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Elections: Europe still holding off the far right

In France Macron has won the runoff presidential election with 58 percent of the vote. Most commentators interpret his win as a vote against Le Pen rather than a vote for Macron. He has failed to deal with the problems of poverty and exclusion that brought the gilets jaunes out on to the streets. If he fails to address these problems, voters may decide to give populist far right a go in the next election. Mathias Bernard of the Université Clermont Auvergne, writing in The Conversation, notes the long-term rise in support for the far right, particularly among France’s working class, and that a significant number of “left-wing” voters (presumably those who voted for Mélenchon in the first round), voted for Le Pen in the runoff: Macron wins re-election: a victory with deep challenges.

Turnout in the final round was 72 percent, only a little down on the 74 percent in the first round, but about 12 percent of voters cast a blank or invalid ballot – a peculiarly French way of making a protest.

Another country to go to the polls on Sunday was Slovenia, where in parliamentary elections the populist right-wing Slovenian Democratic party lost office to the newly-formed left-leaning Freedom Movement. Jan Bratanic, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, reports that even though there have been regular protests against the governing Democratic Party, the result was unexpected: Slovenia’s Twitter-trolling Trump-loving prime minister defeated by new protest party. Although Slovenia is not a large country (2.1 million) this change in government is significant because it deprives Hungary’s Viktor Orbán of an ally in the European Union. Turnout was 69 percent.

Malta has recently had parliamentary elections (March 26). The Labour Party, which has held office since 2013, was returned to office with very little change in vote. Turnout was only 45 percent. Angela Giuffrida, writing in The Guardian, attributes Labour’s success to a strong economy and the country’s success in containing Covid-19. As a pair of small islands Malta had ideal conditions for handling the pandemic.

Another geopolitical reason for Ukraine’s importance

Of all geopolitical issues, food security is the most enduring, and climate change is disrupting our geographical patterns of food production. The IPCC has suggested that every degree of warming will reduce global agricultural production by 25 percent.

A team of scientists has taken on board the challenge of looking to see where agricultural production may be best relocated to feed the world with grains while minimizing the environmental impact of that production.

Their results, with a link to their published research, are summarized in an article in The Harvard Gazette: Mapping project provides guide on where to encourage, discourage agricultural growth. Most telling is their pair of world maps, one showing the current distribution of croplands and the other the environmentally optimal distribution of croplands. That optimal distribution would see croplands concentrated in just a few regions, including central USA, the Yangtze valley, northwest India, and Ukraine, which would be the only significant cropland area in Europe.

Most of Australia’s cropland in the Murray-Darling Basin and in southwest Western Australia disappears according to the model.