Friday, 13 September 2013

Behind the electoral headlines

BBC coverage of local elections in Russia has been confined to the Moscow mayoral race. Of Norway's parliamentary election last Monday the Beeb has said little. Therefore it is good to see in the latest Liberal International bulletin that even in the apparently ultra-Conservative Russia:

[Liberal International] full member, Yabloko, have won 70 seats in local parliaments and will have two heads of towns after the latest round of regional and municipal elections in Russia. 

Yabloko emerged strong across a number of regions despite the Kremlin’s grip on political life. Despite this uncertainty and political chaos under Putin, Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said: “For me it is encouraging that there are people who can resist this chaos. For me this is an optimistic signal. We will rely on these people. They are the future, and there is not a future for populists and nationalists who mean only chaos and the end of Russia.” 

Commenting on the Moscow mayoral election, in which he stood, Mitrokhin stressed that despite the loss he had actually achieved moral victory. Thanking his supporters, Mitrokhin said: “I think that they are the most intelligent people in Moscow who realise the threat the present political regime present for Moscow. These people do not follow provocateurs.”

Venstre in Norway also made progress, gaining seven seats to total nine in the 169-member Storting. It appears likely that Venstre will form part of a four-party coalition, even though the Conservatives need only one other partner for a working majority. I was concerned that an anti-immigration party, Progress, is part of the putative coalition (indeed the infamous Breivik was a member for a time). However, the outgoing Labour foreign minister, who would have every reason to attack Progress, believes the party is not as extreme as it is painted.

What happens politically in Norway is important, because that nation is a model for UK's relationship with the EU if UKIP and most Tories have their way.

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