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Italy’s main parties suffer
losses following Venice’s
local government scandal

Rome, 12 June 2014:
In last Sunday’s second round of local elections, Italy’s 5-Star protest movement (M5S) benefited from the corruption scandal in Venice, which saw leading politicians from the two main parties arrested and indicted. The movement, founded by former comedian Beppe Grillo, captured Livorno, a traditional stronghold of the country’s political left. The Tuscan port city, which saw the birth of the Communist Party in 1921, has been governed almost continuously by the left since the Second World War. Grillo’s followers also captured Civitavecchia, north-west of Rome.

Despite the loss of Livorno and defeats in Padua, Perugia and other cities, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) captured more than half of the 139 town and cities which held elections on 8 June, including important municipalities like Bari and Modena and eight other large urban centres. Italian commentators were united in saying that the PD was punished in the aftermath of the arrest of its Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni. A spokesman for the party said that the loss of cities like Perugia, Padua and Livorno was a disappointment, coming so soon after the PD’s triumph in the European elections, but pointed out the centre-left was now the dominant political force at local, regional and national level.

Meanwhile the centre-right Forza Italia party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held on to its traditional strongholds and even managed to capture the university town of Perugia from the PD, but, across the country, collected fewer votes than either the PD or the 5-Star movement. The PD’s share of the national vote was close to 41 per cent, while the 5-Star movement was backed by some 21 per cent of voters. Forza Italia’s share was below 20 per cent.

A spokesman for M5S, which claims to be neither left nor right but is nevertheless negotiating with the UK’s nationalist UK Independence Party in Brussels, described his party’s victory in Livorno as a blow to the heart of Prime Minister Renzi.

Greek local elections
produce some comfort
for government parties

Athens, 30 May 2014:
Despite the surge of the left-wing SYRIZA party in last Sunday’s elections to the European parliament and the strong showing of the right-wing Golden Dawn party, the incumbent mayors of Greece’s two largest cities managed to defeat their challengers in the second round of mayoral contests. Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, a centre-left independent, easily beat off the challenge of a rightist politician, while in Athens, Mayor Giorgos Kaminis won by a narrow margin over his SYRIZA rival. But the SYRIZA candidate won the governorship of Attica, the country’s most populous region, by just over 50 per cent.

In the rest of Greece, candidates from the ruling New Democracy won most of regional governorships. While SYRIZA won the Ionian Islands, candidates backed by New Democracy took the Northern Aegean, Central Greece, Epirus, Thessaly, Southern Aegean and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The Peloponnese governorship went to Petros Tatoulis, who was backed by the governing coalition, while PASOK’s Stavros Arnaoutakis won on Crete, with independents taking Central Macedonia, Western Macedonia and Western Greece.

In the mayoral contest in country’s main port of Piraeus an independent defeated the conservative incumbent mayor, while in the western port city of Patra the candidate of the Communist Party won more than 60 per cent of the vote. There was a notable victory in the municipality of Andravida-Kyllini in the Peloponnese, where Nabil Morad, a Syrian doctor who has lived in Greece for 25 years, was elected. His win is remarkable given that the municipality includes Nea Manolada, a community where migrants agricultural workers have suffered abuse in the past.

Irish voters punish
government parties
in local elections

Dublin, 26 May 2014:
As with the punishment meted out by the electorate to governing parties in the UK, voters in the Irish republic were in no mood to forgive the austerity parties they’d voted for just three years ago. Junior coalition partner Labour in particular were reduced to a tiny rump among Ireland’s 31 local councils, with the socialist Sinn Feín taking control of Dublin City and independents securing the largest number of councillors across the republic. As in the UK, the elections took place on 22 May alongside those of the European Parliament. Turnout was 51.6 per cent.

