Sonntag, September 18, 2005

German Election Results

Hi -

Just got back from visiting friends in Ahlen and on the way back heard the election results for Germany.

There's the old saying of countries getting the governments that they deserve. Certainly the case here.

Germany is in terrible straits right now: there are severe structural economic problems that aren't even being admitted to, let alone adressed; the polity is terribly, terribly passive in the face of outright corruption and incompetence; the nation itself is, in many ways, adrift without any sense of direction.

So the election results reflect this: nobody won. The classic left, the SPD, lost voter share; the classic conservatives, the CDU, lost voter share. Neither can simply go with favored smaller parties to form a coalition, since they've both lost too much share.

The shares lost went to splinter parties who are represented in parliament (ie made the 5% hurdle), meaning that the old bogeyman of German democratic experience, endless bickering over coalitions, will return. German parliamentary democracy has been pretty stable because it's largely bipolar, with junior splinter parties acting as deal-makers.

The problem now is that neither of the two big parties can enter a winning coaliton without taking on not a second, but also a third partner, making that very junior party a real deal maker.

Right now, the only coalition that makes sense to me is Red-Green-Red, of the SPD with 34.2%, the Greens with 8.2% and the Linke.PDS with 8.7%, giving such a government 318 seats in the Bundestag, i.e. a 18-seat majority.

Why does this coalition make sense? Because both the CDU/CSU and the FDP have clearly and categorically rejected any cooperation with Schroeder, meaning that a CDU/CSU coalition with the SPD (430 seats) is about as likely as a coalition in the US between Republicans and Democrats; a SPD/Greens/FDP government (327 seats) is equally unlikely, since, unlike his predecessors, the current head of the FDP isn't an opportunist.

Sceptics will quite correctly point out that Oscar Lafontaine, the head of the Linke.PDS, and Schroeder hate each other: but will that keep them so far apart that they won't agree to disagree in order to keep and get power?

Germans know about Oscar: he's a "luxury leftist" who broke with the SPD because they wouldn't listen to him when Schroeder took over (Schroeder being nothing more than an populistic opportunist). The personal animosities between the two won't prevent them from getting back into bed in order to keep things the way they are.

And "Keeping Things The Way They Are" is nothing less than a recipe for political and economics catastrophe for Germany.

But that's what the electorate fundamentally wants: politicians who lie to them about how great things are while plundering their pockets.

Sad day for Germany. An ideal result would've been a clear CDU/CSU victory and a government with the minority FDP with the resulting unpopular structural reforms and revisions to tax codes and the like finally adressing Germany's severe structural problems. The worst case is more of the same with a movement in the opposite direction.

And I just caught Munterfering on TV (he's the titular party head of the SPD). As far as the SPD is concerned, the election was nothing more than a plebescite on the continuation of Schroeder as chancellor: since Merkel et al failed to dislodge him, he remains chancellor.

Good lord. This line of thinking fits in with the dissolution of the government: that's all that Schroeder was looking at.

Of course, the German political system doesn't allow the results to be interpreted the way that Schroeder and the SPD are doing: they are turning the German political process into a farce.

A sad, sad day for Germany. The last thing that is needed is "more of the same": yet that is exactly what they are getting.


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