Hoffer and Van der Bellen Jan Hetfleisch/Stringer

Europe’s December Day of Reckoning

The EU is the greatest alliance of democratic states in modern history, but, strangely, those who champion it have come to fear democratic votes. They are now waiting with bated breath for December 4, when Italians will vote on constitutional changes, and Austrians will choose their next president.

VIENNA – While most of the European Union seems panic-stricken by the prospect of a victory for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election in May, the EU’s next test will come much sooner. On Sunday, Italians will vote in a referendum on constitutional reforms, and Austrians will choose their next president. Both countries’ votes could have major ramifications beyond their borders.

In Italy, the upcoming plebiscite has become a popular confidence vote in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has said he will resign if the reforms are rejected. According to the latest polls, Renzi could be forced to make good on his pledge, which might spell the end of reformist social democracy in Italy – and beyond. In Austria, voters will choose between a pro- and an anti-EU candidate in the nationalist mold of Le Pen, Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). A victory for Hofer could add wind to Le Pen’s sails.

The constitutional changes that Renzi’s Yes campaign is asking voters to approve would undo some of his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi’s legacy – a legacy that serves as a prime example of the damage right-wing populism can do to a country. Among other things, Berlusconi altered Italy’s political system in such a way as to prevent the left from ever gaining full power again, and to block any criminal charges that could be leveled against him.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/FUC05ep;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.