Opposition centre-right Fianna Fáil secured 25.3 per cent of first preference votes across Ireland, though it was independents and minor parties who secured the largest tally with 28.3 per cent. Sinn Feín, which contests elections in both Northern Ireland and the republic, gave its strongest ever showing by trebling its number of local councillors. It is now the largest party in Dublin, Derry, Cork and Belfast. The party said that it hoped to use the result as stepping stone to power in the republic, displacing Labour and the Greens as potential coalition partners for the two main parties. Sinn Feín, which aims for a united Ireland, is already the second largest party in Northern Ireland, where it holds the deputy prime minister’s post. The leftist Anti-Austerity Alliance also polled well in cities such as Limerick in its first ever electoral outing.

The Fine Gael/Labour coalition agreement of 2011 claimed a “democratic revolution” had taken place in that February’s general election, where “old beliefs, traditions and expectations were blown away”, following the discredited Fianna Fáil-led government of Brian Cowen which was largely blamed for the Irish financial crisis. Irish prime minister Enda Kenny of the centre-right Fine Gael has also been the target of strident criticism over the “heartless” withdrawal of state healthcare for children with serious illnesses and disabilities.

Deputy prime minister and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore acknowledged that his party had failed to address voter concern over unemployment, rising living costs and botched health reforms. Resigning yesterday as leader of his party, he said he was still convinced that Labour made the right decision in 2011 to enter government at a time when the country faced the worst economic crisis in its history. “I did so because I believed then, as I do now, that as citizens, and as a party, we had a duty to put the country first,” he explained. But Eamon Gilmore admitted that Labour’s decision to take and back unpopular but necessary decisions carried a high political risk. “Labour has paid the price for that in the local and European elections. I deeply regret the loss of good public representatives and the defeat of outstanding Labour candidates last Friday.”

Despite the national woes, the elections were the first under this year’s local government reform law, which reduced the number of local councils in Ireland to just 31, served by 949 councillors. A referendum on a directly elected mayor for Dublin scheduled to take place alongside the municipal and European polls did not proceed on account of all four Dublin councils not approving the measure as set out in law.

The elections were also notable for the increasing number of young candidates elected, perhaps a reflection on the jaded electorate’s disdain for establishment parties and their aged ranks. Ireland’s youngest councillor at 19 is Adam Gary Wyse, elected to Waterford City and County Council for Fianna Fáil. In County Kildare a controversial councillor previously expelled from Fine Gael was re-elected, despite having refused to represent “black Africans” in 2011. Darren Scully, former mayor of the county town of Naas, was readmitted to Fine Gael ranks last year.

Anti-European party hurts
Conservatives and Labour
in English local elections
London, 23 May 2014: In yesterday’s local elections held across England, the right-wing, anti-Europe UK Independence Party (UKIP) made strong gains in areas formerly dominated by the centre-right Conservative Party. But early results also show that UKIP took votes from the centre-left Labour Party in cities like Birmingham, Hull, Sunderland and Rotherham. Only London voters resisted the charm of the party’s leader Nigel Farage. Labour won control of London boroughs like Redbridge and Merton as well as Hammersmith & Fulham, which Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron once described as his favourite council. Full coverage

Established parties unite
behind incumbent mayors
in Athens and Thessaloniki

Athens, 21 May 2014:
After the first round of Greek local elections, held last Sunday, failed to produce clear results in many of the 325 municipalities where elections were held, all eyes are on this Sunday’s second round, which coincides with elections to the European Parliament. The centre-right New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the left-wing SYRIZA opposition party emerged as the dominant forces from the first round of voting. New Democracy did well in Greece’s smaller towns and rural communities, while SYRIZA will challenge the incumbent mayors in the two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki as well as the governor of the Attica region.

