Far Right Fills Gaps Left by Merkel and Rutte

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Mark Rutte has suffered the same fate as his closest ally in Europe, Angela Merkel. Both center-right leaders moved to the middle in a bid for centrist voters only to leave a gap on the right that the far right has filled.

In midterm elections on Wednesday, the Dutch Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy won a combined 21 percent of the votes, their best result to date.

In Germany, support for the Alternative is down a few points in the polls but still at 11-14 percent. Merkel’s Christian Democrats fell from 41.5 to 33 percent between the 2013 and 2017 elections. Read more

Party Warms to Merkel’s Successor. German Voters Not So Much

Then-Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland answers questions from reporters in Berlin, September 19, 2014
Then-Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland answers questions from reporters in Berlin, September 19, 2014 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

It was supposed to be a subtle shift to the right.

In anointing the socially conservative former prime minister of Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as her successor, Angela Merkel signaled to Germany’s Christian Democrats that after fourteen years of her consensus politics — which even inspired a verb: merkeln — they would return to their right-wing, Christian roots, but without altogether repudiating the centrist strategy that has made the CDU so successful.

The last few weeks have called that balancing act into question. Read more

Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.

His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:

He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.

Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more

Harder Line Neither Helps Nor Hurts Spain’s People’s Party — For Now

European commissioner Jyrki Katainen listens to Spanish People's Party leader Pablo Casado during a congress of the European People's Party in Helsinki, Finland, November 8
European commissioner Jyrki Katainen listens to Spanish People’s Party leader Pablo Casado during a congress of the European People’s Party in Helsinki, Finland, November 8 (EPP)

Pablo Casado has pulled Spain’s conservative People’s Party to the right, taking a harder line on everything from abortion to Catalonia to Gibraltar to immigration.

So far, it has neither helped nor hurt his party in the polls. Read more

How to Interpret the Collapse of Bavaria’s Christian Democrats?

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

How much of a cautionary tale is the center-right’s collapse in Bavaria?

The Christian Social Union (CSU), which allies with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats nationally, is down from nearly 48 percent support in the last state election to 35-37 percent in recent polls. The far-right Alternative for Germany is up from 4 to 11-13 percent. Read more

Spanish Right Takes Harder Line on Catalonia, Immigration

Pablo Casado greets members of the executive committee of Spain's People's Party in Barcelona, July 26
Pablo Casado greets members of the executive committee of Spain’s People’s Party in Barcelona, July 26 (PP)

The new Spanish conservative party leader, Pablo Casado, is making good on his promise to move the People’s Party to the right.

  • In talks with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who leads a minority left-wing government, Casado refused to support dialogue with Catalan parties that want to break away from Spain.
  • Separately, he argued Spain cannot “absorb millions of Africans who want to come to Europe in search of a better future.”

Both positions mark a hardening from those of Casado’s predecessor, and the previous prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. Read more

Two-Party System Leaves Anti-Trump Republicans in the Lurch

American president Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1
American president Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1 (USAF/Robert Cloys)

Janan Ganesh argues in the Financial Times that, after Donald Trump, America’s Republicans must become more like the European center-right: shed their small-government, low-tax, free-trade ideology in favor of a pragmatism statism. The state can be an instrument of national togetherness.

Perhaps. But what of the Republicans who still believe in small government, low taxes and free trade? Read more