Preliminary official results. Basically, the two major parties who had been in a "grand coalition" government lost heavily while the smaller ones won, of which the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) and classically liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) heavily.
CDU/CSU 32.9 % (- 8.6; this is the second-worst result for the center-right Christian Democratic Union and their somewhat more conservative Bavarian "sister party" Christian Social Union since the very first West German election in 1949 where they got 31 percent)
SPD 20.5 % (- 5.2; the worst result of the center-left Social Democratic Party ever, period)
AfD 12.6 % (+ 7.9)
FDP 10.7 % (+ 5.9)
Left 9.2 % (+ 0.6; after initially placing last in exit polls, the successors to the old East German state party amalgamated with West German hard leftists edged in front of the Greens after all)
Greens 8.9 % (+ 0.5; the progressive environmentalists were the second minor surprise besides CDU/CSU's bad showing, because they did a bit better than predicted by polls)
Turnout was 76.16 percent (+ 4.63). On balance, all parties activated previous non-voters; the AfD did best at about 1.2 million (in fact 1.47 million, but they also lost 270,000 of their previous voters to the non-voting camp), followed by the FDP at 700,000, which explains their respective success. CDU/CSU activated 380,000, SPD 360,000, Left 270,000, Greens 230,000. Personally I had expected both CDU/CSU and AfD to score a bit better than predicted by polls on average due to previous non-voters, which pollsters have a hard time getting a grip on. We have seen this effect in a string of state elections over the last two year, in the first three of which the AfD did way better than projected, and the last three of which the CDU won quite against expectations. In both cases, they had activated huge numbers of previous non-voters, for exactly opposite reasons. However on the national level, while the AfD ended up exactly where I expected them, CDU/CSU failed to generate the same effect again.
Of their previous voters, CDU/CSU on balance lost most heavily to the FDP at 1.36 million (probably many previous liberal voters who went to them over disappointment with the FDP in 2013, and many previous CDU/CSU voters disappointed now, but preferring the FDP as a softer protest vote to the AfD) and the AfD at 980,000. The SPD lost about the same numbers to each of AfD, Left, FDP and Greens, between 470,000 and 380,000 respectively. Besides the major parties, the AfD gained most from previous "also rans" at 690,000 (the typical mark of a protest vote; according to one exit poll I saw 60 percent of their voters chose them out of disappointment with the other parties rather than conviction of their own aims) and from the Left at 400,000.
A peculiarity of the German voting system is that anybody has two votes. The "primary" one is for a directly elected district candidate in a first-past-the-post system, just like in the US; these seats are mostly won by the two major parties, though the smaller ones get a couple districts sometimes. The "secondary" vote, for lists of candidates nominated by each party in each state, is actually the more important one as the national tally decides overall distribution of seats between parties in the Bundestag. In theory, parliament thus has 598 seats, half of which filled by members directly elected from the 299 districts, the other half filled from the state lists of those parties which make the national five percent minimum threshold of the national secondary vote. However in practice, the two major parties will often win more districts directly in one state than the total number of seats they would be assigned from the national secondary vote in that state.
It used to be that these "overhang mandates" were just added to their national share in parliament, which sometimes enabled parties with a strong primary vote (CDU/CSU in particular) to achieve a majority they otherwise would'nt have. However prior to the last national election, the law was reformed on the model of most state systems, and other parties now get their own additional seats added until balance with the national secondary vote is achieved. The result is of course a bigger parliament, and the effect is more pronounced the worse the secondary results for the two big parties. Thus the next Bundestag will be the biggest so far at 709 seats.
CDU/CSU swept up most of the districts, but the meagre secondary result for the CSU in Bavaria (only 38 percent state-wide, almost apocalyptic by their standards since they've never dropped below 43 in state elections) in particular makes for a lot of overhang. The AfD actually scored three direct mandates in eastern Saxony, which shouldn't surprise anyone knowing that area; in fact the party was second-strongest in most east German states, but actually made first narrowly in Saxony at 27.0 percent of secondary votes over 26.9 for the CDU. The Left managed to win four East Berlin districts and one in Leipzig; the Greens succeeded in holding on to their only directly-won district of Berlin-Kreuzberg despite long-time local deputy Hans-Christian Ströbele not running again.
