#populism

Populist Finns Party set to more than double number of seats

The nationalist, anti-immigrant and eurosceptic Finns Party is set to grow seats from 17 in 2015 to 38 in today’s election, or represent around 17% of parliament. The party election video is an interesting one to say the least.

Whatever one’s personal views on populism, in Europe it is the fastest growing segment in politics. With 118m Europeans below the poverty line, 50% higher than 2007 is it any wonder the citizens of many member states have had enough of EU control. Finland has only 15.7% (up from 12.6% in 2007) poverty as a percentage vs 22.4% (16% in 2007) in the EU-28 but that is enough to trigger the ice cold welfare state to revolt.

Mrs May, do you understand more EU members don’t want to be held captive by Brussels?

Why?

What often surprises CM is the need to openly show one’s abhorrence to the now 50 people senselessly murdered in Christchurch. On the contrary, if one didn’t find the events appalling that would say something in itself. There is nothing ‘woke’ about publicly showing one is against what happened. Of course the overwhelming majority of us are. Yet moral preening does nothing to help stem the flow of such terror. Neither does capitalizing on tragedies such as this to pit division via unhinged political activism.

Social media has been whipped into a frenzy since the cold blooded crime. Ad hominem attacks against the usual culprits for being complicit does little to help the grieving process. There must be no words to understand their pain. So why resort to cheap shots and big noting on Twitter? Survivors and families of the dead will hardly find solace by reading the bile of ignorant apparatchiks making a bad situation palpably worse.

CM has often questioned the purpose of lighting up monuments and splashing avatars with national flags of where those atrocities occurred. Does anyone in their right mind think that would-be-perpetrators pay the slightest mind to such appeals? Might as well keep the lights on. Because unless proper action is taken, nothing will change. Instead of stifling debate, we need to engage in it. Tackle the issues burning the fabric of our society.  Social and mainstream media continue to push false narratives, making people even more afraid to speak their minds. Some countries like Canada have laws that jail those that dare to.

If we accept the vast majority of people in the world are decent no matter what their background, why is it activists expect certain groups to self-flagellate when such events occur? The background of the victims or the villains should be irrelevant. It is despicable beyond belief to murder innocent unarmed people whatever their race, skin colour, religious beliefs or sexual proclivity. No one should question this. Yet tougher and tougher legislation restricting freedoms ends up being the by-product. Unfortunately newly introduced laws end up causing the opposite of intended effect. It only emboldens these extremists to go deeper underground. It exacerbates resentment.

We have to ask ourselves why? It seems most of the political class is asleep at the wheel given the trend of rising nationalism, especially throughout Europe. Instead of having deep transparent discussion addressing the problems and issues driving these movements, our leaders think it prudent to bury their heads in the sand. Hiding behind the spineless guise of political correctness, they legislate against certain groups with ever harsher penalties in ways which seem only to underpin the popularity of those that seek to defend them. If the political elite think believe they understand the will of the people they are woefully out of their depth at selling messages of unity. For if they understood the layman, populist parties would remain on the outer.

Think about it. Alternative for Deutschland, Sweden Democrats, The Dutch Freedom Party, Lega in Italy, the Freedom Party in Austria, Vlaams-Belang in Belgium, Order & Justice in Lithuania, Law & Justice Party in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary, True Finns, Front National in France…the list goes on. From fringe parties (or not even in existence) a decade ago to Top 3 in many cases. Have more Europeans become racist bigots in the last decade by chance or do they feel their lot changing for the worse?

Take a look at the poverty statistics across Europe. There were 78mn living below the poverty line in 2007. At last count, Eurostat noted that number was 118mn  (23.5% of the European population). In the Europe 2020 strategy, the plan is to reduce that by 20 million. Fat chance.  37.5mn (7.5%) are living in severe material deprivation (SMD) , up from 32mn in 2007. 40 million extra Europeans are suffering in poverty in a little over a decade. No wonder these nationalist parties have gained traction. It is easy to whip up a disaffected mob by claiming their futures are being undercut by mass migration. Whether the arguments are sound or not is frankly irrelevant. People want their lives back. Seeing the inaction among incumbent parties, many are willing to chance those that supposedly feel their pain. Macron still faces yellow vest protests for four consecutive months. Is it any wonder nationalist Marine Le Pen polls higher than the young President?

