Is Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder really the most dangerous politician in Europe?

Der Spiegel ranks the top 10 most dangerous politicians in Europe, and you might be surprised at who comes out on top.

The piece targets Markus Söder, the finance minister of Bavaria since November 2011:

The politician from the [Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union)], the conservative sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, is known for his tub-thumping rhetoric and has stepped up a gear in the euro crisis with vitriolic comments about Greece. “An example must be made of Athens, that this euro zone can show teeth,” he told the Bild am Sonntag tabloid newspaper this week. “Everyone has to leave Mom at some point and that time has come for the Greeks.”

It also points the finger at Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the CSU to which Söder also belongs — Dobrindt has also called on Greece to exit the eurozone by paying its debts in drachmas instead of euros.

Söder, an up-and-coming politician in the CSU, has previously served as minister for environment and health from 2008 to 2011 and from 2007 to 2008, as minister for federal and European affairs.  He’s a solid populist, to be sure — for example, he’s in favor of Bavaria’s ban on the wearing of Muslim head scarves (but not nun’s habits).

But it’s easy enough to explain away the relatively strident tone from Söder and the CSU as political posturing in advance of Bavarian state elections that must take place sometime in 2013.  The CSU will be struggling to maintain the grip that its held on Bavarian state politics since the 1950s.  At the federal level, although the CSU-backed Angel Merkel has walked a tight line when it comes to balancing national and federalist European interests, but her leftist opponents are even more federalist when it comes to Europe and the eurozone.

The Spiegel list is dominated by some of the nationalist right’s usual suspects: Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and a member of the European Parliament; Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front national in France; Timo Soini, leader of the Perussuomalaiset (PS, True Finns) party, also a member of the European Parliament; Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom); and Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ, Austrian Freedom Party).

They seem like odd choices, though, because none of them (except perhaps Strache) seem to be on the upswing.  Wilders is polling quite dreadfully in advance of the Dutch elections on Sept. 4.  Farage and Soini are sideshows at best.  Despite her strong showing in the French presidential election in April and the shadow she casts over the French center-right, Le Pen failed to win a seat in France’s national assembly in the June elections — and her party won just two seats in total.

To me, the following politicians are far more “dangerous” — by “dangerous,” I mean the ability to win real power or to be more effective in making mischief: Continue reading Is Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder really the most dangerous politician in Europe?

First Past the Post: August 8

FT Alpahville has a nice primer on the appreciation of the Australian dollar (or the South Pacific Swiss franc).

Fresh out of prison, Conrad Black calls Pauline Marois a “mediocre sovereigntist bag-lady.”

Italian prime minister Mario Monti walks back his comments from yesterday that Italy’s debt yield spread would be 1200 basis points if his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, were still in charge.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy makes his first public comments since losing the May presidential election in calling for France and international intervention in Syria.

The Dutch Socialists takes the lead in the poll in advance of Sept. 12 elections.

Pia Kjærsgaard, who founded Denmark’s populist right-wing party, the Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) in 1995 (which is now the third-largest party in the Danish parliament, is stepping down as leader.

Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi fires his intelligence chief (with the military’s blessing).

Sovereigntist PQ leader Marois walks a fine line on tuition fees in Québec

The day after Jean Charest, Québec’s premier, launched a snap election for September 4, his principal rival, Pauline Marois, came out in clear contrast to Charest on perhaps the most high-profile issues in the election (short of Québec’s sovereignty): tuition hike fees for students.

Marois (pictured above, right), the leader of the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), promised to take a radically different approach to tuition fees in the province: cancel the planned hikes, revoke the controversial emergency protest law (Bill 78) and convene a summit within 100 days of election on the issue of university funding.

While Marois is taking a very understated position on Québécois sovereignty and any future referendum on an independent Québec, she is not shying away from embracing a contrast to Charest on the student tuition issue.  Indeed, one of the most impressive and eloquent of the student leaders from those negotiations, Léo Bureau-Blouin (pictured above, left), at age 20, is among the PQ’s marquee candidates in the upcoming election — he’ll be running against a junior minister in Charest’s government in a riding in Laval, a suburb of Montréal.

Earlier this year, a battle between Charest’s government and student protesters ended in somewhat chaotic protests throughout Montréal.  Students protested the hikes, which amounted to a $1,625 increase over seven years — a 75% increase over what Québec students pay today (although the total would be far less than what students in other Canadian provinces pay).  Ultimately, Charest’s education minister, Line Beauchamp, resigned over the impasse with student leaders in negotiations over the hikes, and Charest’s current education minister is not running for reelection.

Charest responded to the protests by passing Bill 78, which makes any gathering of over 50 people illegal unless they tell police in advance the start time, finish time and route of such gathering.  Although the bill is just a temporary measure, expiring on July 1, 2013, it brought international condemnation as an unconstitutional restraint on protesters’ rights.

With the protests dying as summer approached, however, the issued faded in both provincial and international headlines.

Polls have shown that Québec’s electorate is essentially even — they may not like the increasingly heavy-handed approach that Charest took with protesters, but nor were they especially keen on protester shutting down schools (not to mention entire neighborhoods) in Montréal.

So it’s not without some risk that Marois has embraced the student movement — by doing so, she is hoping to energize Québec’s young voters and otherwise capitalize on doubts about the Charest government’s effectiveness without alienating other voters who support Charest’s approach and who take a wary view of the student protests.

Charest, who has been premier since 2003, is looking to win a fourth consecutive mandate for his federalist, centrist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ).  Polls show the PLQ and the PQ tied for first place, with the center-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) polling a strong enough third place to make it likely that Québec’s next government will be a minority government.