EastWest 66

FRONT PAGE – Out-of-breath democracies


In June the Swiss (78%) said no to the introduction of a monthly wage for everyone, from the cradle to the grave, as a guarantee of a dignified existence. This provided further confirmation that everyone is required to sharpen up and do all they can to earn a living by providing useful services to the community or appreciated by markets. The primary role of the state is to create ideal conditions to enable everyone to exploit their talents in a fair and transparent competitive environment along with appropriate solidarity mechanisms to support the less fortunate. Let’s hope that the clear indication provided by this vote might act as a warning for all the populist movements in Europe, which are gaining increasing consensus, so they no longer come up with such half-cocked proposals.


In Turkey, the recent replacement of the prime minister is a further indication of the unstoppable authoritarian drift set in motion by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, after a golden decade of growth (2002-2012), liberalisation and democracy seems to have lost the level-headedness he had in the early years and can’t even offer the European Commission an excuse to rekindle the EU negotiations. In all likelihood Erdogan will keep pushing to introduce a presidential system, taking advantage of the more docile Benali Yildirim as prime minister. The process would involve early elections in autumn to obtain the two-thirds majority required for constitutional reform. Not that such a daring move comes without risk. According to the leader of the opposition party HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, whom I met in Istanbul recently, the Turkish democratic spirit will come to the fore if early elections are called and show the president that even he cannot overstep certain levels of democratic tolerance. What is likely to be the most hotly debated referendum in the last 20 years has just kicked off in Italy: the simplification of the decisionmaking system that is universally acknowledged as being over-complex. Those voting yes believe that the abolition of Italy’s twin bicameral system and centralised management of certain issues currently transferred to the regional authorities will increase government efficiency, whereas all noes will be a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s leadership, which his critics believe to be overly authoritarian. At Eastwest we believe the issues should be the focus of the debate. The reform should be clearly understood by all citizens, seeing as it could lead us directly into the Third Republic.

In mid-July I will be among the accredited foreign journalists witnessing the official investiture of the United States’ presidential candidates at the Democratic and Republican Conventions in the US. I will be trying to understand why the Americans, no matter who wins, are about to elect one of the least loved presidents in recent history. The doubts of the Republican establishment towards the improper tone set by their unexpected champion are well known, while many women and younger Democrats can’t stomach Hillary’s long militancy in the corridors of power, which would make her – in a unique instance – the person who’s spent the most time in the White House. I will provide online updates from interviews with leading figures and some of the supporting cast of this special competition in the most important contemporary democracy.

Good journalism also means undertaking enquiries and close analysis of very spiny issues that are surprisingly overlooked. We are now inaugurating a new column, “The Enquiry”, which means to satisfy these expectations by attempting to get to the bottom of all the lesserknown aspects surrounding a particular issue, with the help of interviews with the persons involved. We will start out by taking a look at the bizarre layout of European pipeline networks, which are rarely interconnected and thus worsen the European structural dependence on energy imports from tricky countries.