Perhaps we should question the authorities in playing their part in firing up the discontented. After reading 200+ pages of the Rotherham Inquiry into grooming gangs, it was revealed that the police and local council turned a blind eye to the systematic rape of 1,000 minors over two decades because they feared being thought of as racist were they to target the perpetrators based on their ethnicity. It was political correctness gone mad. Now the scandal has broken out across the country, the courts are finally throwing the book at these criminals. Read the above link at your peril. It is utterly distressing. 1,000s of lives senselessly ruined because leaders were too gutless to stand up for principle. One does not have to be an extremist to be outraged at such cruelty going unpunished for so long.

Politically correct law makers or activist judges do not justify murdering 50 innocent men, women and children. Let us be perfectly clear on this point. However it is not hard to see how those on the fringes use such incidents to fuel their resentment.  Social media allows for such obscene behaviour to be normalised because of the echo chamber dynamic.

What do the statistics of extremism say?

According to the Australian Crime Institute, “understanding the precise nature and scale of the far-right in Australia is made difficult by a lack of empirical information and research. Gaining reliable data on the far-right is firstly complicated by debate over exactly what constitutes violence motivated by far-right ideology…Moreover, Australia does not have any formal monitoring systems for this form of violence, such as that of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ‘Hate Crime Statistics’ (something CM did earlier this month)

In America, Anti-Semitic hate crimes are around 5x the level of Anti-Islamic hate crimes which are around 1.5x Anti-Christian hate crimes. Overall hate crime is lower than two decades ago.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Interior (BfV) updated its fact book on the size of left and right wing groups and the rise of Salafists at home. To summarize:

In 2017, the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office) registered 39,505 offences in the category of politically motivated crime, an increase of 20.4% over the 2014 figure, but 4.9% down on the 2016 number.

Right wing extremist party membership has risen from 22,600 in 2015 to 24,000 in 2017.

There were 1,054 (2016: 1,600) registered cases of violent criminal offences with a right-wing extremist background, a fall of 34.1%. The number of violent crimes directed at foreigners came in at 774 (2016: 1,190, the highest level since the current definition of politically motivated crime was introduced in 2001) down 34.9%. The number of violent crimes against actual or supposed left-wing extremists dropped by half 98 (2016: 250) remained about the same. Attempted homicides fell from 18 in 2016 to only four in 2017.

Left wing extremist party membership has risen from 26,700 in 2015 to 29,500 in 2017, +10.5%.

In 2017,  6,393 criminal offences were classified as left-wing politically motivated crimes with an extremist background (2016: 5,230), +22.2%, of which 1,648 were violent crimes (2016: 1,201), +37%. The number of violent criminal offences with a left-wing extremist background that were directed against the police and security authorities significantly increased 65.2% to 1,135 (2016: 687) exceeding even the level of 2015. The number of violent criminal offences against actual or supposed right-wing extremists halved to 264 (2016: 542).

Islamic Extremists

Salafist movements in Germany have risen from 8,350 in 2015 to 10,800 in 2017 with the BfV noting on the whole, that all Islamist following in 2017 amounted to approximately 25,810 individuals, up 1,400 on 2016. BfV did note

The threat situation has not at all eased. On the contrary: the shift towards a violence-oriented/terrorist spectrum has revealed a new dimension of the Islamist scene, which was also illustrated by the attacks carried out in Germany in 2016However, Salafism in Germany enjoys undiminished popularity. Its continuous attractiveness shows the importance of Salafism being subject to a debate in society as a whole and of intelligence collection carried out by the community of the German domestic intelligence services. This is even more significant as adherents of the jihadist tendency of Salafism not only reject the West – symbolised by the free democratic basic order – but also actively fight against it: either by travelling to so-called jihad areas or by mounting attacks in the West.”

In the area of politically motivated crime by foreigners, 1,617 offences with an extremist background were registered in 2017 (2015: 1,524), including 233 violent offences (2015: 235).  In 2016, there were two homicides and 13 attempted homicides by foreigners with an extremist background (2015: three).

