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Clay Clemens

As chair of the CDU in 2000, and of its joint Bundestag caucus with the CSU in 2002, Angela Merkel was the fist woman and fist easterner to head a major German party; she had risen as a protege of Helmut Kohl, but breaking with him over his financial improprieties vaulted her into power. These features of her biography made her leadership unconventional. So too did her style, characterized by interpersonal reserve and lack of charisma. Merkel's views on cultural issues and economic policy-in particular, reform of the welfare state-were more liberal than those of her Union's mainstream. Finally, her resources within the CDU/CSU were limited to a loose network of younger outsiders, who helped sustain her against rivals at the Land level. While Merkel survived a poor CDU/CSU election in 2005 to become chancellor, her time as opposition leader suggested that she would struggle in that role too, yet also served as a caution against underrating her.

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Vincenzo Emanuele and Nicola Maggini

The importance of the 2016 municipal elections in Italy was a consequence not only of the number and relevance of the cities involved, including Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin, but also of their timing, occurring in the middle of the 2013–2018 electoral cycle. These elections were thus perceived as a mid-term test for the national government, acquiring a relevance that went beyond their specific local context. This chapter analyzes the electoral supply, voter turnout, electoral results, and vote shifts, focusing on a synchronic and diachronic comparison of the performance of the candidates and the parties. The evidence presented shows that despite winning the plurality of municipalities, the Democratic Party clearly paid the cost of ruling at the national level. The number of its mayors was halved, and it was defeated in Rome and Turin by the Five Star Movement, the true winner of these elections.

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Véronique Pujas

The debate in 1999 on how to finance the Italian party system centred

on two aberrations from the European norm that are linked to

the wider issue of the unfinished transition of the Italian political

system. The first of these aberrations is that the Italian political

class has yet to find a definitive remedy for the illegal funding of

the country’s political parties. Although public funding has been

envisaged since the law of 1974, subsequent legislation has

always been determined by circumstances and has never

addressed the real needs of parties. The second problem concerns

the control of three television channels by the state, on the one

hand, and of three further channels by a media entrepreneur and

political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, on the other. In the opinion of

many observers, this situation comprises an interweaving of interests

harmful to democratic pluralism.

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Clay Clemens

That old cliche Wechselbad der Emotionen aptly describes how Christian Democrats have felt since Germany’s September 1998 federal election. First came a crushing defeat, their worst showing in decades, and the end of sixteen years in power under Helmut Kohl, “chancellor of unity.” Two of Kohl’s proteges, newly chosen federal party and Bundestag caucus chair, Wolfgang Schäuble, and his handpicked general secretary, Angela Merkel, then helped the CDU to an unexpectedly rapid recovery: during 1999, the party gained ground in every Land-level election and an absolute majority of the vote in several contests. But even before their champagne went flat, party leaders found themselves mired in postwar Germany’s worst political finance scandal, triggered by revelations about Kohl’s penchant for long sustaining a personal slush-fund with large, unreported private contributions, and even by charges of bribery.

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Coalition Politics in Crisis?

The German Party System Before and After the 2017 Federal Election

Frank Decker and Philipp Adorf

The 2017 federal election illustrated the transformation of Germany’s political party system with six parties managing to enter the Bundestag. With the Christian and Social Democrats finally coming to an agreement almost half a year after the election, a grand coalition is set to govern for two consecutive terms for the very first time. The Alternative for Germany’s success also signaled the definite parliamentary establishment of right-wing populism in Germany. Multiparty coalitions that bridge ideological gulfs as the political fringe has grown in size are a new reality that must be accommodated. The 2017 election and subsequent arduous negotiations point towards a period of uncertainty and further upheaval for Germany’s party system.

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Introduction

Politics and Power after the 2017 Bundestag Election

Eric Lagenbacher

Although it has not been that long since the articles of the previous special issue devoted to the 2017 Bundestag election and its aftermath have been published, the political situation in Germany appears to have stabilized. After almost six months without a new government, German politics has sunk back into a kind of late-Merkel era normality. Public opinion polls continue to show that the CDU/CSU is slightly above its election outcome, the SPD is still down in the 17–18 percent range, the FDP has lost about 2 percent of its support, while the AfD, Greens and Left Party are up 1–2 percent.

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Clay Clemens

It was the biggest political scandal in postwar German history. As revelation followed revelation in late 1999, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party finance (Parteifinanz) affair tarnished careers, most notably those of former chancellor Helmut Kohl and, separately, his longtime heir apparent Wolfgang Schäuble. When both fell, their party gained a new cadre of leaders. Most analysts expected the fallout ultimately to spread much further, fatally crippling the CDU and perhaps destroying it altogether. Voices could be heard to the effect that this scandal was on the same scale as one that rocked Italy a decade earlier, when the "Clean Hands" investigation unearthed massive evidence of bribery and corruption.

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Bo Zhao

Conflicts over rural land expropriation, which have intensified over the past decade in China, pose a significant threat to the country's social stability and the sustainability of its economic development. This article argues that such conflicts are inevitable under China's current political and legal system. After a brief introduction of the present situation in China and an overview of China's land regime, the article first analyzes reasons for the escalation of land conflicts, including the vague definition of public interest, the inadequate compensation, and the ambiguous nature of collective land ownership. It then argues that even the few existing rights of rural peasants under the present land regime are not adequately protected due to China's poor law enforcement. The article further elucidates that impunity with regard to illegal land grabbing is common in China for a variety of reasons that all have roots in the Communist Party's monopoly over Chinese society. With no fundamental reform to China's party politics, the article concludes, there will be no effective measure to prevent further conflicts over land in the near future.

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William E. Paterson and James Sloam

The 2009 German federal election marked a devastating defeat for the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The debacle led some commentators to speculate about the end of the SPD as a “catch-all party“ and—given the recent poor performance of center-left parties across Europe—“the end of social democracy.“ In this article, we contextualize the result of the 2009 Bundestag election within the settings of German party politics and European social democracy, and show how the electoral disaster for the SPD can be explained by broad, long-term political developments. We nevertheless argue that the German Social Democrat's defeat in 2009 provides an opportunity for renewal at a time when the governing Conservative-Liberal coalition—already in disarray—must take some tough decisions with regard to the resource crunch in German public finances.

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Lars Rensmann

Piero Ignazi, Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Cas Mudde, The Ideology of the Extreme Right (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003)

Martin Schain, Aristide Zolberg, and Patrick Hossay, eds., Shadows over Europe: The Development and Impact of the Extreme Right in Western Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)