An electoral earthquake in the German state of Thuringia is reverberating across the country and its aftershocks are being felt in Brussels.
Berlin’s political establishment has been rocked by an electoral pact between the conservative Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) that has propelled a local FDP candidate to power in the eastern state of Thuringia. By co-operating with the AfD and ousting the sitting leftwing prime minister of the region Germany’s mainstream parties have “torn up” a post-war consensus to ostracise the extreme right, writes Guy Chazan.
Stinging condemnation has rung out from all corners — including the highest ranks of the CDU. Before yesterday, the liberals and conservatives had vowed never to work with the AfD. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU defence minister, lashed out at the Thuringian branch of her party for explicitly disobeying Berlin’s orders. Elected FDP candidate Thomas Kemmerich is under immense pressure to resign and hold new elections. Around 1,000 noisy protesters gathered outside the FDP’s HQ in Berlin last night accusing the party of getting into bed with “Nazis.” (Maureen Kahn, ft Brussels Briefing, 2/6)
DAM BURST — Germany shaken as far-right plays regional kingmaker
It has been a tenet of German politics since the Second World War that mainstream political parties do not legitimize far right movements by siding with them on any issue – but that taboo was shattered on Wednesday, eliciting nationwide outrage.
In the eastern German state of Thuringia, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) both used the parliamentary support of nationalist party Alternative fur Deutschland to bring their choice of leader to power. (The Week, 2/6)
The parliament in Thuringia, in eastern Germany, elected Thomas Kemmerich from the Free Democrats as state premier. Mr. Kemmerich’s shocking victory was made possible only with votes from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). No state government has previously been elected with AfD support. Politicians across the spectrum expressed dismay at the result. (Economist 2/6)
GERMANY’S FUTURE IN DOUBT
Germany was plunged into political uncertainty after the leader of the governing Christian Democratic Union resigned. A protégée of Angela Merkel, the chancellor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was seen as a shoo-in to succeed her. Then last week the local leader of a small party was elected premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, with votes from the CDU – and the far-right Alternative for Germany – to widespread outrage. Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer bungled the response. Previous gaffes had left her vulnerable. (The Economist, 02/11/2020)
With his personal approval ratings at an all-time high, the impeachment process behind him and the US economy booming, Donald Trump’s odds of winning a second term now stand at nearly 60% according to betting aggregator Oddschecker.com.
Add to this a Democratic party in near total disarray and the US president may be on the cusp of fulfilling his 2016 campaign promise to supporters that “We gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning and you’ll say please, please Mr. President, it’s too much winning, we can’t take it anymore.” (The Week, 2/7)
While the past several decades of globalization and technological development have lowered the price of most goods and services in the US, there’s been inflation in all the things that make people middle class: healthcare, education and, most important, housing. Over the past decade, the cost of shelter has risen sharply compared with everything else — housing prices contributed a record 81 per cent to core inflation in summer 2017 and remain responsible for “the lion’s share” of all inflation in the US, according to a recent Cornell University study. (Financial Times, 2/10/2020)
The Observer: UK child abuse inquiry – ‘We were abused every day.’ Decades on, children’s homes victims wait for justice. This week an all-party report will demand a reckoning for the epidemic of institutional child abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. by Yvonne Roberts, The Guardian UK, 8 Feb, 2020
As police admitted for the first time last week that there was an “epidemic” of institutional child sexual abuse in church institutions, children’s homes, borstals, schools and foster families in the 1970s and 80s, chief constable Simon Bailey, the national lead for child protection and abuse investigations, said: “We do not understand the true scale of it … untold damage has been done to victims and survivors.” On 11 February a damning report by the all-party parliamentary group on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse will be highly critical of the support and resources available to these children, now in their 50s, 60s and older, many of whom have spent a lifetime with their experiences not believed and redress unobtainable. The report is titled Can Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Access Justice and Support? and the conclusion is an emphatic “no.” Based on two years’ work, it finds all the major services, including police, health, crown prosecution and courts, are failing to address a potential national crisis, with support services struggling to meet demand. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 3.1 million people aged 18-74 were sexually abused in childhood. However, only one in seven callers to the helpline of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood had previously disclosed abuse. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/fe)
IRA BIG WINNER IN IRISH ELECTION (Sinn Fein has long been considered the political wing of the terrorist organization)
Dublin deadlock Sinn Féin has demanded a role in Ireland’s new government after surging to the highest vote share in the general election. With counting still under way, the nationalist party, led by Mary Lou McDonald, took 24.5 per cent of the vote after pushing prime minister Leo Varadkar’s centre-right Fine Gael into third place with 20.9 per cent. The centrist opposition Fianna Fáil, led by Micheál Martin, came second with 22.2 per cent but is likely to be the largest party in parliament because Sinn Féin did not run enough candidates to be able to take the most seats. (Financial Times, 2/10/2020)
MOHIUSSUNNATH CHOWDHURY Madame Tussauds Terror Plot Revealed
A 28-year-old man from Luton has been found guilty of planning a terror attack on tourist hotspots in London, two years after being arrested with a samurai sword outside Buckingham Palace.
Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, known as Musa, was convicted of terrorism offences at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday. (The Week, 2/11/2020)
Next East Africa locust swarms airborne in 3 to 4 weeks, UN warns Baby desert locusts in Somalia will become East Africa’s next plague wave, UN agronomy experts have warned. Climate change-driven rain has triggered “unprecedented” breeding, says UN chief Antonio Guterres.(Deutsche Welle, 9 Feb 2020)
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Sunday that nymph (baby) desert locusts maturing in Somalia’s rebel-held backcountry, where aerial spraying is next to unrealizable, will develop wings in the “next three or four weeks” and threaten millions of people already short of food. Once in flight and hungry, the swarm could be the “most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don’t reduce the problem faster than we are doing at the moment,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock.
The locusts were now “very hungry teenagers,” but once mature, their progeny would hatch, generating “about a 20-fold increase” in numbers, warned Keith Cressman, FAO locust forecasting officer. “Mother Nature” alone would not solve the crisis, said Dominique Burgeon, resilience director of the FAO, which has urged international donors to give $76 million (€69.4 million) immediately. Swarms, which left damage across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya in December, could also put Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti at risk, making it the worst such situation in 25 years, the FAO said. East Africa already has 19 million people facing acute food insecurity, according to the regional inter-agency Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG). (https://www.dw.com/en/next-east-africa-locust-swarms-airborne-in-3-to-4-weeks-un-warns/a-52312510)
DECLINE OF THE WEST
The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, is focusing the debate of the coming weekend’s conference on the insipient decline of the West. Whereas, in the post-Cold War era western powers enjoyed “almost uncontested freedom of military movement,” this is no longer the case today, according to this year’s “Munich Security Report,” which Ischinger presented to the public yesterday. Even the “nearly unrivaled global superiority in military technology” NATO had enjoyed for decades, is now endangered. The report quotes French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment: “We were used to an international order that had been based on Western hegemony since the 18th century. Things change.” To prevent the West’s further decline, Ischinger is calling for resolute offensives in global policy. Sectors of the elites in several western countries are now turning to an ultra-right policy. In Berlin, this debate had contributed to the demise of the CDU chairwoman yesterday. (German Foreign Policy, 2/11/2020)
US-FILIPINO MILITARY ALLIANCE TO END
The Philippines told the U.S. it would scrap an agreement considered a cornerstone of the two countries’ military alliance, a move the U.S. State Department said would have serious implications for the relationship. (Wall Street Journal, 2/12/2020)
TO THE POINT
- We went to see the movie “1917” last week. It was very good and quite intense. It’s a good reminder of what it was like in the trenches. Almost one million British men died in combat in what was historically the worst conflict in history.
- I’m reading “Lost to the West” by Lars Brownworth (2009). He’s a former American high school history teacher who has written one of the best books ever on the Byzantine Empire. It’s so gripping I did not want to put it down. There are so many lessons for the US now. It was the divisions within the governing elite that enabled the Muslims to get control of what had been the world’s greatest “Christian” Empire for over a thousand years. It was truly a great loss to the west!
- Muslims have not stopped their advance into the West. They now have quite a foothold in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and other nations. We bend over backwards to accommodate their religion. Our new Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in her State of the State speech, proudly proclaimed that the Executive Mansion hosted a Diwali (Hindu) evening and a night of Ramadan festivities (Islam) last year, both at tax payer expense.
- Check out Sky News, a British TV channel that’s now available throughout the US. I watch it on “Watch Free,” a free streaming service. They have a good balance of British and world news. Some of their correspondents are outstanding.