Saturday, October 3, 2009

Action in the Center?

If you read German, you might find this FAZ article on the recent German elections interesting. The decline of the Social Democrats has come in for a lot of attention, of course, and the party's failure at the polls has led to a lot of soul-searching and numerous calls to end the taboo against an alliance with the party of the Left, Die Linke (Berlin mayor Wowerweit is one of the loudest voices in this camp). But the Frankfurt paper, more conservative in orientation, sees the real ferment in the center, in the much-improved showing of the liberal FDP. Here is the key passage:

Beinahe 15 Prozent der Wähler haben am vergangenen Sonntag ihr Kreuz bei den Liberalen gemacht – mehr als je zuvor bei einer Bundestagswahl. Es sind nicht mehr bloß die Düsseldorfer Handwerker, die Frankfurter Geschäftsleute, die Yuppies und Latte-macchiato-Liberalen, die FDP wählen. Dazu kommen ganz andere: Rentner, Erzkonservative, Ostdeutsche, junge Frauen, kleine Angestellte. Sogar jeder zehnte Arbeitslose entschied sich für die Liberalen. „Die FDP ist in völlig neue Wählerschichten vorgedrungen“, sagt Richard Hilmer vom Wahlforschungsinstitut Infratest Dimap.

Those looking for analogies with France might want to contemplate the German elections in this light. A push to the left could well diminish the overall Left vote if the center-left stands to lose more votes to its right than it gains to its left.

Mitterrand and German Reunification

Frédéric Bozo refutes allegations that François Mitterrand opposed German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A Depression Makes All the Difference

Democracies can be fickle. The Irish have voted to support the Lisbon Treaty with a 67% majority and 59% turnout, whereas just over a year ago they voted no by 53% with a 53% turnout. Sarkozy is no doubt much relieved, as his wager in pushing through a Lisbon ratification in France without a referendum has now paid off. The Great Recession deserves the credit: it put an end to any Irish velleity to go it alone.

But what difference will it make in practical terms? Not much. The Germans want to go slow, the Czechs are no more enthusiastic about ratification than they were before, and euroskeptic David Cameron will likely be the next British PM. Still, Europe appears not only to have survived the Great Recession, despite Martin Feldstein's prediction that the common currency would collapse in the first major economic crisis, but to have emerged, if not stronger than before, at least more permanent: like some banks, Europe has become too big to fail, and the fates of the members states have become too entangled to unravel.

UPDATE: Henry Farrell offers his customarily astute instant analysis here.

Muslims in France

A very good article on Muslims in France by Simon Kuper.

Grunberg on the PS

Gérard Grunberg, a connoisseur of the Socialist Party, sees the primaries as an opportunity to transform the party's internal culture. I think he's unduly optimistic, but I don't know the party as well as he does.