Yesterday, after a long-awaited runoff, Alexander van der Bellen, running as an Independent candidate in the 2016 Austrian presidential election despite actually being a member of Die Grunen, succeeded in becoming the next President of Austria, defeating the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer, to the delight of real progressives like myself. As I said earlier, the two long-running Establishment partners-in-crime in Austria, the OVP and SPO, did not even make it to the runoff.
The Italian constitutional referendum on changing the fundamental structure of its Parliament, introducing a winner take all premium (similar in principle to the 50 bonus seats rule in the Hellenic Parliament in Greece), and reducing the powers of the Senate was a clear example of where the real divides lie (centrist and moderate parties supported a Yes vote, but more radical and regionalist parties on both sides were firmly in favour of a No vote). Also, only the three most prosperous and culturally richest areas of Italy (Emilio-Romagna, Trentino-South Tyrol, and Tuscany) delivered a Yes vote when the overall vote delivered a decisive victory for No, by a margin of 18.2% to boot. Prosperity is not the only factor boosting turnout-strength of localism and a sense of identity are positive indicators for high turnout areas irrespective of wealth, as Veneto's decisive No vote (61.9%) coupled with it having the highest turnout in the referendum (76.7%) clearly indicates. Veneto is the strongest region for the regionalist, strongly Eurosceptic, and anti-immigration Lega Nord (LN) Party. The decisive No vote has resulted in the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose main calls for reform would have really been mainly for the benefit of the longer-established parties and political cliques in Italy rather than for the Italian people themselves.
What do these important European results both indicate?
That a desire for fundamental and systematic change is coming from both sides away from the 'centre' of the political spectrum, that the ordinary people are fighting back, but also that we can bring hope, justice, unity, peace, and action to protect our environment and appeal to more ordinary voters at the same time, those who feel so disaffected with an elitist, out of touch, unreforming establishment that exists in one form or another all across the democratic world. When we ride the winds of change, we can defeat the forces of fear, those represented by Norbert Hofer, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and other dangerous demagogues more concerned with their own interests. There has been speculation that the Italian referendum result could have rippling Eurozone effects, but in the long-term, eroding and ending the Eurozone will be important for Europe to regain sovereignty and freedom from the tentacles of an increasingly authoritarian European Union bureaucracy and European Central Bank. With 38% of young people in Italy unemployed, a breath of fresh air somewhere would be very welcome even if it came with short-term pain coming from ditching the Euro.
The current centre is as much an enemy of the people as the 'alt-right'-its increasing desire internationally for excessive censorship, to spy on us in an Orwellian manner, and its continued determination to let private companies reap the rewards from mismanagement, incompetence, and downright immorality whilst leaving honest taxpayers like you and I to pay to clear up their mess (not ours!) is why it should not be trusted, no matter how calming and professional it tries to look.
Let us instead be inspired by victories like Alexander van der Bellen's-we can keep on coming as long as we distance ourselves from the status quo whilst promoting a positive message that can help us all.