A fall of 4.9% in total politically motivated crime is hardly something to celebrate when the number is 40,000 on an annualised. There are 6x as many politically motivated crimes in Germany than America with only 1/5th the population.

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If we take a step back, were suspect Tarrant’s atrocities any more reprehensible than Anders Breivik in Norway gunning down 69 unarmed teenagers on Uttoya island? Stephen Paddock murdering 58 concert goers in Las Vegas? Adam Lanza slaying dozens of small kids at Sandy Hook elementary? The gunmen inside the offices of Charlie Hebdo or the barbaric eviscerations inside the Bataclan? The truck drivers in Berlin, Nice, Stockholm or Barcelona mowing down 100s of innocent pedestrians? Where was the outrage in 2018 when a church was bombed by extremists in Indonesia killing 13 people? What about the Jonestown massacre in 1978 which claimed 908 souls? All of them are deeply sickening not only in total loss of life but the grotesque manner in which these heinous acts were carried out. 

No-one with a pulse can look at recent events without utter disbelief. When the suspect tells us the motivations behind the attack, we will see social media get uglier still. If we truly want to put an end to this type of disaster, we must open ourselves up to debate. Going on recent trends, we will continue to light up statues and point fingers instead of actively seeking to find solutions through reasoned discussion. When will we wake up from this nightmare of our own making and communicate?

In the meantime spare a thought for the victims and their families and allow them to grieve their losses in peace.

Merkel’s “border camps”

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Perhaps the most telling piece of this article were the words, “to save her government.” Expediency and politics go hand in hand. Pretty much every country. No surprises there. The recent federal election was a clear sign that a growing number of Germans had had enough. The anti-immigrant AfD became the second largest party from relative obscurity. The result was a direct reflection of the mood of discontent over Merkel’s misguided altruism – failed migrant policy. Germans are as welcoming and liberal a society as any, if not more but they clearly have limits when their seemingly endless generosity was being repaid with diminishing levels of gratitude.

As an aside, there is a touch of irony. As socialists in the US are calling for the abolishment of ICE and an open border with Mexico, Angela Merkel, the matron saint of the liberals has done a complete backflip on their beliefs that a “come one, come all” policy has nothing but positives.

While plenty of arguments will be made by the mainstream media to show the relative opulence and dedication of care in operating ‘border camps’, in Germany vs the US the reality is that it is a tacit admission that screening is an absolute necessity. Merkel will now turn back those that have been processed for asylum elsewhere. Presumably they’ll burn their documents and start again with new identities to get around this. That is another story.

Digging below the surface reveals that the German state authorities hold much deeper concerns which they have not openly publicized. CM will spell this out a little later,

Before that, let’s get one thing straight. CM is a vigorous defender of helping those in proper need. Many years ago, CM donated considerable sums to help rebuild a school in the north of Thailand after flooding ruined it. There was no greater reward than seeing the smiles on the faces of kids on new playground equipment and studying in the new library. Naming rights were rejected out of hand. CM was never after a personal return to appeal to peers but solely to allow total strangers to benefit.

True victims of hardship will always seek to give back to those that have helped them out. They cherish the opportunity of a new start. They rarely try to exploit the good will of those that extend a helping hand. Many Vietnamese that came to Australia as asylum seekers have integrated their rich culture and become model citizens. It is not hard to see Germans wishing those they help to integrate and share common values in the same way.

So before the race-baiters and SJWs look to criticize CM’s opinions, they should ask themselves what they’ve “actually” done to personally do something about things they complain so vehemently about. Posting outrage on social media to such things does nothing. Appearing to do good is not the same as doing it. How many people protesting these laws would open their own homes to illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or others in need? It would be a safe guess to say hardly any would practice what they preach in this regard. True backers of causes actually invest the time and effort to fix problems.

There is no doubt that many Germans, a culture steeped in perfection, saw the migrant policy get exposed for its lack of due diligence in application. When women in Cologne were told to cover up to avoid harassment by their new guests, we shouldn’t be surprised if they grew upset when being asked to give up individual freedoms for people they were indirectly helping. When swimming pools became segregated to cater for the beliefs of new arrivals and sexual assaults of minors and women become more than a statistical  anomaly, no amount of media gag orders or police cover ups could have prevented a surge in people trying to take the law into their own hands. It only fueled the anger.

