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THE CENTER FADES FURTHER: BAVARIA’S ELECTIONS

THE CENTER FADES FURTHER: BAVARIA’S ELECTIONS

Voters in the German state of Bavaria returned a stunning result over the weekend, dealing a body blow to the centrist parties currently in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national governing coalition. Because Bavaria is a bellwether for Germany as a whole, here are two lessons and a question to take away from the vote:


Another setback for center parties in Europe. The center-right Christian Social Union (CSU), a crucial national alliance partner for Ms. Merkel, rang up their worst election result (37 percent) since 1950. While they will remain in power in Bavaria by allying with a small conservative party, the CSU just barely escaped having to call on leftist parties to support it in a state that it has ruled single-handedly for decades. Meanwhile, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) fared no better, seeing its vote share fall by half since the last election in 2013. In both cases, voters fled traditional centrist parties. But where did they go?

The far-right wasn’t the only big winner: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) picked up 10 percent of the vote in its first Bavarian state race. With seats now in 15 of Germany’s 16 states – in addition to leading the opposition in the national legislature – this weekend’s performance confirms that the party’s anti-immigrant message appeals to voters well beyond its initial base of support in Germany’s economically lagging East. But arguably the biggest winner on Sunday was the Greens, which saw its support more than double. The Greens’ message of sustainability, open borders, and multiculturalismappeals to younger voters who make up a large share of the party’s supporters.

How does it look for Ms. Merkel? The results in Bavaria may offer Chancellor Merkel a temporary reprieve with more conservative elements within her governing alliance who have called for a further lurch to the right – after all, the CSU tried to appeal to right wing voters and got punished for it. But the broader erosion of the political center, which is where Merkel’s consensus-based governing style thrives, is a longer-term challenge for her and for Germany more broadly. The next big test will be an election in the state of Hessen later this month, where another poor result for parties within Merkel's coalition could lead to renewed calls for her to make way for a fresh face to reboot the center-right.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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