I’m in Mexico City’s airport about to board a flight to Washington, but La Presse and other outlets in Québec are calling it: The Parti québécois will win the election, form the next government (right now projected as a minority). Premier Jean Charest’s Parti liberal du Québec will finish a strong second, and the Coalition avenir Québec follows far behind in seats, but close behind in total vote percentage.
It’s three-vote margin in Sherbrooke, Charest’s own election district.
When Dutch voters go to the polls on September 12, we don’t know whether they’ll favor prime minister Mark Rutte’s Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) or Emile Roemer’s Socialistische Partij (SP, the Socialist Party) or even Diederik Samsom’s Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA, the Labour Party) as their top choice.
What we do know is that the election could well be the worst post-war finish for the traditional Christian Democratic party in the Netherlands, the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA, Christian Democratic Appeal). It’s currently on track to finish in fifth place (or even sixth place) in a country that it had a hand in governing virtually without break in Dutch post-war politics until 2010.
In 2010, the CDA won just 21 seats in the lower house of the Dutch parliament, and it could win just 15 seats or less this time around.
So it goes all across Europe:
In Italy, the Democrazia Cristiana controlled the government (or participated in governing coalitions) for nearly 50 years of post-war Italian politics. The Tangentopoli (‘Bribesville’) scandal led to its demise under the weight of massive corruption allegations in 1992, and the remaining core of that party, the Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e di Centro (UDC, the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats), led by Pier Ferdinando Casini, plays a significant, but minor role in Italian politics today.
Norway’s Christian Democratic Party, the Kristelig Folkeparti (KrF) once dominated Norwegian politics as well, but now holds just 10 out of 169 seats in the Norwegian parliament.
In Bavaria, the Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU, Christian Social Union) has controlled Bavaria’s state government since 1957. It’s still the overwhelmingly largest party in Bavarian politics, but it lost 32 seats in the Landtag in 2008 and now holds just 92, and it looks likely to lose even more seats in the Bavarian state elections that must be held in 2013.
In Switzerland, the Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz (CVP, Christian Democratic People’s Party of Switzerland) has steadily declined since the 1970s.
Only in German federal politics does Christian democracy seem to be holding on — in the form of Angel Merkel’s Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), which is allied at the federal level with Bavaria’s CSU.
So what’s happened to Christian democracy? And is it a concept whose time is up?
Christian democracy emerged as a political movement in the 19th century, as much as anything a reaction of the Catholic Church to the Industrial Revolution — and to the Marxist ideas that had so effectively challenged industrial capitalism in the mid-19th century, in the same way that the social democratic movement that gave voice to (and moderated) the growing labor movement. (Some political scientists see a parallel in the “justice and development” strand of moderate Islamist parties that have emerged in Turkey and through vehicles like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan).
It reached its heyday during the Cold War as a bulwark against the communist influences of Soviet Russia, but today seems increasingly an anachronism as the European right divides into, on the one hand, a free-market liberal ideology untroubled with cultural issues and, on the other hand, a nationalist ideology that is increasingly both anti-Europe and anti-immigrant. That fragmentation provides yet another complication in navigating the European Union out of its current debt and currency crisis — the European Union was formed and the eurozone conceived in a world where Christian democracy largely controlled the initial EU member states. Continue reading Is the European ‘Christian democracy’ party model dead?→
Canada’s only French-speaking and second-largest province goes to the polls today to elect the 125-member Assemblée nationale — Quebec’s politics are a fascinating subset of Canadian politics (notwithstanding the fact that the election will likely have a minimal impact on federal Canadian politics).
Rather than try to provide my own rundown and projection, I’ll leave it to Éric Grenier of ThreeHundredEight: his ridiculously detailed (and amazing) projection calls for a majority government led by the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), although just barely.
Charest’s own Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) — Charest has governed the province since 2003, and the Liberals are seeking their fourth consecutive mandate in the face of charges of corruption (the Charbonneau Commission is looking into whether the government traded construction contracts in exchange for political financing) and a government that’s not done enough to boost the economy, despite a flashy plan to develop northern Québec.
The PQ, led by Pauline Marois, which is looking to return to provincial government after nearly a decade.
The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), led by François Legault, which was formed just last year and which lies vaguely to the right of the PLQ, although not in every way, and which lies somewhere between the sovereigntism of the PQ and the federalism of the PLQ (Legault, a former PQ minister, once supported the 1995 referendum on Québec’s independence, but has said any CAQ government will not pursue a new referendum). The CAQ’s recruitment of quality candidates has been a boost, none of which more so than former Montréal police chief Jacques Duchesneau, whose presence in the election has been a constant reminder of potential PLQ corruption.
Grenier forecasts 63 seats for the PQ, just 33 seats for the Liberals and 27 for the CAQ. If true, it would be a bloodbath for Charest’s Liberals, who would stand a chance of being pushed not only out of government, but into third place (while the CAQ becomes the Official Opposition) — it would likely also mean that Charest himself would lose his seat in Sherbrooke, a district where he’s been winning elections since 1984.
Roughly speaking, the PLQ is expected to hold its own in Montréal and its suburbs, where most of the province’s anglophones live (although they comprise 10% or so of the electorate, English-speakers tend to vote en masse for the Liberals, even though there are signs that some may be considering the CAQ). The CAQ is expected to do well around Québec City further north, and the PQ is expected to do well everywhere else.
A key question will be whether two smaller more radically leftists and sovereigntist parties, Québec solidaire (whose spokeswoman Françoise David performed well in the party leaders debate) and Option nationale, succeed in taking away votes form the PQ — Marois has tread very lightly on the sovereignty issue, making it clear that she’s more interested in governing the province than arranging another referendum.
Increasingly less important over the course of the campaign has been the tuition fee issue — student protests over tuition hikes that shut down Montréal universities, and Charest’s police-heavy (some might say unconstitutionally repressive) response, brough international attention last spring. Despite Marois’s opposition to tuition hikes and a high-profile PQ candidate in 20-year-old student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin, the issue has not had the salience you might have expected just a few months ago.
I am traveling most of Tuesday, but hopefully will have some brief thoughts much later tonight when we have an idea of which party — PLQ, PQ or CAQ — has won the most seats and whether they’ll command enough seats to have a majority government.
In the meanwhile, a little Céline Dion to help set the election day mood, and of course you can follow all of Suffragio‘s coverage of the election here.