Despite the German crime stats being recently downplayed on social media to bash Trump’s tweet on the subject, politically motivated crime has surged. In 2017 (the latest available data), the BfV (German Domestic Intelligence Service) registered 41,549 offences in the category of politically motivated crime, an increase of 29% over the 2014 figure.

Right wing extremist party membership has risen from 22,600 in 2015 to 23,100 in 2016.

1,600 registered cases of violent criminal offences with a right-wing extremist background occurred, 1,190 of them directed at foreigners (+30%), the highest since the current definition of politically motivated crime was introduced in 2001.

Left wing extremist party membership has risen from 26,700 in 2015 to 28,500 in 2016.

In 2016, 5,230 criminal offences were classified as left-wing politically motivated, 1,200 of those violent. While marginally down, they are still way up on 2001 levels.

The BfV is so concerned they openly encourage programsto weed people from the left and right extremist groups (see below).

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Let’s make it absolutely clear that all asylum seekers Germany has imported are not of Islamic faith nor those that are identify as jihadis. Many are legitimately escaping horror, including needy Muslims willing to grasp a new chance. Who would not seek to help them? It only needs to be several bad apples to spoil the rest which is exactly what is happening. Muzzling citizens doesn’t help breed a culture of mutual tolerance. The BfV wrote in its latest Annual Report,

Islamic Extremists

Salafist movements in Germany have risen from 8,350 in 2015 to 9,700 in 2016 with the BfV noting on the whole, that all Islamist following in 2016 amounted to approximately 24,400 individuals, slightly down over 2015. BfV did note:

Although this total number is smaller than in the previous years, the threat situation has not at all eased. On the contrary: the shift towards a violence-oriented/terrorist spectrum has revealed a new dimension of the Islamist scene, which was also illustrated by the attacks carried out in Germany in 2016However, Salafism in Germany enjoys undiminished popularity. Its continuous attractiveness shows the importance of Salafism being subject to a debate in society as a whole and of intelligence collection carried out by the community of the German domestic intelligence services. This is even more significant as adherents of the jihadist tendency of Salafism not only reject the West – symbolised by the free democratic basic order – but also actively fight against it: either by travelling to so-called jihad areas or by mounting attacks in the West.”

In the area of politically motivated crime by foreigners, 2,566 offences with an extremist background were registered (2015: 1,524), including 427 violent offences (2015: 235). The total number of criminal offences in this category thus increased by 68.4%, the number of violent crimes even by 81.7%. 

The BfV documents concerns relating to the threat of returning ISIS fighters. Many other publications can be found with respect to deterring jihadism (see picture below)

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Whether one fears being labeled all manner of insults to admit it or not, the unsavory aspect is that the BfV has no other sections surrounding “issues” with other faiths. It isn’t racist or bigoted to acknowledge the facts of what a government agency reporting to a deeply socialist and virtuous political party posts on its own website. The data are there.

In a sense the wave of populism across Europe is a direct result of poor policy execution with respect to migrant policy. CM has made the point countless times that poverty and income inequality has been growing over the last decade. When those citizens not sharing in prosperity see monies allocated away from helping them into the hands of those who seem to take it for granted of course they will be upset, even if their assumptions are way off reality. Parties which feed off this sentiment only speak volumes of how big the problem is.

Yet when citizens see misguided altruism requires them to give up freedoms to limit the outward appearance of social fraying, the authorities exacerbate the very gap they’re trying to close. Whether one wants to wag the finger at Poland, Hungary or Austria for their callousness in what they see as defending their culture and societal norms, it is absolutely 100% acceptable to expect those they help save from a certain death sentence to integrate and seek to be model members of society.

Citizens are seeking shared prosperity, not shared misery. As their concerns haven’t been answered they’ve gravitated to parties that do and tolerating vigilantism to enforce the types of norms the government is not willing to.

Merkel has invited this problem with little regard for the obvious impacts. Last year she was offering financial incentives (€3,000) for the “less needy” to go home. Now a “wall” is being erected as testament to the silent admission of failure. It is a sad state of affairs because the truly needy are suffering at the hands of people that cheapen their plight by abusing the system. Moreover they’re creating ructions in the communities the needy would be willing to contribute to by those that won’t.

