Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Political Notes from the Continent

by EscutcheonBlot
Hurrah for the Queen. Of course I am not sure who actually put Salman Rushdie's name on the honors list, that generally being the prerogative of the PM (a very soon to be departed Tony Blair), she deserves kudos, however, for showing a little of the balls that won the Battle of Britain nearly seventy years ago. Unfortunately, she did not have the option of choosing a very good writer to do it with. This was probably necessitated by the humiliating display of British ball-less nancyboyism in the recent incident in the Persian Gulf. More and more the oldsters of Europe are getting fed up with the fecklessness of the '68 generation, and telling them to fight for it, or lose it ('it' being Europe, personal freedom, liberal democracy...you name it). Pope Benedict XVI is also among these brave octagenerians not buying into this "Religion of Peace" b.s., noting famously, if privately, that Islam, being founded on the writings of one man, Muhammed, is fundamentally infallible, and not subject to reform. It can be piecemeal ignored, as do the moderate muslims, or followed, as do the many flavours of muslim extremists, but it cannot be reformed.

Boo for Sarkozy. Really it's a modified boo, for the incredible stupidity of allowing information out about the planned VAT (value-added tax...sales tax to you and me) increase to 25%, a more than 30% take hike(!) before the second round in the french parliamentary elections. Actually, this makes some economic sense, in a supply-side frame of economic planning, as he intends to reduce France's considerable corporate and personal tax rates to liberalize the economy. 'But he pays for it on the backs of the poor'--is how it was seen. He is also, quite obviously, uncommitted to real budget reductions, showing that a real reformer he ain't. Those waiting for a Thatcherite "le rupture" in France can just go on waiting. I would predict that, with his substantially diminished majority in parliament, and somewhat foolishly ideologically mixed appointments to his cabinet, that he has chosen a G W Bush path of go-along, get-along, which in the end neither gets nor goes.

Boo Hoo for Germany's Social Democratic Party (the SPD of Gerhardt Schroeder). This weekend, with the fusion of the former Communists of the East with the former Communist Stooges of the West (the heretofore fringe party WASG, a 2% to 3% outfit), the traditional anti-communist socialists (they do exist), find themselves increasingly bleeding support to their extremist spin-offs (the Greens being the other one). Die Linke (the leftists) as the new party is called, can count on 10-12% in the next elections, and could rise to as much as 15-20%. That would put them on equal footing with the SPD, giving them frightening power in a system of proportional representation that rewards every fringe party which garners more than 5% of the national vote with un-won seats in parliament. Given that in Germany approximately 5% of the vote is won by several really minor parties, an effective coalition needs to win around 48% of the vote, combined, to garner a majority. The left in all of its guises, regularly gets around 52-54% of the vote, and the right (The Christian Democrats and the Free Liberals) get around 46-48% in the weekly quasi-offical poll.

As Die Linke are mostly a bunch of demogogues and unrepentant former communists (over 60% of their members were members of the East German Communist Party) who wish to end the market economy and expand the wildly unsuccessful nanny state, the SPD at the moment categorically refuses to consider a coalition with them on the national level. That would change, however, as soon as the choice were to be in power, or be in the opposition. SPD-er Klaus Wowereit ('Wowi' to besotted Berliners...voh-vee, not wowie) has already decided to make governing coalitions with the hard left in two successive administrations for the city state of Berlin, although he had the choice of a left-right, so-called "Grand Coalition" after his first electoral win, and a coalition with the much more congenial (to him) Greens in the his second...he chose instead to govern with the communists. After 5 years, Berlin remains mired in astronomical debt and unemployment (around 20%). Wowi blames Bush and Merkel, and his communist bedfellows push for a total ban on autos built before 1990 in the city of Berlin, to combat global warming.

So, although Angela Merkel has shown a deft touch at the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in her right-left government, and a reassuringly tough down-to-earth public face (and she absolutely refuses to look in Putin's eyes and see his 'soul'), she faces a very steep road ahead in staying Chancellor after the next elections (could be 2009, could be a lot sooner). Things are marginally better in Germany now, with unemployment dipping below 10% and the economy roaring along at 1% or 2% (that's good for Germany), the future looks not so hot, with the hard Left lurking in the wings.

Sorry I've been gone so long, but I was working away from home, with no internet access, and I don't like spending inordinate amounts of time in internet cafes, surrounded by Turkish youths who are looking at e-porn. Go figure. Now, though, as my calender is slenderly engaged for the next few months, expect more, and increasingly bitter political, social, and artistic commentary.

Yours,

EB

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Thanks for the breakdown of German political parties, Scutch. And the Sarkozy tidbit on the tax increase. I haven't been keeping up on it, but I did hear on the radio right before the election that the socialists parties were trying to scare voters with Sarkozy's tax hike & thought it was ironic.