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Why Events In Austria And Italy Are Key

06/12/2016 12:04 GMT | Updated 06/12/2017 10:12 GMT
Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have been pushed to the backburner. Although inevitable comparisons between Brexitism and Trumpism have been drawn which I have discussed before, these factors are only two parts of the so-called 'political revolution' we are experiencing.

The recent election of Sarah Olney as the Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park is what Leader Tim Farron describes as a 'rejection' of Brexit and Trump. I'm not sure how British people in a leafy constituency of 77,071 can even claim the credulity to 'reject' Trump to begin with as he is America's president-elect, but trying to overturn democracy seems to be the Lib Dems' priority at the moment. Though Olney worringly seemed incapable of answering basic questions on the EU which your average A Level politics student could regurgitate correctly as many times as John McDonnell confuses Brexit with 'breakfast.' On the positive side, as I saw from one whitty columnist whose name I cannot remember for the life of me; at least the Lib Dems will need a bigger minicab when travelling to the Commons.

Now, political 'revolutions' and 'counter-revolutions' aside, Sunday was a worrying day for the European elite. I shall start with the arguably most 'EU-friendly' result which was the Austrian presidential election. The aforementioned presidential election on Sunday was a re-run of the previous one in May (which was voided due to concerns over the way in which some of the ballots were handled), which returned a 30,000 vote lead for former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen over Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer. Given that the Freedom Party was founded by former Nazi Stormtroopers, a candidate of such a party with a good chance of being elected is sure to raise a few eyebrows across the world. However, the result was just the same as the first, with Van der Bellen's lead increasing tenfold.

Although it's easy to dismiss the 'revolution' due to the fact many saw Hofer's election as another stage in the process, it's still important to emphasise the significance of an equally anti-establishment Green Party being elected as president putting an end to the duopoly which has manifested itself in Austria for many years; even though the Austrian presidency is largely ceremonial.

This notion of antiestablishmentarianism ties in nicely to my next point about the result the EU weren't looking for; a 'no' vote in the Italian referendum on constitutational reform regarding the size of its legislature. Current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is seen as a driving force for eurozone stability given his centrist political attitudes. Renzi backed a 'yes' vote and promised to resign if Italy voted 'no'--leading to potential uncertainty in the eurozone like when the UK voted for Brexit. This creates a void which could lead to a potentially Eurosceptic prime minister in Italy, however this is just speculation at the moment.

In summary and looking towards the future, as France and Germany go to the polls next year the choices the peoples of these countries make will be crucial not just domestically, but internationally as well, particularly in Europe. As the UK departs from the EU, France, Germany and Italy will be the three most powerful countries left. If leaders advocating Gexit, Frexit, and Italexit come to power, then a political project which has existed throughout my lifetime may cease to exist over the next two decades.

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