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Electoral curse

Uncertainty in the United Kingdom and the European Union is even greater than that which was already latent
Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
10/06/2017
16:40
Dr. Victoria A. Puig
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There have been two recent polls in the United Kingdom, both in less than a year, summoned by a conservative government and the results of which were unexpected and far from ideal. First, of course, was Brexit and the second was the early general election.

Theresa May lost a bet which did not seem risky when she considered it: to call for a general election and thus officially have a strong and clear popular mandate allowing her to negotiate with the European Union. It did not appear to be nonsense: her absolute majority in the House of Commons was barely of five seats (331 out of 650), of course with a significant fraction being pro-EU. May said that a "strong and stable" leadership was needed for five years (the duration of a period of office). It was speculated that conservatives could reach as many as 400 seats, an overwhelming majority.

This was because the opposition did not seem to represent any danger at the polls. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is seen as a radical left extremist. No one could imagine voters willing to take him to live and work at No. 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's official residence. Moderate Labourists are horrified with Corbyn. So, May seemed to follow after Margaret Thatcher when she was victorious against radical leftist Michael Foot.

However, the Prime Minister made a disastrous campaign, while certain electoral promises showed conservatives as the "necessary but evil" party. Corbyn did not convince by his ideas, but he became an element to give a punishing vote to May and its party in the face of its ineptitude and arrogance.

The Labourist Party obtained 40.0% of the national vote, with conservatives receiving only slightly more, 42.4%. The Labourists won 30 additional seats, bringing their total to 262 with respect to the 2015 election. May's Party lost 13 seats, resulting in 318. It is the biggest party in the House, yes, but without an absolute majority.

May will remain as Prime Minister. She forged a quick coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party of Ireland (DUP), which with 10 seats gives her just the majority, and a little lower than the original.

The formal negotiations for Brexit are about to start. The Prime Minister does not arrive strong at the table and is accompanied by a "weak and unstable" leadership incapable of facing what will be a major challenge.

Because the EU is now firmly united. Perhaps not against the UK, but in the need to negotiate rather hard to get certain results. The British government must deliver substantial amounts of money as contributions to the Union budget, given their legal obligations for a certain period. And there is also the very delicate status of European residents in Britain, as well as the residents of that country living in the 27 other countries of the Union. This added to delicate business issues.

Supposedly, on March 2019, no matter what, the UK leaves the EU. The deadline can be extended to British request but this requires unanimity of the countries of the Union, as well as the approval of the European Parliament.

May was expecting a strong and popular mandate to present a clear agenda. The EU hoped for a stable government, to ensure that what was negotiated could be approved without problems in the British Parliament. Neither happened. Uncertainty is even greater than that which was already latent. Brexit proved to be a curse for British politicians.

Ph.D. in Political Science, University of Essex, United Kingdom.

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