A new Great Austria with old border country troubles

The EU Parliamentary elections of 2014 resulted in 210 seats for the EPP and 188 seats for the S&D, jointly 398 seats. The EU Parliament has 751 seats, of which “1/2” + 1  gives a ruling majority of 376 seats over a minority of 375 seats. All this is mere arithmetic but politicians look at such numbers differently.

The EPP leader is Jean-Claude Juncker (1954), actually born in the same year as Angela Merkel, François Hollande, scottish Alex Salmond, and me. The S&D leader is Martin Schulz (1955), not only the odd-man-out in this important age-group but also with the lower number of seats. He is designated to take the junior position.

Given the disarray of the minority of 375 seats with left and right extremists it will be easy for Juncker and Schulz to come to agreement. There is the confounding middle-of-the-road ALDE with 60 seats, but their inclusion in the coalition would give them decisive power in most issues, and thus it makes eminent political sense to exclude them.

Thus we ought to see the rise of an EPP – S&D coalition in the coming period. The situation reminds of Germany that now has a grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats too. It also reminds Austria that has had such a grand coalition for most of the period since 1945.

Thinking of Austria, we are immediately reminded of the film Sissi with Romy Schneider, and via this of the original Elisabeth (1837-1898) and the Crimean War 1853-1856. History brings the EU back to those old times with unstable politics and trouble at the borders – and note that Ukraine means “border country”. We get all the repeat problems but without the fun, the dresses, the waltzes, the caviar.

Picture of Sissi

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria (Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1865) (source: wikipedia)

Clearly, the EU Council of HOSGs (Heads of State and Government) will prevent that EPP and S&D will allocate Commissioner seats to only members of their parties. David Cameron will demand a Conservative Commissioner, for example. Nevertheless, it will be tempting to maximize the influence of EPP and S&D only.

All this requires a strong warning. A minimal majority coalition creates an incrowd and reduces transparancy. Don’t do it like that. Try for a large inclusive coalition. Try to give minority parties a position in government. This will further  transparancy, realism and commitment to the common good. We shouldn’t expect too much, it remains politics, but the difference in attitude and outcome ought to be clear. Read this warning by Klaus Kastner on Austria.

Overall, European democracy is much of a mess, and the USA is worse. Observe the differences in outcomes for district voting and proportional representation. See my book Voting Theory for Democracy and this additional paper on proportional representation.

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