March 25, 2014, 11:23 a.m.
France: Preliminary results from the French municipal elections on 23 March indicate that the far-right National Front (FN) did far better than expected, earning an estimated 7 percent of votes nationwide according to exit polls. The strong showing for the FN reveals the frustration many in France have with slow growth in the country and with the two major parties, the center-left Socialist Party (PS) and the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Socialist President Francois HOLLANDE currently has the lowest approval rating of any French president in three decades and the UMP is currently wracked by several scandals, including an investigation into the finances of former president Nicolas SARKOZY. Lower voter turnout also helped the FN, which benefits from a core group of strong supporters. However, the extent of the FN’s success will not be known until after most municipalities hold second-round elections on 30 March.
India: The two major national political parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), continue to negotiate alliances with regional parties throughout the country. These alliances are crucial for maximizing the size of the major parties’ electoral blocs, and for forming a government after the votes have been counted. Regional parties often have millions of supporters concentrated in populous swing states, and many are gaining ground. The major parties have recognized this trend and are now courting these parties to coopt their supporters. If regional parties decide to ally with one another in a Third Front this time around, as their support is mounting, they could make it very difficult for the winning national party to govern. Some of the most powerful regional parties include the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the Dravida Munntra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, and the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.
Taiwan: Taiwanese student demonstrators continue their occupation of the Legislative Yuan building in Taipei, despite a police crackdown on protesters and a personal plea by President MA Ying-jeou. The demonstrators have prevented the national legislature from meeting since they stormed the building on 18 March to protest the signing of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. In addition to the Agreement’s content, which would open the Taiwanese service industries to Chinese investments and competition from mainland companies, demonstrators are also protesting the way in which the government bypassed normal legislative procedure to pass the pact. LIN Fei-fan, a leading student activist, has expressed the demonstrators’ dissatisfaction with President MA’s response and has stated that the occupiers demand a “citizen constitutional meeting” with the government, Taiwan’s withdrawal from the current pact, the “lawful inspection” of future cross-strait agreements, and a more responsive government.
(Image Credit: J. Michael Cole for The Diplomat)