Tuesday 20 February 2018

Portrait of the week

Spain's ruling People's Party is now seen as favourite to win a year-end election, largely counting on a recovering economy to secure a second term

LE PEN DISCORD: National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, waves to supporters during a rally earlier this month. There has been a political falling-out with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is the party’s founder
LE PEN DISCORD: National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, waves to supporters during a rally earlier this month. There has been a political falling-out with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is the party’s founder

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen disowned his daughter and party leader Marine on Tuesday after she suspended him from the far-right French movement, saying he hoped she would lose the 2017 presidential election.

The party's executive committee, chaired by Marine Le Pen, suspended his membership on Monday and said it would strip him of his title of honorary chairman after he repeated his view that Nazi gas chambers were a mere "detail" of World War II.

Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her father as party chief in 2011, has sought to rid the party of its anti-Semitic image and position it as an anti-immigrant Eurosceptic force to woo voters before the 2017 presidential elections.

The war of words between them escalated after his suspension, with the former paratrooper saying it would be "scandalous" if she were to become head of state.

"I'm ashamed that the president of the National Front has my name," he said in an interview with Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. Late on Monday, he had already suggested his daughter get married so as to change her family name.

Opinion polls indicate she could make it to the second round of the 2017 election, but not win. There has been no clear poll evidence so far of an overall impact on her popularity with voters, or of the party as a whole.

Moldova is to step up an investigation into the disappearance of more than $1bn from three banks after around 10,000 people protested over the scandal at the weekend.

Last year, Moldova placed Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank under central bank administration after a series of non-performing loans bankrupted the lenders, which together account for up to 20pc of the tiny former Soviet republic's banking system in terms of assets.

Central bank head Dorin Dragutanu said foreign investigators would be appointed by the end of May in the second phase of a probe into the loss of the money, which is equivalent to around an eighth of Moldova's gross domestic product.

Thousands of people joined a protest rally on Sunday in the Moldovan capital Chisinau and organisers vowed to continue the demonstrations until the money is returned.

Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, is one of Europe's poorest countries. It is trying to reorient its economy towards the European Union after economic turbulence in Russia, its Soviet-era overlord, hit the pace of its own growth.

Spain's ruling People's Party (PP) is seen winning a year-end election, with the socialists coming a close second, an opinion poll showed on Thursday. However, the most disputed vote in 40 years is likely to lead to a hung parliament.

According to the survey, at least two parties - possibly three - would be needed to form a stable government in a country with little tradition of political alliances at a national level and with many voters turning to burgeoning forces such as Podemos and Ciudadanos, which are campaigning against widespread corruption and high unemployment. The trend is even clearer at a regional level. Elections are due later this month in 13 of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, and all but one seems set to deny a majority to the main parties.

The PP of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is largely counting on a recovering economy to secure a second term, would win 25.6pc of the national vote if the election was held today, the poll showed.

The socialist party (PSOE) would get 24.3pc, stealing the second seat from leftist newcomer Podemos, which falls to 16.5pc from 23.9pc in January although it managed to keep up its momentum in key regions and town halls.

Another smaller rising force, Ciudadanos, would come fourth with 13.8pc, up sharply from 3.1pc three months ago, and emerging as a potential local and national king-maker on a message of moderate change that appeals to both centre-right and centre-left voters.

French magistrates ruled on Thursday that authorities had acted legally in tapping ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's phone as part of an investigation into allegations of influence peddling, in a potential blow to his hopes to run for president in 2017.

Sarkozy allies had been confident the court would declare the taps inadmissible and clear the way for him to seek the conservatives' ticket for the 2017 ballot without that judicial cloud hanging over him.

But magistrates approved the measure as part of investigation of the funding of Sarkozy's successful 2007 election campaign.

Sarkozy compared the tapping last year to the mass surveillance of the Stasi secret police of former communist East Germany. He has denied any wrongdoing.

His lawyers said they would appeal against the decision, but that will not stop resumption of the investigation over allegations of corruption and influence peddling, a judicial source said.

The news came just three weeks before a key party congress and two days after Sarkozy decided to rename the party from the Union for a Popular Movement to "The Republicans".

Some party supporters said the magistrates' decision might be politically motivated.

Sunday Independent

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