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If 21 April 2002 is a date all French citizens remember as the historical breakthrough of the extreme-right Front National party, 23 April 2017 will be remembered as a turning point in French politics. The two parties which have structured and dominated the French political scene for the past decades have crumbled to pieces and have been washed away by a so-called “anti-system” wave.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Luckily, America has finally bloody decided. Unluckily, they've managed to elect the sort of demagogue who will, to be euphemistic, challenge the rest of the world for four years minimum. If he makes it that long without being impeached that is.
Our editor Alexander Neofitov points you in the direction of a few articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about the similiarities between Donald Trump and the so-called Berlusconismo, the (not so) strange death of clubbing in Europe, and another Icelandic political conundrum.
Alexander, Project Manager and Diaphragm editor
Sexism in politics: The Donald vs. Mr. Bunga Bunga
Donald’s latest exposure reminded us again what dirty, dark and testosterone-infested game politics really is. A leaked tape, allegedly just one (and not the steamiest) of many recorded, involves Mr. Trump bragging about grabbing women by the pussy and kissing them whenever he desires to. This appears to have shocked America. Possibly even threatening, of all Trump histrionics, to truncate the man’s pathetic attempt to sit at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world. But can it really shock us Europeans? After all here in Europe this style of political machismo had been going for decades during the reign of another tycoon-come-politician. Of course we are talking of Signore Berlusconi (aka Mr. Bunga Bunga) and his period in Italian politics, aptly titled Berlusconismo in a recent article by Annalisa Merelli for Quartz. Merelli, an Italian living in the US, offers a look at the consequences of electing someone like Berlusconi/Trump to run a country. A witness to Berlusconi’s political evolution, the author depicts the way in which he tapped into public exploitation of women to boost his media empire in the 80s. When he entered politics, however, Berlusconi stepped up his game. To a point where his sexual obsessions became part-and-parcel of what it meant to make policy in Italy, a symbol of his rambunctious, corrupt “sesso e soldi” style of ruling the country. A very nice documentary, titled Berlusconi’s Women, made by an Australian TV station of all things, also deals with the objectification of female bodies in the Italian public domain in the last 30 years. You can check it yourself, but just for heads-up - there is a snippet from an obscure TV show, displaying a young woman hanging from a hook, representing a piece of ham in a meat shop, whose behind is repeatedly stamped by the macellaio. If your eyes haven’t left their sockets by then, in another scene four female journalists sitting at a table discuss the specifics of female career advancement during the Berlusconismo, including providing oral sex when needed. One of the journalists ironically exclaims (adapted) “I told my father - you taught me the wrong things...study, go to university, be brilliant.. when it fact it was so easy - why didn't you tell me to learn how to do a proper blowjob?”. This should not be happening. Like, seriously.
Cartoon by Alice Baruffato
This month Alice Baruffato continues her series of cartoons for E&M and focuses on the hot topic that is the Greek crisis. With the sweeping "no" in the Greek referendum regarding the EU austerity measures leading to the resignation of minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis and eventually also of prime minister Alexis Tsipras, Greece's instability was a concern for the whole of Europe. Greece's future seems wholly unpredictable; the first female prime minister for Greece, Vassiliki Thanou, will head the caretaker government until the elections, but will she help Greece cross the tight-rope and reach the financial and political stability it so longs for?
This month Alice Baruffato continues her series of cartoons for E&M and focuses on an evergreen European topic, alias the UK and its relationship with Europe. Following the general elections' results, David Cameron has re-confirmed himself as the leader of an island that seems to be sceptical about its future presence within the Union. To renegotiate the right of freedom of movement across Europe and to stop (il)legal immigration still appear to be top priorities in 2015 UK. But can Cameron stop the European train? Is it really worth it?
From the 100th anniversary of the First World War to elections in Slovenia, it's been a busy few weeks for Europe. Frances and Veronica, two of E&M's new editors, share articles that recently got them thinking about the continent.
Frances, Sixth Sense editor
A MEDIA BLINDSPOT
Something rather important happened on 27 June 2014. Game-changing, one might even say – if you can forgive the buzzword – for a good three million people. Ring any bells? It was during the summit of the EU heads of state, if that helps. Still nothing? All right, I'll tell you: it was the day that Albania was finally granted EU candidate status, some five years after its initial application for membership. And to be honest, I don't blame you if you haven't heard about it. By and large, most English-speaking media appear to have ignored this historic decision. At the time of writing, the BBC has not even updated its country profile on Albania to note that following a recommendation from the European Commission the small Balkan nation has indeed become a candidate for EU membership.
In fact, I only stumbled across one article – published in the English-language section of the Deutsche Welle – that really got to grips what the development means for Albania and its people. That said though, I'm not sure I entirely agree with the implication that Albania does not yet "belong to Europe". Surely to be European means more than simply living in a state where the rule of law is observed. And who's to say Albania isn't already European? Geography is certainly on the country's side; history too, I should have thought. Or are European credentials now measured purely in terms of EU membership? Somebody had better break the news to Switzerland...