The messaging has been so poorly dealt with by the likes of Merkel et al that reversing the mistakes will be all but impossible because the people trust her less than those the people she opened the gates to. Don’t expect to get the media to admit it though.

Populism isn’t just for rednecks

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It is hard not to think of NY Democrat voters following in the path of what got Jeremy Corbyn cemented as UK Labour leader. Those tired of the Blairite Tory-lite Labour Party of old swooped in on a hardline socialist agenda. Tory’s pretending to be liberals. No thanks, they cried. Democrat-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AO-C) romped home in NY booting 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley out. While NY has long been a deep blue state, clearly Crowley wasn’t seen as progressive enough. As a disciple of Bernie Sanders, AO-C embodies the idea that the only way the Dems stand a chance is to offer a proper “hard” alternative. Free education, healthcare, open borders and rattling cages in Texas tickled voters pink. Right out of the Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Full credit to her for nailing the mood of the electorate. No one can blame her for that. She even hammered progressive NY Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for not backing her prior to the primary, tweeting,

Unsurprising, but disappointing that @SenGillibrand didn’t even bother to talk to nor consider me before endorsing…You‘d think a progressive leader would at least be interested in how a no-corporate money Bronx Latina triggered the 1st NY-14 primary in 14 years on prog issues.

She has a point. It isn’t that Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters aren’t left. It is just that they, like Gillibrand, appear to be frauds of the faith the party proclaims it instills. Pretending to have a socialist progressive agenda while living it large behind huge gated mansions and in the pockets of the lobbyists funded by the major corporates. AO-C appears the real deal. Better to be an authentic socialist. Democracy ironically delivered her win. No doubt she’ll trounce her GOP opponent.

While AO-C is at this stage a one-off, her success could well pave the way for a blue-print for winning the true heart of the Democrat voters. Apart from self-professing that she ticks a lot of the diversity boxes there is something refreshing about what she represents. That populism is not just reserved for bigoted and racist angry white male supremacists. However this has unintended consequences for further polarizing a country. We only need look at Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant and chased across the street. Then to have Maxine Waters encourage people to hound Trump administration officials out of restaurants or gas stations. Is this the America Americans want? Surely most are appalled by such behaviours.

We might laugh at such a notion as fringe but Rasmussen Reports noted yesterday, “Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters say it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years…59% of all voters are concerned that those opposed to President Trump’s policies will resort to violence, with 33% who are Very Concerned. This compares to 53% and 28% respectively in the spring of Obama’s second year in office.”

Miriam Webster Dictionary tweeted that “‘Socialism’ has been our top search (+1500%) since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win last night.” There is a touch of irony in a recent CIS survey of millennials which showed that 63% of university graduates were in favour of socialism despite more than half (51%) hadn’t heard of Chinese communist revolutionary Mao,  responsible for as many as 45 million deaths during the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Similarly, 42% didn’t know of Lenin, the father of modern communism, or World War II Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, responsible for the deaths of up to 43 million people.

Of interest, such a wave of socialism delivered by AO-C will only serve to feed the mentality of the sharks that elected Trump. AO-C has exposed just how policy-lite the likes of Waters, Pelosi and Schumer are. They realise Trump will romp home in 2020 unless there is a real alternative. Whether we like to admit it or not, Trump still has the highest approval rating of any Western leader – Trudeau, May, Macron, Turnbull and Merkel included. Incumbent Democrats have only shown their jealousy. The previous State of the Union speech spoke volumes of the inane levels of bitterness.

Americans are sick and tired of self-serving politicians. They want policy not public shaming and grandstanding. They want to see action not the use of children for political purposes. Whatever the stance of Americans on illegal immigrants at the border, decades of inaction has led to the sorry state it is in.

Of course it is easy to point fingers at POTUS for his insensitivity yet how soon it is they forget he has issued an executive order to ban separation from parents. How they overlook that countless numbers of innocent children used by smugglers that have died as they were abandoned in the desert across the border by their ‘supposed’ parents once ‘compassion’ was granted. All this prior to Trump taking office. That 80% of illegal immigrant girls and women are sexually assaulted before reaching the border, according to HuffPo. Hardly the type of humanity anyone with a pulse wants to see.

