Political Turmoil Watch: Europe Edition

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by Griffin Huschke

protestWhile the political crises in the Arab world are getting all the press these days, it’s easy to forget that the transatlantic community has their own set of governmental upheavals, scandals, and general political embarrassments.  While we mostly try to argue for closer transatlantic relations, it’s important to note that human ineptitude is like the popularity of Liam Neeson—they’re both worldwide (it’s exactly with greater integration that we hope to overcome those damnable human foibles and sustain better government).   So, here’s a look at the major governmental scandals going on in the transatlantic community today:

  • Champions of the world: Belgium recently set the record for the longest time spent trying to form a government after an election at 249 days (as of today, the streak stands at 254), beating the record previously held by Iraq.  Walloons and Flemish alike spent the day throwing parties and making weird bets to celebrate their government’s place in the record books, but the jovial atmosphere belied serious concerns about the country’s divisions.  Political turmoil rating: 4.5 Turkmenbashis (out of 5).
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  • Does he still have to pay student loans?: Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a rising star in the ruling Christian Democrat party, recently gave back his Ph.D. after allegations that he plagiarized large portions of his dissertation and quoted unreliable sources. The former doctor admits he made “serious mistakes”, but Chancellor Markel seems to be backing up Karl—for now.  In probably unrelated news, the Christian Democrats got spanked in local Hamburg elections, which could have major implications down the road for the EU and broader transatlantic community.  Stay tuned. Political turmoil rating: 2.0 Turkmenbashis (out of 5).
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  • Obligatory political scandal in France: In an attempt to find a Foreign Minister that wouldn’t cause political turmoil, (doesn’t everyone cause political turmoil in France?)  President Sarkozy appointed Michèle Alliot-Marie to the job after the former Medicines sans Frontiers Chief Bernard Kouchner got shuffled out of the cabinet.  Turns out, Ms. Alliot-Marie was pallin’ around with disposed Tunisian dictator President Ben-Ali, and made real estate deals with the disposed leader’s family over X-mas vacation.  As of print time, President Sarkozy is standing by is Foreign Minister. Political turmoil rating: 1.5 Turkmenbashis (out of 5).
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  • Turmoil on the fringes:  Thousands of protestors marched in Tirana, the Albanian capitol yesterday, demanding that the government resign due to serious corruption allegations.  Four demonstrators were killed at a similar protest held several weeks ago, but there was no reported violence this time.  Albanian PM Sali Berisha has apparently been living under a rock, and is refusing to resign in the wake of popular demonstrations.  Political turmoil rating: 4.5 Turkmenbashis (out of 5).
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  • HOW?!: Silvio Berlusconi is still the Prime Minister of Italy.  Political turmoil rating: 3.5 Turkmenbashis (out of 5).

Griffin W. Huschke is the Mayme and Herb Frank Fund Research Fellow at the Streit Council.  Photo Credit:ketu°

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