / Palestinian elections look increasingly feasible

  • When the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly last September that he “will call for general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem” and “hold those who object to the elections accountable to God, the international community and history,” few expected that elusive election to take place. There are still many obstacles, but it appears that Abbas had some justification to make this bold call. Traditionally, there has been a focus on the need for national reconciliation as a prerequisite to elections, but according to a senior adviser, the elections themselves will help usher in reconciliation by means of creating an elected national unity government.
  • Various pundits including Hani al-Masri, director of the Masarat think tank, expect that if all the obstacles are overcome, elections could take place next February. But while the plan makes sense in theory, Masri and others doubt that either Fatah or Hamas would be willing to give up their power, money and weapons if the other side wins.
  • If in fact the many obstacles to elections are overcome, a major question will need to be answered by the Fatah leadership: Will Abbas renege on his promise not to run for president or will another candidate be chosen? There are two opposing views on this issue. Secretary of Fatah Jibril Rajoub noted on Palestine TV that Abbas is 85 years old and called on the president to be a “historic leader” — hinting at an honorable retirement. On the other hand, Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Sheikh — the head of a key ministry that interacts with Israel — tweeted that Fatah’s only nominee for president is Abbas.
  • Haaretz – Jonathan Lis / In direct election for Israeli Prime Minister, some right-wing voters may defect to Gantz

Project Syndicate – Christopher R. Hill / Emmanuel Macron’s Balkan betrayal

  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western leaders have consistently maintained that there are no problems on the European continent that cannot be addressed through engagement with the EU or an expansion. But that longstanding outlook seems to be changing, owing to a combination of internal woes and American indifference. the European Council’s recent meeting on October 17-18 provided confirmation that something has changed: French President Emmanuel Macron made the decision to block EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. With the UK leaving and Angela Merkel retiring from politics, Macron is the heir apparent to European leadership. But his reasoning on the question of EU expansion is opaque.
  • The disappointment over Macron’s decision is palpable in Tirana and Skopje. North Macedonia, after all, just finished changing its official name in order to placate Greece. NATO has followed through. Though some members still need to approve, the Republic of North Macedonia is expected to become a full NATO member at the alliance’s December summit. But the EU accession process has been much slower. Macron, who has said very little on the subject, seems to be worried that continuing enlargement of the bloc will make reforming its governance structures more difficult.
  • In the past, one might have expected the US to step in. But in the context of President Donald Trump’s largely unformed foreign policy, the plight of small, distant countries like North Macedonia and Albania barely registers. Of course, it is possible that Trump has tired of the French president’s star power. It is also possible that Trump doesn’t want Albania and North Macedonia to join the EU. But, most likely, he simply has no idea what is happening in the Western Balkans.

The New York Times – Mark Landler / A not-so special relationship: Facing voters, Johnson backs away from Trump

  • Once, the prime minister talked up the benefits of having a close friend in the White House; now he is distancing himself from a figure who is radioactive to many Britons. Mr. Johnson rallies supporters with his message that only a vote for the Conservatives guarantees that Britain will leave the European Union. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn defended that Mr. Johnson would sell out Britain’s state health system to a predatory Mr. Trump in a trade deal. “We’ll never let Donald Trump get his hands on our National Health Service,” he thundered.
  • What makes Mr. Trump so dangerous for Mr. Johnson is his unpredictability. The Labour Party will do its best to surgically attach the two men over the next five weeks. On Tuesday, the party released a new advertisement showing Mr. Johnson in front of a blue bus emblazoned with a banner that said, “We’ll send Trump £500m a week. Let’s fund U.S. drug firms, not our N.H.S.”
  • Public attitudes toward Mr. Trump have not softened during his presidency. In a poll of Briton’s attitudes toward foreign leaders by the research group YouGov, only 19 percent of those surveyed said they had a positive opinion of Mr. Trump; 67 percent said they had a negative opinion, and 13 percent were neutral. That places him behind George W. Bush and Pakistan’s president, Imran Khan, but ahead of President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
  • The Guardian – Rowena Mason / Boris Johnson goes on attack after series of high-profile Tory gaffes

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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