The battle for Athens pits incumbent Mayor George Kaminis against SYRIZA’s young candidate Gavriil Sakellaridis, who emerged from the first round with only one percentage point behind the mayor. In the run-off, Mayor Kaminis, who is running as an independent, is supported by the government coalition parties New Democracy and the once mighty socialist party PASOK as well as a number of other leftist and Green groups. PASOK, which governed Greece during the 2008 financial crisis, is widely blamed for the country’s current economic recession. New Democracy, which provided the Greek capital with its previous two mayors, finished third in the first round after the former mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis split from the party and ran as an independent.

In an all out effort to prevent SYRIZA from gaining power in Athens and its surrounding metropolitan region, New Democracy is also backing the Attica region’s PASOK governor Yiannis Sgouros against his SYRIZA challenger. One third of all Greeks live in the Athens / Attica metropolitan region. Prime Minister Samaras is also trying to recruit Dora Bakoyiannis, who in 2005, as Mayor of Athens was awarded the World Mayor Prize, to campaign for New Democracy candidates in the run-up to Sunday’s second round of mayoral elections.

A similar coalition of established parties from the left and right has thrown its support behind Thessaloniki Mayor Yannis Boutaris, who took 35 per cent of the vote in Last Sunday’s first round.

Though SYRIZA was defeated in most of the 18 May provincial elections, the party believes it shattered the decades-long hegemony of PASOK and New Democracy politicians in local government, where they have developed patronage networks. The left-wing party charges that many candidates around the country played down their longstanding affiliations with the now unpopular PASOK and New Democracy to pose as independents and distance themselves from charges of party corruption. Across the country, SYRIZA increased its share of the vote from four per cent in 2010 to more than 20 per cent this year.

The right-wing Golden Dawn party finished overall in fourth place. In Athens, its mayoral candidate was supported by 16 per cent of voters.

Winner of Turkish local elections in
no mood to reach out to opponents

Istanbul, 1 April 2014:
After his party’s convincing win in Sunday’s municipal elections, the Turkish Prime Minister’s speech was far removed from what victorious parties in Europe and the US usually do on election night: strive for conciliation. Instead, Recep Erdogan attacked his political opponents calling them traitors and claiming they were worse than assassins. He warned those who had posted audio recordings on social media sites, accusing him of corruption, that they would be pursued into their lairs.

Despite the allegations of corruption against his government and the recent censorship of Twitter and YouTube, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won more than 45.5 per cent of votes, an increase of six per cent compared to five years ago. Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), stood at 28 per cent.

In the country’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the incumbents appear to have been re-elected, although the results in Anakara are extremely close and subject to an appeal.

In the most widely watched contest, Istanbul’s incumbent Mayor Kadir Topbas defeated his opponent from the CHP by 48 to 38 per cent of the vote. A defeat in the country’s largest city would have cast a doubt over Prime Minister Erdogan’s intentions to run for President later this year.

In Turkey’s capital city Ankara, the opposition CHP party said it would appeal against the municipal election results. According to provisional figures, aired on Turkish TV, the AKP won 44.8 per cent of the vote to the CHP's 43.9 per cent.

While the opposition secular CHP has failed to achieve any of its declared prime goals, it did retain Izmir, winning with just over 50 per cent of the vote, to the AKP’s 35.5 per cent. After the CHP’s poor performance nationally, it will now fall on city’s incumbent mayor Aziz Kocaoglu to come up with a coherent strategy for this summer’s presidential and next year’s parliamentary elections.

French Socialists lose 155 towns
but retain key cities including Paris

Paris, 31 March 2014:
In yesterday’s second-round local elections, the French Socialists lost control of some 155 town and cities of more than 9,000 inhabitants but the punishment delivered by voters to the country’s governing party could have been much worse. The Socialist Party (PS) together with its leftist allies managed to gain 42 per cent of votes cast and retained control of cities like Strasbourg, Lille, Nantes and Lyon and captured Avignon, a city, which was feared might fall to the right-wing National Front. The Socialist candidate for Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, also won the run-off more convincingly than expected after she only came second in the first round a week ago. But French President François Hollande’s party lost Toulouse to the centre-right opposition UMP and Grenoble to the Greens.

