Could Le Pen Actually Win?

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 1, 2017

Could Le Pen Actually Win?

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron may have miscalculated by suggesting that he “only wanted votes based on genuine commitment," writes Olivier Tonneau in The Guardian.

“In so doing, he has run a major risk: he has dared people who oppose him (and there are many) to abstain. An astonishing proportion of voters seem ready to call his bluff. The situation has become so alarming that a Le Pen victory is becoming less implausible every day."

Can Hamas Go Mainstream?

A policy document released by Hamas on Monday is aimed at presenting “a more mainstream-friendly version of its vision for the Palestinian cause — and to gain ground against [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, whose influence is growing more tenuous," Ian Fisher reports for the New York Times.
“The paper calls for Hamas to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to build stronger ties with Egypt, which controls the Gaza Strip’s southern border. It reiterates the Hamas leadership’s view that it is open to a Palestinian state along the borders established after the 1967 war, though it does not renounce future claims to Palestinian rule over what is now Israel. And the group specifically weakened language from its 1988 charter proclaiming Jews as enemies and comparing their views to Nazism, though the new document does not replace the original charter."
  • Per The Guardian‘s Patrick Wintour: The new document “still contains language to which Israel, the U.S. and Europe object – and there will be questions about why the new charter is additional to the existing charter first issued in 1988 rather than supplanting the existing version. Assurances have been given that Arabic text is the same as the English text.

“But some Western diplomats are likely to interpret the new charter as a sign that Hamas is at least willing to accept a regional peace initiative largely sponsored by Egypt."

The Danger of Trump’s Middle East Rhetoric: Rogin

Just days before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House, and a clear gap remains between President Donald Trump’s “high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy" for peace in the Middle East, writes Josh Rogin in the Washington Post.
“[By] going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk," Rogin writes. “There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing."

No, Populism Hasn’t Peaked Yet

Election results in Austria, France and the Netherlands have led many to speculate that populism may have peaked. But it’s far too early to declare victory, argues Charlotte McDonald-Gibson in the New York Times.

“Something hasn’t peaked until it has started to decline — and to date the far right has only been ascendant," McDonald-Gibson writes. “Ms. Le Pen’s National Front added around 1.2 million votes to its first-round result in 2012. Mr. Wilders’s Freedom Party now has 20 seats in the Dutch Parliament, a gain of five from 2012. The previous candidate from [far-right Austrian presidential candidate Norbert] Hofer’s party received about 15% in the last presidential poll in 2010, while Mr. Hofer topped the vote in the first round and got 46% in the run off."

Khamenei Turns Up Heat on Rouhani

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped up his criticism of President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, suggesting Iranians “should not thank [Rouhani’s] policy of detente with the West for any reduction in the threat of war," Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reports for Reuters.
“In comments that appeared to favor hardline candidates in the May 19 vote, Khamenei played down the benefits of Rouhani’s landmark agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions."
  • Payam Mohseni, Iran Project Director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, emails Global Briefing that Khamenei’s remarks should be seen as a rebuff of the Rouhani campaign’s efforts to tie the country’s security to the nuclear deal, rather than as criticism of the deal itself.

“Khamenei’s statements will partially undercut the effectiveness of Rouhani’s messaging, but its actual impact on the discourse of the election campaign remains to be seen," Mohseni says.

“Much will depend on how the remaining two presidential debates play out and the wider narratives that the candidates forge, particularly conservative candidates Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Ebrahim Raisi. Based on the first presidential debate, Rouhani’s rivals seem intent on focusing on the president’s economic weaknesses and his lack of attention to inequality and the ‘downtrodden’ classes.

“Why does that matter? Because it picks up a key theme that propelled former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency."

Japan’s Military Sticks its Neck Out a Little More

Japan’s helicopter carrier has been ordered to protect a U.S. Navy supply ship, the first time the country’s self-defense forces have been dispatched since new legislation was enacted last year, the Kyodo News agency reports.
“Guarding other countries’ vessels is part of the Self-Defense Forces’ expanded responsibilities under the security legislation that came into force in March last year to increase Japan’s role in global security. The SDF were previously prevented from protecting allied forces as their use of weapons was restricted to self-defense."

What to Watch This Week

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday. On the agenda, per Reuters, will be preparations for July’s G-20 meeting and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

President Trump will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday. But Abbas heads into the meeting in a weak position, Ben Lynfield and Adam Rasgon write in the Jerusalem Post. “[Abbas will be] hard pressed to answer charges that he cannot claim to speak for all Palestinians, with Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip despite recent moves to try to bring it back under his control."
President Trump is scheduled to meet Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York on Thursday. Turnbull should have three objectives in mind, writes Alan Dupont in The Australian: “Add his voice to those of other U.S. allies urging Trump to play a constructive leadership role internationally," encourage “a deeper appreciation of the value of alliances in general and the Australia-U.S. alliance in particular," and “support a U.S. accommodation with China that minimizes the possibility of a full-blown conflict in Asia but pushes back against Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea."
The run-off for the French presidential election takes place on Sunday. Newsweek suggests that Marine Le Pen could be gaining ground on Emmanuel Macron, although polls indicate Macron still holds a lead of about 20%.



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