My own boss won her district again handily, though not with the same margin over her SPD competitor as in 2013 (we're south of that red blotch in the southwest that is Kaiserslautern, right on the French border). However, I'll finally follow through with long-made plans and quit working at the Bundestag at the end of this term; I'm currently applying to some potential follow-on positions. One of my final suggestions to my colleagues was starting a pool about how soon the AfD group in the coming Bundestag will split, the way they did in the Baden-Württemberg state assembly shortly after they had been voted into it last year, when they couldn't agree on throwing out a member over an anti-semitic book he had published. However, looks like the idea is moot since AfD head Frauke Petry, long embattled by the party's hard-right wing, announced in the federal press conference this morning that though she will enter the Bundestag, she will not be part of the AfD group, to the exasperation of her fellow national board members.
Between these guys' usual antics and setting up a new coalition government, the next Bundestag should be great entertainment. SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz announced an end to the grand coalition and going into the opposition immediately after exit polls were in, which is sensible in this situation. This leaves the only currently viable majority a "Jamaica" coalition between CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens, named after the colors of those parties and the Jamaican flag. It is not unprecedented, and in fact currently in place in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, but somewhat dicey because FDP and Greens tend to hate each other due to diametrically opposed definitions of liberalism. Also, on the national level you have to factor in the Bavarian CSU, which is not enarmored of going with the Greens either. In the end, it will probably work out for a lack of alternatives, unless the SPD change their mind. It will be interesting to see how cabinet posts get distributed between the prospective partners.This message has been edited. Last edited by: BansheeOne,
|NRA Life Member|
If I remember correctly, the NSDAP won only 32% of the vote in 1932. However, because it was the largest single party in Germany, it was given a mandate to form a government by the President. There seems to be similarity.
Democracies are fragile, when under stress politicians fail to offer legitimate solutions. Chancellor Merkel should resign to give her party a chance to save itself. However, like every other politician in the free world, her highly inflated ego won't let her. She'd rather sacrifice her party and Germany itself before admitting failure.
|Enjoy Computer Living|
This is BS. Energy prices have gone up in the last decade, but not by 3x. Not even close. Germans don't waste energy the same way Americans do. The Germans are moving toward energy independence while the Americans sit back and whine.
Some post-election updates. Current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is to be the next Bundestag speaker. He will preside over the first session of parliament as its longest-serving member anyway after the current coalition hastily rewrote the house rules a couple months ago to avoid an AfD member in that place who will be the oldest; a move even many opponents of the AfD including the Left Party and Greens in the Bundestag found rather petty. Anyway, Schäuble has been suggested for the speaker position for some time since he is considered capable of getting a grip on a six/seven-party house now including radicals from both the left and right after incumbent Norbert Lammert leaves.
An additional effect is that the finance minister position opens up, which the Liberals of the FDP have boldly laid claim to should they enter government. It would be the first time that this arguably most important ministry goes to another but the strongest coalition party, but it might be what sells the FDP on a "Jamaica" coalition with CDU/CSU and the Greens; since they made no additional EU money transfer schemes a central plank of their campaign platform, it would enable them to deliver. The more traditional junior partner top post is foreign minister, which Cem Özdemir of the Greens is being said to have ambitions for. I could see that, he would then be able to curse Erdogan in Swabian-accented Turkish at press conferences ...
The Greens voted to accept an invitation for probing talks with CDU/CSU if one should occur, but for now the Lower Saxony state elections on next Sunday are still in the way. There are a lot of policy sticking points for a putative Jamaica coalition, though if I was given the chair in negotiations, I could come up with solutions for most. Immigration is the most obvious given what shaped the election, with the Bavarian CSU still going on about an annual hard cap on refugee numbers (which is flat-out unconstitutional), the FDP having tried cutting a bit off the AfD votes by party head Christian Lindner stating that all taken in should eventually return home, and the Greens being opposed to any caps while being in favor of immediate family of accepted refugees coming here, too. Then again, FDP, Greens and many in the CDU are in favor of a comprehensive immigration law like Canada's regulating all aspects of the issue, which would be a possible frame for squaring the conflicting demands with annual quotas for different categories etc.
