Jun 252016
 

So Britain has voted for Leave. The BBC is providing coverage 24/7. And the most amazing thing? To me,  it is the deafening silence from the Conservative leadership and the Leave campaign.
The country has just held what might be the most important vote in a generation or more. Britain is divided against itself in all sorts of ways. The rest of Europe is jumping up and down excitedly. Foreign ministers and PMs across the continent try to calm down the markets and their people.
Meanwhile in Britain, there is zilch political leadership. No one is outlining any sort of plan. Boris,  the man who has supposedly won the campaign, has not been seen or heard since Friday morning. Cameron is doing business as usual, inspecting the armed forces. The rest of them probably had plans for the weekend, as opposed to plans for carrying out Brexit. For the outsider, it looks once more like bloody amateur night in British politics – a night that might last all summer.

image

Jun 122016
 
May 302016
 

Privately, I have referred to this piece as The Un-Dead Article, the Paper That Is Never Going Be Published, The Cursed Manuscript, or simply as It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. But you know, it’s the problem child we love the most. So: Our article “Political interest furthers partisanship in England, Scotland, and Wales” is finally out! If you don’t have a subscription (please check this first), here is an ungated link that works for a very limited number of visitors (please consider your fellow impoverished HE institution). And if everything fails, here is my pre-print version: Political Interest Furthers Partisanship in England, Scotland, and Wales.

United Kingdom Flag Map

The article argues, first, that the extant literature on party identification in the UK underestimates levels of identification, because it lumps together respondents from three different party systems (England, Scotland, and Wales). Second, we take the very useful model proposed by Clarke and his associates, who treat party identification as a latent class, and make a minor adjustment by adding political interest as an explanatory variable. As it turns out, political interest makes identification more likely. This is more in line with classic ideas about party identification than with “revisionist” critiques of the Michigan model, and with current models of political cognition. Moreover, it suggests that political interest renders affective ties more powerful in stabilizing themselves.

Mar 132016
 

A mere three hours after the event, it’s obviously too early to write something coherent about the three state elections that were held in Germany today. So let’s try it anyway:Ballot - Vote

  1. For the time being, Germany has a viable Radical Right Populist Party. A result of ~24% in the Eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt is a bit of a shock, but no huge surprise. The real clincher are the (low) double digit figures in the Western states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg. In the latter, the AfD is stronger than the SPD.
  2. The AfD cannibalised all the smaller right-wing parties including the NPD.
  3. This was not (just) a referendum on Merkel and her policies. While the issue dominated the campaigns, personalities and state-level factors were important. And the two CDU leaders who toyed with a (very tame) rebellion against Merkel did not gain from it.
  4. The volatility is shocking. Period
  5. German states have parliamentary systems, but popular minister presidents exerted an almost presidential effect. The contrast could not be more striking: In Baden-Württemberg, Kretschmann’s Greens are the strongest party (in itself something that is hard to believe), whereas their junior partner, the SPD, is heading for single-digit territory. One key reason is Kretschmann’s enormous popularity. In neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz, minister president Dreyer has always been more popular than both her opponent and her SPD. But the latter steadily recovered in the polls over the last couple of weeks pull ahead of the CDU to become the strongest party with a respectable result. The Greens, on the other hand, lost two thirds of their support and might still end up without parliamentary representation. Being the smaller party in a coalition run by a popular minister president is not an attractive proposition these days.
  6. Turnout is up, yet it’s the non-established AfD that benefits from it. As a rule of thumb, right-wing outfits in Germany have always performed best in low-turnout, second-order elections. But this time, exit polls suggest that at least in the East, former non-voters gave the AfD a huge boost.
  7. And the Liberals are back.
Mar 132016
 

21.37: I’ve written a quick summary of the elections. Calling it a day now.

21.35: The Greens are probably in in Rheinland-Pfalz and Sachsen-Anhalt. The FDP is probably out in Sachsen-Anhalt but in the other states.

20.49: Nice graphical summary of the scale of the shift

20.39: Lest we forget: The Liberals are back in the game (though it’s not quite clear if they are back in parliament in S-A)

20.12: New batch of estimates, but no major changes. Greens strongest party in Baden-Württemberg, still not sure that they have inched past the five-percent threshold in Rheinland-Pfalz and Sachsen-Anhalt

20.01: Estimates settling on equilibria. Excellent overview here (in German, but you’ll get the point, just click the top three links)

19.58: NPD chairman comments on AfD success: bemoans “vacuum cleaner effect”, congratulates nonetheless

19.30: And in Sachsen-Anhalt

19.29: Same in Rheinland-Pfalz

19.27: New data for Baden-Württemberg confirm previous estimates

19.21: Next coalition in Sachsen-Anhalt could be CDU-SPD-Greens. If the Greens are in

19.20: The dust is slowly settling. Amazing how fast these pesky Germans count. Eat your heart out, Britain

19.17: Which means that so-called Grand Coalition is no longer viable

19.15: New data for Sachsen-Anhalt: AfD 24.2. Second strongest party, not much less than CDU

19.08: New data for Rheinland-Pfalz: Greens exactly at threshold (5pct). AfD at 12.5%

19.05: New data for Baden-Württemberg puts AfD at 14.9, SPD at 12.8

19:00: To state the obvious: massively increased volatility. And higher turnout.

