“Do we need political parties?”

A view from a German writer:

“In many Western countries, party structures are dissolving. Traditional political organisations are disintegrating, being swept away by new movements, or infiltrated by fresh members. There is not much left of the once-defining role of classical parties. And the examples are abundant.

In France, the traditional party system has decayed. The Socialists, after being the governing party in Paris until spring, have practically ceased to exist. Other traditional parties have also been hit hard, replaced by movements such as Emmanuel Macron’s “En Marche!” and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s “La France insoumise”.

The US’ once-lofty Republicans – the self-proclaimed “Grand Old Party” – have now disintegrated into separate wings, whose positions differ to the extent that a common programme is hardly recognisable. And the party organisation is so weak that it could be captured by a non-politician like Donald Trump.

Until recently in the UK, the Labour Party, which had been positioned in the pragmatic centre, has moved vehemently to the left. It was infiltrated by an influx of often young new members, who celebrate the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn – formerly a marginal figure in the political life of the island – as a pop star.

In Italy, the populist Five Star Movement of former comedian Beppe Grillo has been unsettling the political system for some years. On the right, the former regional party “Lega Nord” is expanding with new national-populist content.

There’s an evolving pattern. Traditional political structures are breaking up, liquefying political systems. People are becoming more important than parties, and posing seems more relevant than policies.

Politicians who have served their time and worked their way up through party ranks are ousted by outside figures with star attributes – cheered along by citizens, who suddenly behave like fans. [Watch out Hugo!]

Still, there’s a prominent exception: Germany.

Or so it would seem. Large parties and their established top figures still dominate the political scene. At the top are well-tempered characters like Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic contender. And, above all, both of them promise that as little as possible is going change.

But this is just the visible surface. In Germany, like elsewhere in Europe, the political system is being transformed. Anger and frustration are on the rise – sentiments which parties like the far-right AfD are only able capture to a small extent.

The next federal government will likely be formed by a coalition that promises stability on the verge of boredom. However, this does not preclude the possibility of unexpected turns in regard to specific topics.”

https://euobserver.com/opinion/138989

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