More troubling than the announced result of the German election and ominous signs of tensions between the coalition partners of Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, the Far Right and the bigots of the AfD, was that it was actually a victory for dirty politics and the populists.
Far from governing as a union, as they should have, Germany’s ruling coalition, the so-called “Grand Coalition” led by Merkel, the CDU-CSU, and their Free Democratic (FDP) partners created two parties: one “red” in the loose equation of nationalist and far-right agitators, the other “blue” in the loose equations of the pragmatic and centrist coalition.
These governments have reacted to a shift in European public opinion by presenting themselves as the “responsible” alternative for maintaining stability.
Grand Coalitions in Europe, which are usually deadlocked between their constituents and their governing partners, have succeeded in fostering populist parties at election time.
The issue then: Do these leaders have the energy and will to put their own interests, above their constituents’ views and choices, and compromise to create a stable government?
The surprise is not the divided coalition, but that German political parties came together under this kind of pressure. The unexpected outcome should not be heralded as a departure from Merkel.
Europe’s trouble comes from the failure of the elites in general and the traditional parties in particular to respond to their constituents’ needs. In Germany, the use of state finance is to blame. The leaders of state finance in Berlin understand the frustration and distrust with which German citizens see political promises, and specifically those with regard to the European Union. Even if the dreams of the far-right in Germany had been realised, it was not going to significantly reform the German system. It would just have imposed much higher taxes and even more regulations on the day-to-day operations of the economy.
But in the end, the jury is still out on the impact of Brexit and elections in the Netherlands, France and Italy. What we do know is that Europe cannot simply be stable and profitable by reflecting the rising positions of populist parties. If its political elites cannot win election after election to positions of power, there has to be something wrong with them and, unless they change, Europe will not help itself.