18.57: Infratest/Dimap puts AfD in Baden-Württemberg ahead of SPD

18.51: SPD in Rheinland-Pfalz and Greens in Baden-Württemberg – personal parties?

18.34: AfD in Baden-Württemberg 12.5%, 10.2% in Rheinland-Pfalz

18.29: Greens in Baden-Württemberg 5 pct points ahead of CDU. History being made.

18.27: Exit poll recall for Sachsen-Anhalt: 40% of AfD voters former non-voters. Use with caution

18.05: Exit Polls: Incumbents bounce back, but existing coalitions unlikely to continue due to strong AfD

17.58: State elections in three major hypthenated German states: Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Sachsen-Anhalt. Polls close in 90 seconds

Mar 122016
 

The Extreme Right in Germany never fails to amaze. For those who think that the NPD – currently under threat to be banned because of their family resemblance with the original Hitler party – has gone to soft & mainstream, there is a tiny newish party that has a more … traditional … approach to politics. The party is contesting Exhibit 1 is a screenshot from their web page.
dw0
“Stop the flood of asylum seekers” and “close the borders” (on the left) are pretty much mainstream these days. The AfD uses very similar slogans, though with a less Teutonic font (look at those Roman numerals!)

But the barcode on the right instructs the aspiring nationalist how to spot products made in Israel. Right.
dw1
Exhibit 2 is even more revealing. It shows a map of refugee shelters in Germany, along with a “German winter relief” poster that could be straight from the 1940s. But my favourite is the picture in the bottom right, which calls for the destruction of Capitalism, which is to be replaced by “German Socialism”. This is otherwise known as “National Socialism”.

The name of this outfit? “Der Dritte Weg”, or The Third Way. Eat your heart out, Anthony Giddens.

Mar 042016
 
Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

After a subjective decade, the trial that could lead to a ban of the right-wing extremist NPD, Germany’s oldest surviving Extreme Right party, has finally begun this week. That alone is news: Last time around, a blocking minority of the judges was so concerned about the unknown informers within the party’s leadership that the proceedings came to an end during the pre-trial phase. But to dissolve the party, six of the eight judges will have to vote in favour of a ban.

So what have we learned from three days of hearings? Not too much, actually. The court’s president said that this time, they were not fussed about any informers, but that was clear from the day that a date for the hearing was announced.

On the second day, the judges posed some very awkward questions to the counsel for the prosecution. After all, the NPD is nearly bankrupt, has only several thousand members, and has lost most of its parliamentary representation a while ago. There were some points in its 50+ year history when it has been weaker, but not too many, so why ban it now? So everyone was mentally preparing for yet another embarrassing failure to get rid of the NPD.Unbalanced Scale Silhouette

But then, on the final day of the hearings, the mood seemed to change: Experts and witnesses from the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the party’s remaining stronghold of sorts, spoke of the atmosphere of fear and threats that has engulfed many villages and smaller towns in this region. According to their testimony, the NPD forms the organisational backbone of a large-scale right-wing extremist network for which they provide funds and political cover. Although their membership and electoral support are dwindling, they could pose a danger to democracy, at least at the regional level. The judges seemed quite impressed.

So what will happen next? We don’t know. The judges will now ponder the evidence for an indefinite number of months before they come up with a verdict. If they decide that the party is indeed unconstitutional, this would be the first such ban since 1956, and the NPD might challenge the decision in the European Court of Human Rights, creating unprecedented legal complications. And if the court throws out the case again, it does not take a seer to predict that there will be no new attempt to ban a party in a couple of decades. Either way, their verdict will be a landmark in the legal-constitutional history of the Federal Republic.

Jan 302016
 

Everyone is excited this morning,  because AfD leader Frauke Petry suggested that German police officers should shoot refugees at the border if necessary (what ever that means). With the usual qualifications and rhetorical back doors, the party is happily channeling the vigilante spirit that has grabbed parts of the German public. Disgust and free headlines aside, Petry’s partner and political ally,  NRW leader Marcus Pretzell,  came up with the same clever idea exactly three months ago. Hearing these words from the AfD’s top officer may have a new quality,  but mostly, it’s sad old news.

Update February 2, 2016: Here is an English-language source for the backstory (Politico)