Something that has always irritated the crap out of me is the US media’s stubborn insistance to talk at great length about foreign elections (when they can be bothered to look up from the Washington/New York self-absorbtion, that is), but without ever saying who the parties are and what they stand for and what it means for that country’s economy, foreign policy, or us and the greater world.

But that’s why we have Arthur Chrenkoff. Two posts by guest bloggers, today, as he, in Australia, pulls together two Europeans to compensate for the short comings of the English-speaking press.

Guest blogger: Germany’s Thatcher? by Ulrich Speck

There are two major challenges in Germany today, and it’s likely that Angela Merkel, leader of CDU and candidate for the head of government, will have to find an answer. Gerhard Schroeder, German chancellor since 1998, failed on both points.

Number one is the reform of the welfare state, number two the invention of a German foreign policy.

To understand these tasks we have to go back to the good old days before German unification. Western Germany lived well and quiet under the umbrella of America. The transatlantic partnership was not a matter of choice, it was as matter of survival as a free state. Americanisation was successful. The integration in the Western sphere permitted Western Germans to use their energy for economic purposes, and that’s how Nazis were changed in consumers. A fine example of reeducation. Democratic Germany developped something that Weimar and Third Reich didn’t achieve: a long-term economic prosperity.

Guest blogger: We’re fed up, by Sophie Masson

Ras le bol”–we’re fed up–that’s the strong feeling behind the crushing victory of the “No” vote in France’s referendum on the EU constitution this last Sunday. People in France ARE fed up–of a political and media elite that lives in its own pompous little bubble and constantly talks down to them, that goes about its merry way without taking account of them; they are fed up of not living in a truly democratic system (the French republican system, to my mind, combines the worst aspects of an authoritarian monarchy with the ideological excesses of abstract idealism that blathers on constantly about the “rights of man” without actually caring about individual rights). People are fed up of high unemployment, of broken promises, of massive social problems. They’re fed up of the technocratic tyrants in Brussels who interfere in each and ever aspect of ordinary life, especially France’s cherished food. They’re fed up of seeing their industries going under and fed up of being unable to manipulate their currency as they used to be. They’re fed up of being on the losing side in the world, of being lectured by all the bien-pensants, too. They’re fed up of having their pride wounded; and they’re fed up to the back teeth not only of wolfish Jacques Chirac but of most of the other members of his merry band–and that of the Socialists, and just about everyone in mainstream politics.

Read all of both.