The viral Time Magazine photo-shopped cover of a little girl crying was used with great effect by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) to raise $20mn via crowdfunding! $20 million!! Even after it was revealed that the child – stolen from her father – was never separated from the mother (who left her other 3 kids behind) and paid a smuggler to get to the border, RAICES still shamelessly uses the picture to boost its funding target to $25mn. That shows the power of just how willing Trump haters will go to support organizers with questionable ethics. Oh the irony of Democrat Chuck Schumer rejecting the very changes to the immigration laws they themselves put forward. At least AO-C seems to be walking the talk, however misguided her altruism may be.

Michael Moore correctly said before the 2016 election that “Trump is the Molotov cocktail in the system”. Despite his often vulgar methods, he has merely publicized long festering wounds created by decades of indifference. One can shout from the  roof tops at record low unemployment, record financial markets and economic growth but beneath the surface poverty remains above that seen before the GFC and income disparity has never been wider. AO-C should be sending shivers down the spine of the DNC. The incumbents though the cost of derailing Bernie Sanders was a one off. Now AO-C has exposed just how shallow the status quo is. Maybe Nancy Pelosi summed her fears best herself,

They made a choice in one district. So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that. Within the caucus or outside the caucus, we are — again, we have an array of genders, generations, geography, and there is opinion in our caucus, and we’re proud of that. The fact that in a very progressive district in New York, it went more progressive than — Joe Crowley is a progressive, but she’s more left than Joe Crowley, is about that district...”

Not even Pelosi’s record breaking 8-hr speeches talking about the pride felt in her grandson wanting to be Hispanic will ever trump someone like AO-C whom seems to carry the liberal cause with the type of fervor that matches their social virtues. Populism indeed works both ways.

CM always said at the time of Trump’s election that the best outcome of his victory will be that it causes more people to deeply rethink about how much their vote truly counts. Democracy delivers. From the richest to the poorest, everyone has equal say. More politicians are slowly waking up from the slumber that incumbency in politics is no longer a given. That is a good thing, even if CM is not a fan of what AO-C supports. Then again that is a matter for American citizens alone to make, not CM’s.

Slovenia slaps the EU too

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Slovenia has joined the list of populist movements. In 2000, there were 4 countries in the EU that had populist coalitions/majorities (Lithuania, Latvia, Switzerland & Austria). Scroll forward to today we have 15 (the previous 4 countries + Poland, Norway, Czech Rep, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Crete, Bulgaria, Romania). Neighboring Bosnia and Serbia are also populist led. We shouldn’t forget the in the populist/nationalist party surges in The Netherlands, Germany and France . Perhaps more amazing is that the EU still isn’t getting the message, most highlighted by the push to get the President of Italy to put in charge a non-eurosceptic former IMF employee as PM. That’ll work.

So to Slovenia’s election. The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) topped Sunday’s election on 25%, handing the anti-immigrant party 25 seats in the parliament. Center-left LMŠ, led by comedian and political satirist Marjan Šarec, came in second on 12.7% (13 seats), and the Social Democrats third on just under 10% (10 seats). SDS leader Janez Janša acknowledged forming a governing coalition will be difficult.

Juncker typified all of the arrogance that has propelled so many anti-establishment parties to power. He said, “Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work, less corruption, seriousness.” Stereotyping rarely helps. Juncker also made clear that Italy’s problems are not the EU’s fault.

Time and time again, when studying poverty within the EU, the overwhelming number of countries inside the bloc remain worse off than in 2008. Growth rates remain anemic. If you were to look at a map of the floodgates of illegal immigration (which Deutsche Bank published) it isn’t a surprise that the local populations are voting for those governments that will seek to look after the citizens first. So before casting aspersions on a growing number of EU citizens’ assessment of the human rights of asylum seekers, the reality is that the socialists within the EU are clearly utterly dreadful at messaging and even poorer in execution. Then again Baroness Thatcher warned them of that in 1990.

