There was something predictable about the collapse of efforts to stitch together a compromise to save the flailing German governing administration.
At least that’s the view of a great number of German voters and the political class. A general fatigue with a political system which has been mired in the stasis of Grand Coalitions, antipathy toward chancellor Angela Merkel and, above all, a growing, right-wing, anti-immigration vote enforced doubts about the chances of repairing the political schism that emerged from September’s federal election.
The split has widened and those who predicted an increase in the amalgamated right’s vote were proven correct. The collapse of the coalition plunged Germany into its most serious crisis for almost two decades, which threatens to force a fresh election that could still end Merkel’s political career. The crisis has calmed for now. But the fracture will have long-term implications for the future.
The crash of the coalition was brought about when the business-led Liberal Free Democrats walked out. Their action delivers not only a sensational political result but a larger symbolic one. It represents the increasing strength of an anti-European Union movement which is symbiotic with the growth of the far right.
The equation goes something like: anti-immigrant feeling translates to (working class) votes, translates to success at local elections, translates to political pressure at a higher level – plus the EU getting the blame equals political instability. It challenges Germany’s entire international perspective in terms of the EU. A question mark hangs over the grand project being formulated by Merkel and France’s president Emmanuel Macron.
The broken coalition will therefore have an effect on all members of the EU. As Merkel put it herself: “The people voted. And I absolutely do not favour, if we can’t do anything with the result, asking people to vote again.” Then, at a meeting of her party in the Baltic coast resort of Kuhlungsborn , came the coup de grace: “Europe needs a strong Germany, so it is desirable to get a government in place quickly.” Simply, she is appealing for political salvation to an electorate that is moving in a different direction.
Hope for Zimbabwe?
A little under 40 years ago a young revolutionary inspired a new generation of the international left and, among his own people, inspired hope where there had been the deepest despair. The bookshelves of academics, students, the young and the political activist were dotted with his work. But somewhere along the way Robert Mugabe’s politics became venal, corrupt, criminal and oppressive. The champion of a new, anti-imperialist Rhodesia, Africa even, had become a murderous despot, a corrupt, self-elected political criminal running a country with few or no human rights and a brutal regime.
Mugabe’s elevatioon came under the auspices of the British government, during a spike in Africa’s importance in the Cold War, in which Zimbabwe played a small part. The world moved on, but Mugabe didn’t. His departure was long, long overdue.His removal was greeted with jubilation; there was dancing and singing in the streets of the capital, Harare.
Zimbabwe has entered a new era and in Emmerson Mnangagwa, a new leader. But there are doubts among activists and human rights campaigners. In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa ominously promised that he would govern for “all patriotic Zimbabweans”, a reminder of the years of inter-tribal and racial war and killings. While tens of thousands marched in protest on the streets of Harare the stalwart of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party and therefore one of the organisers of the election, failed to mention lifting restrictions on freedom of expression.
Several dubious charges for subversion against media outlets have become what one high court judge a “litmus test for the new government”.
We should celebrate the fall of Mugabe, but not those who engineered it.