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:
- The nationalist, anti-gay Jarosław Kaczyński, former Polish prime minister and the leader of the extremely socially conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, Law and Justice).
- Nikolaus Michaloliakos, the leader of the neo-nazi Χρυσή Αυγή (XE, Golden Dawn) party that increased its vote tenfold in the 2012 elections in Greece and won 20 seats in the Hellenic parliament.
- Ireland’s Gerry Adams, the leader of the republican Sinn Féin, if you want to balance things out with a left-wing nationalist.
- Or a separatist? Try Roberto Maroni, the leader of the Lega Nord (LN, Northern League), a Northern Italian secessionist party that has been central to propping up every right-wing government in Italy since 1994.
The list also includes the Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς (SYRIZA, Coalition of the Radical Left), who came very close to winning both the May and the June elections in Greece. It doesn’t include, however, the equally anti-austerity Emile Roemer, leader of the Dutch Socialistische Partij (SP, Socialist Party) that currently leads polls for next month’s election.
It includes Silvio Berlusconi, the four-time prime minister of Italy whose last government collapsed in the middle of a sovereign debt panic and who has recently indicated he will run again in the upcoming spring 2013 election.
Finally, it includes Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who’s become notorious for thumbing his nose at the niceties of democratic process. It skips over, however, his Eastern European colleague Victor Ponta, the new Romanian prime minister who has some similar instincts about pushing around the parliament and the courts — and who recently tried to impeach Romania’s two-term elected president on the vague — and ironic — grounds of overstepping his authority.
All of which seems a little more troubling than Nigel Farage and some mildly populist Bavarian notables.