Voters put Abe back while putting Koike back in her place

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So LDP party leader and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a majority in yesterday’s national election. While much expectation was made of Yuriko Koike’s conservative Party of Hope to take advantage of the scandal ridden LDP, voters looked at the platform which had a reasonably patchy manifesto (non-conservative policies of basic income and retained earnings taxation) and saw the fact she wasn’t running as a sign of a self vote of no confidence. While there was much promise at the start she’d drag the Democrats into her fold, they ended up splitting leaving her with too little time to front a proper challenge.

While Abe was tainted with two sizable scandals his coalition with the Komeito has given him 312 seats, a loss of 12 on the last election, the people were prepared to back a more stable platform in the LDP over Koike who ended up sadly being nothing more than hot air rather than the ‘populist’ which saw her crush the LDP at the local Tokyo level. Perhaps there was a touch of Theresa May who thought she had much more of a backing than ended up happening. The Party of Hope ended up with 49 seats, 8 less than the Dems who backed her had at the last election. The other half that split under Edano’s Constitutional Democrats ended up with 54, 39 better as he ran a more honest campaign.

The LDP will now have until 2021 where it is likely Abe will hand the reins over to Kishida, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, mid term. Despite the typhoon on election day the turnout was a tad under 54%, up on 2014 and not too different from the 1979 election that fell during a typhoon.

One of Japan’s biggest problems is that opposition parties have never had much time in office and when they have they’ve not been effective. So with so much turmoil on the opposition side via a split Democrat platform, the LDP ended up winning because there was so little on offer on the other side. For Japan, there was no populist revolt like so many countries in the West. Koike thought she would gain a much bigger backing than she ended up with and her platform which promised a change to the chain smoking old guard in reality came up with little more than that smoke being blown back in her face.

Abe’s LDP smashed in Tokyo Municipal Assembly election

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Has populism has found its way to Tokyo? Not really. PM Shinzo Abe’s LDP, which has ruled Japan at a national level for decades) bar a few periods was smashed in the Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections yesterday. Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike had split from the LDP to form the Tomin First (Tokyo-ites First) Party. She won 49 seats (out of 50 contested) from 6 held before the election in the 127 seat Municipal Assembly. The LDP went from 57 to 23, 15 less that its worst ever showing to date. Even the Communist Party gained seats at the expense of the LDP.

Koike’s popularity (despite sliding from 74% to 59%  over the dithering around Tsukiji Fish Market redevelopment) has been driven by the idea of ‘transparency’ in government policy decision making, a clamp down on wasteful spending and accountable government.

Abe’s LDP on the other hand has been embroiled in scandal after scandal and citizens of the capitol were not prepared to be taken for mugs (although only 33% showed up to vote). Whether it be the out-of-control screaming of recently resigned LDP member Mayuko Toyoda to her staffer, the favouritism shown in the Kake Gakuen scandal to PM Abe’s long term friend, the sale of government land at a 90% discount to set up a nationalist school (Moritomo Gakuen) or even the PM being booed on the campaign trail, voters let the LDP know that they’re sick of old school establishment politics. A national election is still some 18 months off.

The bigger issue being debated is whether Koike’s party could make serious inroads into the LDP at a national level putting Abenomics and ultra loose monetary policy on the back burner. The LDP’s national junior coalition party (Komeito) had backed Koike’s Tomin First since last year after the LDP balked at salary cuts for Tokyo Municipal Assembly politicians.

Abe tried to hose down the talks of the rise of Tomin First arguing they were like the Japan New Party which floundered after success in the 1993 Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections. They promised much but ended up disbanding despite Koike being 2IC.

Abe will no doubt crank up public spending in the regional areas to support prefectures with rapidly aging populations. What many overlook is that Japan is still backed by an aging society. Despite all the wishes of the youth for reform, the elderly will continue to grow as a % of the voter base as the population decreases. This means policy will need to be serving the silver-haired.

Abe can’t dismiss these dreadful results out of hand. The citizens of Tokyo are livid at the LDP’s antics. Yet a 33% (+2%) turnout suggests voter apathy is still alive and kicking. Abe isn’t going to be finished by this but the party needs a long hard look at itself. The voters are suitably upset. Is this a wave of populism a la Trump or Brexit? Not really. Japan continues to suffer from lacking a credible opposition which means inexperienced parties often fail in their first term. Every now and again the LDP gets sent a warning shot before business as usual returns.