A man with a rather large bushy grey moustache plonked three glasses of thin brackish coffee down on the fold-away table of our railway carriage and demanded 12 hryvnia (around 1 euro). It wasn't so much the clink and crash of the glasses as they hit the table which surprised us the most, but rather the hard look on the man's face as his arm swung round releasing the cups, almost throwing them down, and the way he spoke as he asked for the money: short and succinct, to the point. There was no question of not paying, despite grimacing as we reluctantly swallowed the hot watery liquid.
We are on our way by train from Lviv to Khmelnytskyi in Western Ukraine, and then by minibus to Kamianets-Podilskyi, where we have been invited to play on the AZH Promo Stage at the Respublica festival, located in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast near the border with Moldova and Romania. We, consists of the three members of the band Grace Beneath the Pines as well as Ivanna Cherukha from AZH Promo who is acting as our guide and interpreter. The festival was advertising itself as “an anti-commercial festival action whose aim is the concentration of attention on cultural and social problems of small cities, as well as in the country in general.”
The organisers were also encouraging festival-goers to throw away their televisions by stating on the events page of their website: “Throw away your TV – get a ticket for the festival! TVs are useless idiot boxes. So get rid of them now! The first 15 people who bring their TVs to the daylight stage will get a free ticket for the festival. Others will be able to buy them with a 50 % discount.” Other social projects were also advertised as taking place including an eco-action “to clean up the trash from the canyon of the River Smotrych ... [which] will become a bright example for the residents of Kamianets-Podilskyi and the younger generation.”
Georgia has just chosen its new parliament. The elections in this Caucasus State were the second of three held in Eastern Partnership (EaP) States this autumn. Besides Belarus, which was given (as opposed to choosing democratically) a new assembly in September, Ukraine is also going to vote in a few days. Each election is different. How will they shape the EU's closest neighbourhood?
All quiet in Belarus
I guess the best summary of the Belarusian elections came from one of my Belarusian friends, who is currently living in the US and posted on her Facebook wall that she's curious as to whether anyone voted in her name (and for whom). Partly funny, partly scary - entirely true, unfortunately. There was no need to wait for OSCE reports or EU statements. Even before the election campaign it was obvious that the opposition was too weak (after its demolition following the last presidential election) and that Lukashenko was unwilling to share his power with anyone (or even give the opposition a chance to promote their ideas during the campaign). As a result, the Belarusian parliament is a pro-government monolith - the more insignificant due to the presidential system of government in the country.
Georgian dreams and reality
Georgia's case is a completely different story. Even though some violations of democratic rules were also recorded - both before and during the voting process - the Georgian elections may serve as a good example for the whole post-Soviet area. At least for one reason: it seems that they will lead to a constitutional transfer of power. There were no "anointings," which we observed in the case of colonel Putin (both in 1999 and recently), no man-hunting as in Belarus nor politically inspired litigations as in Yulia Tymoshenko's case. As Akhmed Zakayev, Prime-Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, stated: "The results of the elections are a real victory for the Georgian people." This is true - as long the Georgians' choice was not forged. The quick acceptance of electoral defeat by President Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) is nothing less than the triumph of democratic principles in the country.
“As citizens, I think we all have an exhausting duty to know what our governments are up to, and it is cowardice or laziness to ask: what can I do about it anyway? Every squeak counts, if only in self-respect.” Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War
As the Indian summer of Romania’s political turmoil continues, it is clear the last hope for stability stands in the upcoming parliamentary elections this December. Yet “change” is a funny word for Romanians. No one believes it anymore. Hoping for change is considered naive and inexperienced, and talking about democracy is frowned upon in bitter speeches which ask: “What democracy?” For generations the general discourse in this apathy-hit country has been: “Get real, don’t bother trying to change things. God forbid you might get your hands dirty.” However, as grand as it may sound, the country is preparing for its most important elections since 1990. If ever there was a time to think, act, speak up and try to change things, that time is now.
Băsescu the survivor
As expected, President Traian Băsescu is back in his seat following the failure of last July’s referendum. Băsescu is nothing if not a survivor. He might subordinate the justice system and cut pensions, but he will also put on a t-shirt, hold a baby in front of the cameras, and people will buy it. The problem is that this referendum was a close one: although a little over 46 per cent of the registered voters participated, leading it to be declared invalid, 87.5 per cent of that group voted against the president, which adds up to 7.4 million people. If you consider that in 2009, Băsescu was elected for a second term with only 5.23 million votes, it’s safe to say the population doesn’t want Traian Băsescu as president. So why is the country still stuck with him? As Martha Gellhorn would say: “If we cannot blame our leaders (…) we can only blame ourselves.”