A pre­lude to dis­as­ter

Finweek English Edition - - Economic Trends & Analysis - HOWARD PREECE

THE IM­PLO­SION of the Gov­ern­ment headed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki may have sal­vaged hopes of a true work­ing democ­racy in South Africa. That seems to be the mes­sage from some ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments now tak­ing place in Europe.

The African Na­tional Congress has ef­fec­tively op­er­ated since SA’s first demo­cratic elec­tion in 1994 as an all-pow­er­ful rul­ing coali­tion. That process had some strong ini­tial pluses for sta­bil­ity. The cru­cial down­side is that it bred in­creas­ing anger at the ar­ro­gance of power and the in­so­lence of of­fice.

Now look at Aus­tria, for in­stance. Ed­ward Lu­cas notes in Bri­tain’s Daily Tele­graph: “For decades this coun­try was run by a po­lit­i­cal car­tel of the ‘reds’ (So­cial Democrats) and ‘blacks’ (Chris­tian Democrats). They al­ter­nated in power, di­vid­ing up jobs in pub­lic ser­vice and busi­ness be­tween them. The ‘parteibuch’ (party mem­ber­ship card) was cru­cial for ev­ery­thing.”

Ris­ing re­sent­ment at that cosy ar­range­ment led to a surge of sup­port for “out­siders” from both far Right and hard Left. In the end-Septem­ber elec­tions three out of 10 Aus­tri­ans voted for neo-Nazi par­ties.

Then there’s Ger­many, cur­rently run by a “grand coali­tion” – es­sen­tially of mod­er­ates from Right and Left un­der Chris­tian Demo­crat Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. But her party has just polled less than 50% of the vote in its most im­por­tant tra­di­tional base, Bavaria. Greens, lib­er­als and var­i­ous quasi-fas­cist pop­ulists were the key ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

But the So­cial Democrats also have big trou­bles.

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