There's other stuff, of which defense is close to my heart. The Greens will probably make some trouble about increased spending, though given that the two-percent GDP NATO target is only to be "moved towards until 2024" per the 2014 summit agreement, it's not something that needs to be resolved in the coming term (same goes for other long-term issues like phasing out ICE vehicles). There have been allegations that the outgoing coalition set their sights on 1.5 percent, up from 1.2; frankly, I would be glad if in the end we spent as much as the UK in total, which would be a little over 1.6 with our current GDP (2.0 would be the UK and Poland combined, which might make some people nervous).
Of more immediate interest is whether Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen gets to keep her job after royally pissing off most of the Bundeswehr with her heavy-handed CYA approach to various minor and major scandals earlier this year. The trouble is that few other cabinet posts would satisfy her ambitions, of which most would probably fall to coalition partners under the usual arithmetics. She has said she would like to continue what she has started, and some have agreed with a certain glee that she probably didn't have in mind ... though in fairness, she has started moving quite some stuff in the right direction. At any rate I would love it if we got to keep Defense State Secretary Katrin Suder whom she brought in from business to shake up procurement in particular - the lady is giving the term of "battle lesbian" a whole new positive meaning.
Meanwhile AfD head Frauke Petry has announced to quit not just the Bundestag group but the party, too, along with her new husband Marcus Pretzell, the party's group leader in the North Rhine-Westphalia state assembly. Some of their cohorts also quit from the groups in the NRW and Saxony assemblies, while separately in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern four members split to form their own group. It also emerged last week that Petry had registered a net domain "the Blues" (dieblauen.de) back in July already, though she said that wasn't the name of a new party but "just an idea". Anyway, currently no other newly elected AfD Bundestag members seem intent of joining her in the house, probably mindful of the obscurity into which the new party founded by Petry's predecessor Bernd Lucke quickly sank after she led a coup against him herself two years ago. Though a colleague of my boss from across our corridor told us last week that some AfD MPs are in quiet talks to go over to the CDU/CSU group, so who knows how things will look when the new Bundestag constitutes in a couple weeks.
Statistic trivia: the new Bundestag will be more male (maler?), minimally younger, have a greater immigration background and more entrepreneurs. 30.7 percent of deputies will be female, down from 36.5. Among the parties, the Greens have the highest proportion of women at 58 percent, followed by the Left with 54, SPD 42, FDP 22.5, CDU/CSU 20 and AfD 10.6. Average age is 49.4, down from 49.7; the Liberals are youngest at about 46, and in fact include the youngest member of the house with Roman Müller-Böhm, 24. The Greens are about 47 on average, CDU/CSU and Left about 50, with SPD and AfD slightly above; the latter, as mentioned above, also have the oldest member of the house with Wilhelm von Gottberg, 77.
The SPD has the lowest proportion of all-new MPs at about 15 percent, followed by CDU/CSU with about 19, Greens with about 24 and Left with about 39. The FDP, which was not represented in the last parliament, has about 75 percent newcomers; the AfD only hasn't a straight 100 because their member Martin Hohmann previously served as a CDU MP from 1998 to 2005 before he was thrown out of the party and parliamentary group over a controversial speech in which he argued that calling Germans a "people of perpetrators" for Nazi crimes made as much sense as calling Jews the same for their pronounced role in Communism.
Immigration background is up to about eight percent from 5.9. A little over a third of the 57 members concerned are descended from family in (today's) EU. Of the rest, 14 have Turkish roots, up from eleven; six for the SPD, four for the Greens and three for the Left. Not sure where to put the last; the CDU lost their only Muslim MP when Cemile Giousouf (family of the Turkish minority in Greece) missed re-entry into parliament. There are at least five Iranian-descended MPs, mostly off refugees from the 1979 revolution like the CDU's Michaela Noll (née Tadjadod), daughter of the last minister of economy under the Shah; three each descended from the former USSR and Yugoslavia, two from Egypt, and one with a Swiss mother (Christian Freiherr von Stetten of the CDU).
