|Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl, not a member of the Freedom Party, dances at her wedding last year with—ooh, that's Vladimir Vladimirovich! Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/AFP via the Financial Times coverage of this week's events.|
Last year there was an inspiring democratic revolution in Armenia, an extraordinary democratic election in Malaysia, a distressing fascist backslide in Italy (a fascistoid party, the "Lega", was able to attach itself in coalition to the unfortunate actual winner, the Movimento Cinque Stelle, one of those new-fangled Howard Beale parties of irritable but poorly informed comedian populists, unable to wield power itself so that the minority League is basically able to run the government), and who knows what else, and we didn't cover any of it here because at this point we're basically all Trump all the time and I didn't feel like doing the work to come up with some hot take on the subject.
But it occurs to me that I should at least try to keep up some kind of running tab on the advances and retreats of democracy around the world...
Proponents of liberal democracy may be forgiven a measure of glee in the fall of Austria’s far-right vice chancellor, which has thrown the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz into chaos and forced early elections. Heinz-Christian Strache, the vice chancellor and head of the far-right Freedom Party, had long projected himself as the scourge of dirty politics, and here he was on a secretly filmed video making all sorts of shady offers to a woman posing as the relative of a Russian oligarch.
Apparently it was a set-up, not an authentic oligarchical niece, but the Freiheitspartei leader's eagerness to make a deal with the Russians was undisguised (remind you of anybody, @DonaldJTrumpJr?), after his remarks at Putin's state visit to Austria last year
The FPÖ leader, Heinz-Christian Strache – now also Austrian vice-chancellor – went further, telling local media that Europe must “end these sanctions … and normalise political and economic relations with Russia”.was not a good look, all the FPÖ ministers had to resign from the government, and the less far-right Austrian People's Party, unable to govern on its own, is out.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has secured another five-year term after winning a landslide general election victory.
Results so far show his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to win about 300 of the 543 seats in parliament.
The main opposition alliance, which is headed by Rahul Gandhi's Congress party, has admitted defeat.
The vote had been widely viewed as a referendum on the prime minister's Hindu nationalist politics.In the last election in 2014, Modi was all about the neoliberalism, as you might say, playing down his party's anti-Muslim roots (the party began as the political arm of the right-wing paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), devoted to the ideal of hindutva, "Hindu-ness", and India as a "Hindu country" the way some people you know value the idea of the US as a "Christian country", in spite of and occasionally violent defiance of what are now India's 200 million Muslims, more than any country but Indonesia and Pakistan), at a bad stagflationary type of moment in the Indian economy, pushing tech development and globalization (to the distress of the isolationist RSS, which has since learned to get along with it, the way I guess the Trumpies will when Trump is gone and the GOP reverts to its traditional position on trade).
But this year, as the BJP government has failed to fix the crisis in agriculture or unemployment, has been very different from 2014, as James Crabtree explained in Foreign Policy earlier in the week:
Back then, Modi styled himself as a charismatic but honest vikas purush, or “development man,” who had mostly left behind the zeal of his younger days as a radical proselytizer for Hindutva, or the theory that India is rightly a Hindu, not a multicultural, nation.
His 2019 campaign for reelection, by contrast, has been light on development and heavy on ethno-religious dog whistles. In a notably nasty campaign, Modi and his acolytes have riled up their Hindu base, giving fiery speeches on the dangers posed militarily by Muslim-majority Pakistan and socially by Muslim migrants illegally creeping across the border from Bangladesh—a group one powerful BJP politician described as alien “termites.”This slimy tactic has increased the BJP's majority, while the poor old Congress is in awful shape, with its leader, the great-grandson of the party's founder Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul Gandhi, losing his own seat. It's very disheartening.
Back tomorrow with some comments on today's European Parliamentary elections, I hope.