Tantrums or Muddling Through

5 March 2018

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Germany Gets Coalition, Italy Votes to be Ungovernable

Over the week-end, two of the nations at the core of Europe opted for two different approaches to their political futures. In Germany, the traditional right-wing Christian Democrats (with the Christian Social Union partners in Bavaria) entered into a coalition with the traditional party of the left, the Social Democrats. The Grand Coalition was revived because there really was no other option. Meanwhile, the Italian voters opted for a range of anti-establishment and anti-immigrant parties that guarantees whatever government ultimately forms will fall in short order. The choices are muddle through or throw a fit; the former is unglamorous while the latter is useless.

Germany held elections back in September, and the situation was only resolved at the beginning of March. That is not typically how Germany forms its governments. Initially, the CDU/CSU tried to work with the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens (the colors being black, yellow and green like the Jamaican flag), but the two smaller parties could not agree to a common program. Mathematically, there were potential coalitions with the Left and with the Alternative fur Deutschland, but those were unpalatable and unworkable

For its part, the SDP had suffered at the polls and initially believed that it needed to recharge its batteries in opposition. When the Jamaican coalition discussions failed, the SDP could either revive the Grand Coalition or force new elections. Dr. Merkel had decided not to lead a minority government. However, the coalition deal needed ratification from the SDP rank and file, and the counting of the postal ballots were finished Saturday with the yes vote almost double the no vote. In essence, Germany will get more of the same.

Meanwhile, Italy's voters gave the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement the most votes with 32.6% of the ballots cast, and in normal times, leader Luigi di Maio would be asked to form a government. These are not normal times. A tri-partite coalition of right-wing parties looks set to command the largest bloc in the legislature, composed of the anti-immigrant League, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy. They will command 248-268 seats against the Five-Star's 216-236. A majority, though, is 316.

The governing Democratic Party took a drubbing, securing 18.7% of the vote and 107-127 seats. As it sits left of center, it is doubtful it will be considered a partner for the three-party right.

The League's leader, Matteo Salvini, is laying claim to the title of prospective prime minister on the grounds that he has the largest faction within the right's bloc. However, the math favors him leaving his two partners and signing a deal with Five-Star. Both are anti-Europe (although not to the point of backing Italian withdrawal), and neither has much good to say about the established political order.

That would be a slap in the face for Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently ineligible to hold office owing to a tax evasion conviction. That ban ends next year, and he has backed European Parliament President Antoni Tajani to lead Italy, perhaps as a placeholder? When negotiations are over, Italy will have a weak government, and many in the opposition will be biding their time. Another election before 2020 is almost inevitable.

All European elections for the next few years are going to follow one of these patterns or the other, so the less exciting the better.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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