Karamba Diaby of the SPD remains the only African-German after Charles M. Huber of the CDU left the Bundestag (both Senegalese-descended), unless you count Ottmar von Holtz of the Greens who is a German Namibian (i.e., descended from settlers to the former colony of German Southwest Africa). Overall migration background is highest among the Left with 18.8 percent, followed by the Greens with 14.9, SPD 9.8, AfD 7.5, FDP 6.3 and CDU/CSU 2.9 percent.
By (previous) profession, public servants are still by far the largest group with 204. Affiliated with parties, unions and churches: 110. Entrepreneurs: 76, up from 35; 30 of which for CDU/CSU, 19 AfD, 13 FDP, the rest spread across the left camp. Trainees and students: 15. Unemployed: four. Housewives: two.
Further updates. The grapevine says a Bundestag session to re-elect the chancellor is being tentatively planned for early in the week before Christmas, about the time it was done four years ago, too. Which is looking rather optimistic as not even probing talks between the prospective partners for a new CDU/CSU-FDP-Green government have finished. The Greens want to have a convention to vote on the opening of formal coalition talks on 14 November, and the CDU is confident enough that the latter will happen and succeed that last week they announced a convention of their own on 16 December to accept a putative "Jamaica" coalition agreement.
Talks started two weeks ago with participants agreeing on twelve topics to deliberate in succession:
- Finances, budget and taxes; CDU/CSU and FDP agree on reducing tax load including abolishing the "solidarity levy" so far paid by citizens for the post-unification buildup of the East German states, while the Greens are kinda neutral; the latter also want a capital tax for the rich and abolish the current tax splitting for married couples in favor of a broader family-based model, which the other two reject. In the end it will probably be a question of numbers since even CDU/CSU and FDP have different ideas on how far to go with tax reductions.
- Europe; the Greens are the most enthusiast about more integration, the FDP the most sceptic (particularly considering finances) while CDU/CSU are in the middle and will probably set the tune.
- Climate, energy, environment; an obvious Green topic. There's no disagreement between the parties about implementing the Paris Climate Accord, but the Greens want to get out of ICE cars and coal while the other two don't, so it's likely not to fly. As a long-term goal, it will probably not be a deal-breaker for this term though, either.
- Refugees, asylum, migration, integration; all parties agree on finally having a proper immigration law. Both FDP and Greens are against even the squishy "guideline" of no more than 200,000 refugees per year CDU and CSU recently agreed on to sorta accommodate the latter's demand for a hard cap; as noted before, in practice any limitation is unconstitutional, and that number isn't normally reached anyway. The Greens are also for generous family reunions for accepted refugees while CDU/CSU are against it and the FDP is somewhat wobbly. There's no reason to think overall agreement won't be reached within the framework of a future law, but the devil will be in the details.
- Education, research, innovation, digitalization, media: wide agreement except possibly on the long-time issue of the federal government being forbidden to cooperate with the states in education, leading to the patchwork of school systems we have. FDP and Greens are for abolishing this, while CDU/CSU are lukewarm, but they'll likely find common ground.
- Labor, pensions, health, caregiving, social affairs: Both CDU/CSU and Greens want to strengthen the public pension system while the FDP don't, but the latter probably will have to give in some.
- Family, women, seniors, youth: I see no insurmountable differences of opinion.
- Municipalities, housing, volunteer work, culture, common living standards: Ditto.
- Agriculture, consumer protection: I can see this boiling down to whether the Greens get the ministry of agriculture, which would be a nightmare for many farmers - so they probably won't.
- Economy, transport: Also likely to be most discussed in relation to environmental concerns by the Greens.
- Foreign, defense, development, trade: CDU/CSU are all for the NATO target of spending two percent of the GDP while the Greens are against and the FDP is wobbly. As noted before it's another issue not to be ultimately resolved within the next term since the target is for 2024, though. FDP head Christian Lindner made some waves during the campaign by suggesting that the Russian annexation of Crimea should be realistically accepted as fact, and sanctions lifted, a popular demand in large parts of business; but CDU/CSU and the Greens won't have that, and the latter seem to be in line for the Foreign Office if the FDP succeeds in getting the ministry of finances. Greens and FDP also seem set to disagree most on the extent of developmental aid; in the 2009 campaign the latter ran on abolishing the responsible ministry (then promptly got to run it for their trouble).
