Merkel and Sarkozy rattled by election losses
Germany's antinuclear Green Party won control of a state government for the first time in local elections Sunday. In France, Le Pen's right-wing party gained momentum.
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“Marine Le Pen is beginning to transform the National Front from a protest party into a political alternative,” argued Stéphane Rozès at the French graduate school Sciences Po on Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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Earlier in the month as refugees from upheavals in North Africa landed at Italy’s Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean, the new Le Pen made a high-profile visit, meeting refugees, noting that no other political figures bothered to visit them in their hour of need.
But she also said, “I want Europe to realize what is happening here. European leaders are looking the other way, trying to minimize the risk of migratory flows…. I told [the refugees]: I have compassion for you, I also have a heart, but Europe does not have the capacity to receive you. We do not have the financial means to do so anymore."
'This is not a break in the dike' for Merkel's party
If the French vote tracks a slow shift in the national electorate toward middle-class conservatism, the German vote appears to be shaped more by immediate dynamics: the leaking Japan reactors, the recent resignation of Merkel’s ostensible successor, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg who was caught for plagiarizing his doctoral thesis, and Germany’s abstention at the United Nations on the intervention in Libya. Also contributing is the unpopular project “Stuttgart 21” – a megatrain station complex seen locally as foisted on the city by the federal government.
Yet while the strong showing by the Greens brought a shudder in the ranks of Merkel's CDU it is not yet seen as threatening the CDU’s current governing coalition or seriously damaging Merkel’s leadership.
“It’s a historical defeat but Germany retains a leading economy that is reducing unemployment, and let's not forget that the CDU also scored an astonishing 40 percent in Baden-Württemberg. This is not a break in the dike,” says Ulrike Guérot of the European Council of Foreign Relations. “The best thing the Greens projected is modesty. In the case of nuclear power, if you shut it down, then you need to replace 25 percent of Germany’s power grid, quickly.”