Fea­ring the wurst in Ba­va­ria

Des élec­tions à haut risque en Ba­vière (le titre en VO est un jeu de mots sur Wurst, qui si­gni­fie en al­le­mand "sau­cisse" et l'ex­pres­sion to fear the worst, re­dou­ter le pire)

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire -

Que disent les ré­sul­tats des élec­tions ré­gio­nales de Ba­vière sur l’état de l’Eu­rope ?

En Al­le­magne, les élec­tions ré­gio­nales de Ba­vière d’oc­tobre der­nier ont eu un fort re­ten­tis­se­ment na­tio­nal. La CSU, l’al­lié his­to­rique de la CDU d’An­ge­la Mer­kel, a connu une cui­sante dé­faite, per­dant sa ma­jo­ri­té ab­so­lue au Par­le­ment de Ba­vière. Le Par­ti so­cial-dé­mo­crate, membre du gou­ver­ne­ment de coa­li­tion d’An­ge­la Mer­kel, n’a pas été épar­gné non plus. Les Verts et le par­ti d'ex­trême-droite AfD sortent grands ga­gnants de cette élec­tion – un ré­sul­tat re­pré­sen­ta­tif du cli­mat po­li­tique eu­ro­péen ac­tuel...

Ba­va­ria’s con­ser­va­tive Ch­ris­tian So­cial Union (CSU) has spent the past months per­for­ming a sort of control­led ex­pe­riment in­to the state of Eu­ro­pean po­li­tics to­day. In one of the weal­thiest parts of Eu­rope, where unem­ploy­ment ba­re­ly exists and the mi­gra­tion cri­sis of 2015 was hand­led re­mar­ka­bly well, the par­ty that had go­ver­ned for de­cades lur­ched far to the right over the past hal­fyear. The CSU is the sis­ter par­ty of An­ge­la Mer­kel’s more mo­de­rate Ch­ris­tian De­mo­cra­tic Union (CDU), which runs can­di­dates in the other 15 Ger­man fe­de­ral states but not Ba­va­ria. 2. Horst See­ho­fer, fe­de­ral in­ter­ior mi­nis­ter in the CDU/CSU’s coa­li­tion with the cen­tre­left So­cial De­mo­crats (SPD), has spent the past months pu­shing Mrs Mer­kel’s go­vern­ment to the brink of col­lapse over mi­gra­tion and re­la­ted is­sues. In Ba­va­ria Mar­kus Sö­der, his suc­ces­sor as state pre­mier, has pur­sued a qua­si-Trum­pist stra­te­gy fo­cu­sed on the res­to­ra­tion of Ba­va­ria’s “Ch­ris­tian” iden­ti­ty.


3. This stra­te­gy hit the buf­fers with a dea­fe­ning crash in Oc­to­ber when Ba­va­ria went to the polls in its five-year­ly state elec­tion. Last time, in 2013, the CSU re­gai­ned its ma­jo­ri­ty in the state par­lia­ment af­ter its first per­iod in coa­li­tion since its rise to pro­mi­nence in the 1950s. But with par­ty lea­ders pa­ni­cking af­ter the CDU/CSU’s poor re­sult in last Sep­tem­ber’s na­tio­nal elec­tion, at which the far­right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­ma­ny (AfD) took third place, it at­temp­ted to emu­late ele­ments of the AfD’s stra­te­gy. [On Oc­to­ber 14] it paid the price: its sup­port fal­ling from 48% in 2013 to 37% as vo­ters tur­ned ins­tead to the left­li­be­ral Greens, the righ­tish-lo­ca­list Free Vo­ters (FW) and the AfD.

4. That was mar­gi­nal­ly bet­ter than the gloo­miest polls had sug­ges­ted but still abys­mal by CSU stan­dards. The first prog­no­sis at 6pm lo­cal time had been even lo­wer, the crowd at the CSU ral­ly at the Ba­va­rian state par­lia­ment in Mu­nich stan­ding silent, but for a few mut­ters, as it was read out on the

giant screen be­fore them. Meanw­hile the Green Par­ty ral­ly, al­so held wi­thin the ma­gni­ficent Maxi­mi­lia­neum buil­ding in Mu­nich hou­sing the Ba­va­rian par­lia­ment, was abuzz. The Greens—now in se­cond-place na­tio­nal­ly in se­ve­ral polls thanks to a new­ly prag­ma­tic, cen­trist pitch that wor­ked won­ders in Ba­va­ria—feel they have the mo­men­tum.


5. What is the significance of this re­sult? In Ba­va­ria it may well mean a CSU-FW coa­li­tion and a change of per­son­nel at the top of the CSU. Meanw­hile, in Ber­lin, Mrs Mer­kel would be for­gi­ven for fee­ling re­lie­ved. The CSU may be her CDU’s sis­ter par­ty but its tac­tics in recent months have made her job al­most im­pos­sible.

6. But this re­sult al­so points to so­me­thing broa­der. The CSU used to be the epi­tome of what Ger­mans call “Volks­par­teien”, or “people’s par­ties”. These giant, big-tent, cen­tre­right or centre-left forces used to have so­me­thing ap­proa­ching a mo­no­po­ly on the po­li­tics of most Wes­tern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries. But in most, that mo­no­po­ly is di­sin­te­gra­ting. The Gaul­lists and So­cia­lists are lo­sing their re­le­vance in France while the far right, far left and ra­di­cal centre surge. In the Ne­ther­lands, Spain, Swe­den and Ita­ly the old Ch­ris­tian de­mo­crats and so­cia­lists have been di­mi­ni­shed by more vi­tal forces on the right, left and centre. In Greece and Aus­tria the cen­tre­right stumbles on, but so­cial de­mo­crats are in cri­sis. On­ly in Bri­tain are the two tra­di­tio­nal par­ties still strong, but they on­ly have their coun­try’s pro­found­ly dis­tor­ting electoral sys­tem to thank.


7. The de­cline of the Volks­par­teien is fun­da­men­tal­ly chan­ging how Eu­rope is run. In next year’s Eu­ro­pean elec­tion, both the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion may be­come more frac­tious as the old duo­po­ly of centre-right and centre-left loses its ma­jo­ri­ty. At a na­tio­nal level, the old no­tion of big mains­tream par­ties as clea­ring houses for dif­fe­ring out­looks and in­ter­ests is gi­ving way to so­me­thing more tri­bal. Wha­te­ver you think of the CSU, re­co­gnise that their de­cline stands for so­me­thing big­ger: the end of an age of consen­sus and the dawn of a new age of in­tra-Eu­ro­pean an­ta­go­nism.

The de­cline of the Volks­par­teien is fun­da­men­tal­ly chan­ging how Eu­rope is run.

(Mat­thias Schra­der/AP/SI­PA)

A man in tra­di­tio­nal Ba­va­rian clothes casts his vote for the Ba­va­rian state elec­tion at a pol­ling sta­tion in Mai­sach, Ger­ma­ny, Oc­to­ber 14, 2018.


(Mar­kus Schrei­ber/AP/SI­PA)

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­ge­la Mer­kel and In­ter­ior Mi­nis­ter Horst See­ho­fer du­ring a press confe­rence at the chan­cel­le­ry in Ber­lin.

(Kietz­mann Björn/REX/Shut­ter­stock/SI­PA)

The lea­ders of the Greens ce­le­bra­ting the re­sult of the Ba­va­rian state elec­tion in Mu­nich.

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