- Interior, security, rule of law; CDU/CSU are for more public video surveillance and preventive communications metadata storage while FDP and Greens are against, so there probably won't be much expansion.
In that list, as of today we have arrived at the first-to-last bullet point, foreign and defense. So far it seems everybody is mostly making sure to demonstrate to their respective base that they are no pushover, since members of the various parties have disagreed in public about the interpretation of basic agreements reached in the fields talked about. This included the result of the first round that everybody generally agreed to have a balanced budget and observe the constitutional debt cap, though representatives of the FDP and Greens later quarreled about if and how much tax load including the "solidarity levy" for the buildup of East Germany could be reduced. As usual, there were dire warning that all the demands of the parties summed up to something like 100 billion Euro of extra expenditures, but it was the same during the coalition talks four years ago.
In critical single issues like environmental and immigration policy, while initial noise was that of course everybody agreed on national and international aims of climate protection, the devil is again in the details; the Greens want to shut down something like 20 of the dirtiest coal power plants quickly, which CDU Minister President Armin Laschet of the coal state North Rhine-Westphalia said was a no go. In immigration, opinions differ most widely between CDU/CSU with their squishy "guideline" of no more than 200,000 refugees per year and the Greens with their demand to lift the suspension of family reunions for refugees with subsidiary protection status, and no agreement seems to have been reached so far.
Earlier this week new quarreling was reported over agriculture, particularly between the Bavarian CSU and the Greens - though both allegedly also found common ground in welfare policy, which doesn't surprise me. For today's topic of foreign and defense policy, the Bundestag's defense ombudsman Hans-Peter Bartels - who as an SPD man has the benefit of not being involved with coalition-building at all - already called on negotiators to agree on more money for the Bundeswehr, which in his words was not about up-arming, but merely filling the gaps. In the debate about the NATO two-percent GDP spending target, he seems to think that could be achieved with about 1.5.
In the end they will probably get together by hook or crook since if talks fail, new elections are the only way out unless the SPD reconsiders their decision to go into the opposition, which is unlikely. But then new elections are unlikely to yield a vastly different result from 24 September; in polls, CDU/CSU have dropped a little further on average to 31-33 percent, with the slack taken up by the prospective junior coalition partners FDP and Greens for about 10-12 and 9-11 respectively. This might be based upon the expectation that they join government though, and everybody else has basically stayed where they ended up in the election (SPD 20-22, AfD 11-13, Left 9-10).
Meanwhile the new Bundestag constituted last week already. Under the "lex AfD" by which the longest-serving rather than the oldest member of the house gets to open it now, previous finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble had ceded the job to Hermann Otto Solms of the FDP as the next in line, since Schäuble himself had already been nominated by CDU/CSU for the regular speaker post. Solms promptly prefaced his opening speech with some "personal remarks" to the tune of "I'm so happy the FDP is back in the house", which created a murmur even in the ranks of CDU/CSU. The AfD had of course filed a motion to reinstate the old rules, which was put to the vote immediately and rejected. All of the other future putative opposition parties had unusually also filed some motions on Bundestag regulations to "liven up proceedings", including to have the chancellor answer on the floor once per quarter. The likely future government/opposition divide was already visible as SPD, AfD and Left voted for those, CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens against, obviously mindful to preserve the atmosphere for the ongoing probing talks.
The more diverse house also showed in the rather mediocre results in the votes for the speaker and his deputies; nobody really seemed to reach all the groups, and Thomas Oppermann of the SPD barely got 55 percent, probably because even some of his own didn't vote for him. He had been put up by the group leadership, though incumbent Ulla Schmidt wanted to keep the post and previous group manager Christine Lambrecht was also running. Shortly bevor a contested nomination vote in the group, the two women "withdrew" though. This pissed off the party's women who saw that despite all the loud talk of gender equality, the SPD men were getting almost all of the top jobs again (the only woman of note in the leadership is new Bundestag group leader Andrea "kick you in the mouth" Nahles); particularly since it came on top of a rather unskilled move by party head Martin Schulz to replace the party's national executive secretary Juliane Seifert with the previous head of the Young Socialists, Johanna Uekermann. Uekermann turned down the offer, and Seifert quit when she learned about the move only from the media. So the SPD hasn't quite hit their stride in opposing the government rather than themselves yet, and only last week Hamburg Lord Mayor Olaf Scholz criticized quite publicly that the causes of the party's defeat hadn't been fully addressed yet.
