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Tag: ostraka

Aristides the Just in Bavaria

Saturday, 13 October, 2018

Bavaria is booming. Unemployment is under three percent and the sun has shone almost every day since April. Easy peasy then, you would think, for the CSU, which has ruled the southern German state with an absolute majority for most of the post-war era. The party won nearly 48 percent of the vote at the last regional election, in 2013, but change is in the air. For the first time in living memory, the CSU appears almost certain to fall well below the 40 percent mark in tomorrow’s election, an outcome that would send shockwaves all the way from Munich to Berlin.

What’s up? Frustration with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s moralistic migration policy is one issue; infighting within the CSU and in the coalition government in Berlin is another. People are looking for alternatives. Despite the extraordinary prosperity and stability that the CSU has helped bestow upon Bavaria, the voters are restless. The situation reminds one of an incident recounted by Plutarch in The Life of Aristides the Just. Note: An ostracon (plural ostraka) was a shard of pottery upon which the ancient Greeks wrote short messages:

“Now at the time of which I was speaking, as the voters were inscribing their ostraka [to determine which politicians would be expelled from the city], it is said that an unlettered and utterly boorish ostrakon fellow handed his ostrakon to Aristides, whom he took to be one of the ordinary crowd, and asked him to write Aristides on it. He, astonished, asked the man what possible wrong Aristides had done him. ‘None whatever,’ was the answer, ‘I don’t even know the fellow, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called ‘The Just’. On hearing this, Aristides made no answer, but wrote his name on the ostracon and handed it back.”

In the most recent polls, CSU support has fallen to 33 percent. In much of Europe today, that would be a dream result for a centrist party, but given the CSU’s almost permanent reign, such an outcome would be treated as a disaster. Stay tuned.