Auf Wiedersehen Angela: Rage’ against elite topples Europe’s centrist leaders

November 3, 2018 in News by Slad

The idea of liberal democracy — for decades the cornerstone of the vaunted “European project” — is under fire.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel


ONDON — Angela Merkel’s decision to step down as party leader even as she tries to keep her position as German chancellor highlights a trend bedeviling Europe’s leaders: Centrist parties are fading as fringe parties gather pace.

In Italy, a coalition of anti-establishment, anti-immigrant parties is in power, and in France, newly elected pro-business, pro-European Union President Emmanuel Macron has seen his popularity plummet after the novelty of his 2017 election dissipated.

In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May clings to power without a majority in Parliament. She is struggling to keep her Conservative Party behind her as she seeks a middle-of-the-road Brexit blueprint rejected by hard-liners who want a complete break with the EU even as a “people’s vote” movement by those who want to scrap Brexit altogether gains some force.

The idea of liberal democracy — for decades the cornerstone of the vaunted “European project” — seems under fire as increasingly authoritarian governments rule Hungary and Poland and make gains elsewhere.

Alice Billon-Galland, a policy fellow with the European Leadership Network in London, says voters in Europe are supporting not only far-right parties but smaller “anti-establishment” parties from the left as well, such as the Greens, who did well in German voting. That leaves Europe’s leaders in a compromised position ahead of vital European parliamentary elections next year.

“My concern is more about leadership, and the future of the European project,” she said. “At a time of rising populism throughout the EU, and just before key elections in 2019, what Europe needs more than anything else is a vision and a strong, united core leadership to deliver it.”

She concedes this is unlikely with Britain withdrawing and Germany’s policies in transition.