The center is beginning to fray even in Germany, as the anti-immigrant AfD weakened Merkel’s CDU in regional elections this weekend. Politico:
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners both suffered defeats in Sunday’s regional elections in three German federal states, which were widely viewed as a quasi-referendum on the chancellor’s refugee policy.
According to an Infratest exit poll released by public broadcaster ARD, Merkel’s CDU garnered only around 27.5 percent of the votes in its former CDU stronghold of Baden-Württemberg, the third-largest of Germany’s 16 states. The conservatives were defeated by the Greens, who took over the state in 2011 and now appear to have won at least 32 percent of the vote. […]
In Rhineland-Palatinate, the incumbent SPD was able to defeat the CDU, reaching a projected 37.5 percent, compared to around 32.5 percent for the CDU.
As expected, Merkel’s CDU was able to keep power in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, taking approximately 29 percent of the vote, according to exit polls.
In all three states, the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) managed to get into the parliament, becoming the second-strongest party in Saxony Anhalt with 23 percent of the votes, according to the ARD exit poll. AfD leader Frauke Petry said the result reflected “fundamental problems in Germany.”
The trend across much of the world today appears to be the decline of moderates and centrists and the rise of angry populism. This is more about the inability of mainstream leaders to rise to the more challenging circumstances of this moment in history: the decline of the postwar social model and the challenge of the revisionist powers to the post-1990 world order. Voters everywhere see the centrists, whether center right or center left, as failing to understand or deal with various manifestations of these underlying conditions, and so turn toward more radical or demagogic movements and voices—from Syriza and New Dawn in Greece to Podemos in Spain, the People’s Party in Slovakia, Afd in Germany, the National Front in France, and of course our own Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump here in the US of A.
Merkel has been one of the world’s most effective leaders in these difficult times, in part because, until the immigrant crisis overwhelmed her, she managed things more smoothly than others. But she stumbled badly over the influx of hundreds of thousands of desperate Middle Easterners into Germany, and is now paying the price at the polls.