While France’s main opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, was the principal winner in this month’s local élections, held over two rounds in more than 36,000 municipalities, it failed to capture Paris from the Socialists and retake Strasbourg. The UMP also failed to dislodge the Socialists from Nantes, despite the unpopularity of the city’s outgoing mayor and current Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. But the party did win the closely watched contest in Toulouse, home to Airbus, and will also control Reims and Angers. In Marseille, UMP Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin defeated challengrs from the right and the left to win himself a fourth term. Not surprisingly the UMP mayoral candidates also won in Calais and Nice. In Metz, the party failed to dislodge the Socialists by a mere 770 votes.

The right-wing National Front (NF) did well yesterday but not all that well in towns and cities where they fielded candidates. While the party of Marine Le Pen will be ruling in eleven towns, it failed to capture many of its key targets including Avignon and Perpignan. In Marseille, where the FN had hoped to dislodge the incumbent mayor, it only came third. The largest town won by the FN was Béziers, a community of some 70,000 people, where the winning candidate is not a party member but was back by the FN.

According to the French Interior Ministry, almost 50 per cent of all newly elected councillors come from the UMP and other centre-right parties.
Total number of councillors: 208,242
UMP and centre-right allies: 96,196
PS and centre-left allies: 67,138
Centrists: 6,858
Radical left: 2,822
FN and other right-wing groups: 1,598
Others and independents: 33,630

Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo won 54.5 per cent of votes against Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet of the conservative opposition UMP party.
Hidalgo, who has served for 13 years as deputy to outgoing Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, will become the first female mayor of the capital.

Strasbourg: The incumbent Socialist Mayor Roland Ries defeated the former UMP mayor Fabienne Keller by 47 to 45 per cent of votes.

Mulhouse: The UMP incumbent Jean Rottner was re-elected, winning 46 per cent of votes cast.

Lyon: The incumbent Socialist Mayor Gérard Collomb wins a third term, winning more than 50 per cent of votes.

Lille: In the second-round of the elections, Martine Aubry defeated candidates from the UMP and the FN. Final results show her on 52 per cent of votes, with the candidates of the UMP and FN on 30 and 18 per cent respectively.

Nantes: Johanna Rolland from the PS will succeed Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was appointed Prime Minister after President François Hollande’s victory in 2012. During the past two years, in the absence of Ayrault, the city was administered by Patrick Rimbert who declined to stand for a full term.

Marseille: Jean-Claude Gaudin, the incumbent UMP mayor, wins a fourth term against candidates from the Socialist Party and the National Front. He was supported by 42.5 per cent of voters, with the Socialists on 30.8 per cent and the National Front on 27 per cent.

Grenoble: One of the most surprising results of election night was the win of the Green Party (Les Verts) in Grenoble, a city of 160,000 people in the French Alpes. Grenoble was previously in the hands of the Socialists.

Toulouse: The UMP’s win of Toulouse represents the party’s most important victory in yesterday’s elections. Jean-Luc Moudenc defeated the incumbent Socialist Mayor Pierre Cohen by winning more than 52 per cent of votes.

Avignon: Despite being one of the key targets of the National Front, the former papal city elected a Socialist mayor with a comfortable majority. Final results have Cécile Helle (SP) on 47.5 per cent, Philippe Lottiaux (FN) on 35 per cent and Bernard Chaussegros (UMP) on 17.5 per cent.

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Italy’s main parties suffer losses following Venice’s local government scandal

Greek local elections produce some comfort for government parties
(Photo: Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris elected to a second term)

Irish voters punish government parties in local election

Anti-European party hurts
Conservatives and Labour
in English local elections

Established parties unite behind incumbent mayors in Athens and Thessaloniki

Winner of Turkish local elections in no mood to reach out to opponents
(Photo: The Turkish government has blocked Twitter)

French Socialists lose 155 towns but retain key cities including Paris