Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Psephology Rocks: The Grab Bag

I was going to take this edition of Psephology Rocks and focus on the upcoming French elections exclusively, but there's other things in the wind that are worth talking about. Namely, the ouster of the South Korean President (triggering an election to replace her within sixty days) and SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing that she's going for a second independence referendum- probably in 2018 or 2019. So, it's more of a grab-bag this month!

The French Election is looming next month, so we should probably break down a who's who of the candidates as it were. So far, tentatively, it seems to be coming down to The National Front's Marine Le Pen and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron- which a couple of months ago, I think it's safe to say that nobody would have expected. Instead, center-right candidate Francois Fillon who was widely expected to take down Le Pen in either the first or second round of the election has sort of well, imploded thanks to a scandal that seriously looking to have been broken by the French equivalent of either 'The Onion' or MAD Magazine- take your pick. His attempt at damage control did not go over well with voters and he's currently sitting in 3rd place.

Things aren't looking so hot for the main Socialist Candidate, Benoit Hamon either. He's drawn comparisons to both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and looks to be about as useful as either man. He's currently sitting in fourth place and fending off a potential mutiny from fellow Socialists who can live with Macron but not Le Pen. The latest polls have quite a traffic jam up top with Le Pen garnering 27% of the vote,  Macron 25%, Fillon and Hamon are lurking at 17.5% and 14% respectively. Unless there's a massive shift in the next month or so (not out of the question given what this election has tossed up so far) I'd bank on Macron vs. Le Pen in the second round and then unless there's tea leaves being read wrong (which given Brexit, Trump, etc. is not out of the question) then Marine Le Pen turns into a pumpkin and Macron wins. But it ain't over until it's over- so keep an eye on this one.

South Korea is also heading for a new Presidential election after impeached President Park Guen-hye vacated the Presidential Palace after two days and returned home. (Technically, I think National Assembly did the impeaching, the Constitutional Court- who's decision came down late last week, voted to uphold their impeachment.) Three people were killed in protests over the weekend and Hwang Kyo-Ahn is serving as acting President until new elections are held. What took out President Park? The Beeb has a pretty decent round-up of the corruption scandal that lead to her downfall. It's worth a read. 

Speaking of the Beeb, it's been a busy few days in the UK as Scotland has pulled the starting gun on a second independence referendum. It probably won't be until 2018 or 2019 when voters have a better idea of what kind of a Brexit Deal they're going to get, but man oh man...  I don't know. I really just don't know. Part of me absolutely gets it: Scotland has long had it's own national and cultural identity- an independence referendum would only confirm what they've already felt for a long time. There's an old saying in American Politics: 'You campaign in poetry, govern in prose' and the poetry of nationalism is a seductive thing. The sentiment might be there. But the actual convincing case, still, to my mind, is not.

There's no guarantee Scotland gets all the North Sea oil. Or any of it, for that matter. But, let's say for the sake of argument, they get all of it. With American Shale production roiling the oil markets, it'd be a sucker's bet to bank on oil revenues to fund a social democratic paradise north of the border. There's still no answer on currency. I think it would be political suicide for any party south of the border to sign any agreement with the Scots to let them keep using the pound after an independence vote- I might be wrong on that, sitting as I do in America, but that's my read of it- and the EU has maintained their position that Scotland would have to apply like anyone else to join as a posed to be 'automatically in' as the SNP seems to dreamily suggest from time to time.

So: no currency, no EU guarantees, oil might help some, but there's no guarantee there either. If London gets a halfway decent Brexit Deal (which they might not, but easily could) then suddenly calling for a second referendum might look like a fool's errand on the part of the SNP. They're already two seats short of a majority at Holyrood and relying on the Greens for support.

All of this, mind you, with a year- maybe two, to get to an actual referendum being held at all. That's a long time, so we'll see how it all pans out, but I think at this point, one thing you can say for sure is that nobody knows what's going to happen next.

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