Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, stands in for Alan today.
The United States has had a remarkably tumultuous start to 2021, so I also want to highlight the (graciously non-violent) turmoil in European politics right now.
Brexit is so last year. This is what has happened in the EU for the past three days – and remember that ‘liberal’ in Europe generally means pro-business and socially liberal, much like the dominant center-right (in European eyes) wing of the Democrats in the US :
–ItalyThe government fell into crisis when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tore his small, liberal Italia Viva party from the governing coalition, amid a discussion about how much COVID-19 emergency aid should go towards infrastructure investment rather than disbursements. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte now has a left-wing minority government, but his other coalition partners are on his side and he is unlikely to step down.
–EstoniaThe government collapsed in a corruption scandal over real estate development involving the left-wing Center Party of now-former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. The liberal Reform Party of opposition leader Kaja Kallas will now try to form a new coalition with the Center Party.
-The Dutch government, a centrist coalition between conservative, liberal and social democratic parties, is on the verge of collapse. This time, the cause is a scandal over child support benefits, with the Dutch tax authorities falsely chasing thousands of families to repay ‘fraudulent’ claims, leaving many financially ruined. Far-right opposition leader Geert Wilders is, as always, waiting in the wings, and he has recently taken to task by criticizing the government over the late rollout of vaccines.
But perhaps the biggest change to take place will be inside Germany, which will have federal elections in September. Party greats in Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic union will elect their new leader tomorrow. Since the CDU is Germany’s dominant party and Germany, along with France, is one of the biggest beasts in the post-Brexit EU, the choice will have major consequences beyond Germany’s borders.
I wrote about the candidates last February – the pandemic has postponed these elections for almost a year – but, to make a long story short, the three options this weekend are Friedrich Merz (much more conservative and fiscally frugal than centrist Merkel), Armin Laschet (the Merkel continuity candidate) and Norbert Röttgen (Merkel-esque but more of a foreign policy hawk).
The winner could become the center-right candidate to succeed Merkel as Chancellor, or not. Health Minister Jens Spahn and Markus Söder, the head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, have both seen their profiles rise in the pandemic – both could be fishing for the top of the ticket soon, if the CDU party congress the leader chooses poorly polls the general German public and would make it more difficult for the party to find coalition partners.
So it’s not just American politics that is dizzying right now! It has always been inevitable that the pandemic would have political repercussions, and we are only just beginning to see them on both sides of the Atlantic. Below more news and a nice weekend.