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Merkel and Johnson will discuss post-Brexit relationship

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What are Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson going to talk about when they meet this week?

Well, I guess they need to start discussing a relationship post-Brexit. It was five years ago, and the relationship is still dominated by sort of Brexit-related issues. The uncertainty over the Northern Ireland protocol is a cloud over the relationship, but there are also common issues. Needless to say, the pandemic is still with us.

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What We're Watching: France's regional elections, the Taliban's gains, Sweden's government falls, NYC goes to the polls

Le Pen and Macron falter in regional elections: This weekend's regional elections across France were a massive blow for both President Emmanuel Macron and his La République En Marche party (LREM), as well as for his rival Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party. Le Pen, who has been soaring in the polls in recent months ahead of presidential elections in May 2022, was hoping her party would win a state-wide race for the first time, but National Rally failed to pull through even in conservative regions like Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, where exit polls suggest that the center-right Republicans party, which has been almost irrelevant in recent years, will likely come out on top. Macron's LREM also performed terribly, taking just 10 percent of the vote nationwide. Macron and Le Pen tried to nationalize the regional polls by focusing on country-wide issues like COVID and immigration, but extremely low voter turnout makes it hard to draw broader conclusions. A second round of voting will take place next Sunday (two rounds of voting are conducted unless parties win more than 50 percent of the vote) and the National Rally is hoping for a comeback.

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Will Marine Le Pen's rebrand help her win?

Many people know a few basic facts about Marine Le Pen, head of France's far-right National Rally party. They know that she is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of her party's predecessor, the National Front, known mainly for xenophobia and anti-semitism. They know that she is firmly anti-immigration and adopts a harsh view of what she calls "the rise of Islamism." Marine Le Pen has built a political identity based on these appeals.

But recently, Le Pen has tried to rebrand her image in order to win votes ahead of France's upcoming presidential elections in April 2022. What is Le Pen trying to change, and how might this impact her electoral prospects?

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