Europe’s Rule-of-Law Crisis


Observer of the Near East

By Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, is President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament.

From the rubble of two world wars, European countries came together to launch what would become the world’s largest experiment in unification and cooperative, shared sovereignty. But, despite its impressive achievements over the decades, the European project now risks disintegration.

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Thom Hartmann: Why Don’t the Media Ask Trump about his Mob Connections?


Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Another video, but one with an interesting angle on why Trump is totally unsuited to be President of the US. In this piece, the American radio host Thom Hartmann reads out a list of questions drawn up by an American historian on the apparent links between Trump and the Mafia. Like Trump Tower isn’t a conventional concrete structure built around a steel skeleton, but purely cement. The firm that supplied the cement was owned by two of the leading American gangster families. Trump has also used mob firms in his construction projects, often paying them much more for their services than the standard amount charged by other, clean firms.

One of the most suspicious episodes in Trump’s career as a real estate developer came with a construction project in New York. This was supposed to be a union-run site, but there were only ten union men on the workforce. The…

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Poland’s Eurosceptic conservatives set to unseat ruling centrists in vote


Original post from Reuters

‘……………BY GABRIELA BACZYNSKA AND PAWEL FLORKIEWICZ

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS), speaks during an election meeting on the last day of campaigning ahead of parliamentary elections in Lublin, Poland, October 23, 2015. REUTERS/Jakub Orzechowski/Agencja Gazeta
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS), speaks during an election meeting on the last day of campaigning ahead of parliamentary elections in Lublin, Poland, October 23, 2015. REUTERS/Jakub Orzechowski/Agencja Gazeta

Poles voted on Sunday in an election likely to usher the euro-sceptic conservative opposition into power, ending nearly a decade of stability in central-eastern Europe’s biggest economy and setting Poland at odds with some of its European allies.

If opinion polls are correct, the ruling Civic Platform (PO), a pro-market, centre-right grouping in power for eight years, will lose to the conservative Law and Justice opposition party (PiS), run by the twin brother of late president Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw.

Most polls show PiS as the frontrunner on more than 30 percent. PO is second with just over 20 percent.

Distrustful of the European Union and an advocate of a strong NATO hand in dealing with Moscow, PiS opposes joining the euro zone in the near future, promises more welfare spending on the poor and wants banks subject to new taxation.

Michal Zurawski, in his mid-30s, who voted for PiS in the morning in central Warsaw, said he backed the party’s anti-corruption narrative and economic programme.

“Their offer is targeted at those who are less affluent and that suits me. Taking care of this group and creating better social and labour conditions for them is good – will benefit Poland’s economy and the country as a whole,” Zurawski said.

Poland’s election body said nearly 16.5 percent of those eligible had cast their votes by midday on Sunday, compared with around 10 percent at that time usually.

Higher turnout has in the past been less favourable to PiS and may be good news for several smaller parties also running, who span the political spectrum from ultra-right to liberal and extreme left.

PiS opposes relocating migrants from the Middle East to Poland, arguing they could threaten Poland’s Catholic way of life – raising the prospect of tensions with the EU on the issue.

On the campaign trail, Kaczynski and other PiS leaders have sought to tap into anger that the economic success is not more evenly shared out and into nationalist sentiment fanned by immigration fears, particularly among young voters.

Poland, a country of 38 million people, has seen its economy expand by nearly 50 percent in the last decade. It was the only EU member not to slide into recession after the 2008 financial crisis. But pockets of poverty and stagnation remain.

“There is a broader phenomenon of a return to national, religious, community values being seen all across Europe,” said political analyst Aleksander Smolar. “PiS uses clear … language in this respect.”

PiS also advocates a robust Western approach towards Russia following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. That might complicate any future bridge-building between the EU and Russia.

WILL SMALLER PARTIES GET IN?

Opinion polls show that only the two main rivals – PiS and PO – look certain to pass the threshold of 5 percent of the vote for being seated in parliament.

Among the smaller ones seeking to win seats is Nowoczesna (Modern), a new free-market party run by former World Bank economist Ryszard Petru. On Sunday, Nowoczesna got the backing of a middle-aged entrepreneur who came to the polling station with her daughter.

“I’ve long voted for PO, but I am fed up now. I want someone new, with a strong economic programme and able to represent us decently abroad,” said the woman, who declined to be named.

Pensioner Jadwiga Horus said she voted for PO Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz: “I prefer people who have proven themselves. Even if they make mistakes – PO is way better than the shameful PiS.”

PiS’s Kaczynski raised eyebrows in Poland and some European capitals this month by saying migrants fleeing war in the Middle East and Africa may bring diseases and parasites to Poland.

Kopacz later quipped that Kaczynski, a known cat lover, wasn’t too worried about owning cats even though they can carry diseases dangerous to people.

Another newcomer to the Polish parliament would be Kukiz’15, a grouping run by former Polish rock star Pawel Kukiz, who ran in a presidential race in May, winning a surprising 21 percent. He now wants to tax “bank gangsters” and says Poland is a “colony of foreign governments”.

“I hope we enter parliament in such numbers that it will allow us to make a crack in the system, allowing the citizens, the nation to win back control over the state, which has been taken away from them,” Kukiz told a campaign rally.

The fringe parties mean PiS, even if it wins, may have to seek coalition partners to rule, raising the possibility of extended talks in the weeks after the vote.

It also leaves room for PO to retain its hold on power, if PiS fails to form a functioning majority in parliament and the centrists secure the support of leftist groupings such as United Left (ZL) or the liberal Nowoczesna.

Polls opened at 0700 BST and are due to close at 2100 BST.

An exit poll, conducted by the IPSOS pollster on a representative sample of some 90,000 people, will be available immediately after voting ends. The pollster estimates its margin of error at below 2 percentage points.

More election stories:

(Additional reporting by Wiktor Szary, Writing by Justyna Pawlak and Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Richard Balmforth)  …………………..’