As expected, the vice speaker candidate of the AfD, Albrecht Glaser, failed to get elected in three successive rounds, though at least he got more votes than just of the 92 AfD members (115, 123 and 114 respectively). The AfD of course stated that they will stick to him and his controversial remarks that freedom of religion should not apply to Islam reflect the common position of the party; in the end it will probably be a repeat of the Lothar Bisky case, whom the Left Party put up for vote four times in 2005 - where he continued to fail as the first-ever candidate due to allegations of his involvement with the Stasi - before quietly replacing him with Petra Pau, who has since served without controversy and was re-elected again last week. Overall the constituting session was no landmark considering the speeches held, but rather lively as such things go, and probably indicative of a more controversial atmosphere in the coming term - which is not hard to do after the grand coalition and its stifling majority in the Bundestag, and not a bad thing.
As a late casualty to the national election, Saxony State Minister President Stanislaw Tillich of the CDU announced his resignation two weeks ago over the AfD scoring 0.1 percent points more than his party in the state on 24 September; he had long been criticized for allowing their particular impressive rise in Saxony. Though what exactly could have been done to prevent this seems still not clear as debate is going on in the CDU about how to react to the election results. Some say the party should move further to the right to regain terrain yielded to the AfD, while others disagree and some say there should be more focus on social issues and low-income groups (which isn't necessarily at odds with the "move right" suggestion since the AfD is quite lefty in their approach to the welfare state, too).
The AfD itself hasn't fractured further at the national level beyond a single MP joining ex-national leader Frauke Petry in quitting the Bundestag group so far. In a slightly ominous sign however the AfD group in the city council of Iserlohn (members: three) summarily defected to Petry's new "Blues" this week, making them the first representants of the proto-party in an elected body nationwide. Obviously that doesn't say though that Petry's project will be any more successful than "Alfa" (since renamed LKR after a brandname suit but still equally obscure) of Bernd Lucke whom she once ousted from AfD chairmanship herself.
Not to be outdone by the infighting on the right fringe, the Left Party also had a leadership quarrel as party co-heads Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger tried to clip the wings of Bundestag group co-leaders Sarah Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch; probably mostly the former, who tends to promote nobody but Sarah Wagenknecht and go against the party line, like when she tried to win back voters lost to the AfD by making tough statements on immigration. The relationship between both sets of leaders was visibly strained at least since Wagenknecht and Bartsch invited themselves to a meeting of the party board last year to announce that they were running as top candidates in the national election. Recently Wagenknecht's opponents tried to write into the Bundestag group's charta that speeches on the floor should "represent majority opinion in the group", to which she reacted by threatening resignation in a carefully leaked letter.
A ceasefire was eventually negotiated, but Riexinger still tried to open a press conference of the Bundestag group recently, which Wagenknecht reminded him was not his place before rolling cameras. One problem for the inner balance of the Left is that they lost a lot to the AfD in East Germany in the elections, which strengthened the Westerners in the party who tend to be especially loony lefties, never having experienced actual life under state socialism. So it looks like the fringes will continue to play Sideshow Bob for the entertainment of the audience while the spotlight actors are negotiating to form a government.
Well, the probing talks for a "Jamaica" coalition which were supposed to conclude on Thursday last week were extended to Sunday after participants took a "break to think". Predictably the sticking points were immigration - namely family reunions for subsidiarily protected refugees - and climate protection, with the Greens being the odd guys out. On Sunday talks again lasted past the planned 1800 hours deadline, and eventually the liberal FDP pulled the plug. The Jamaica project has thus officially failed, and the mutual blame game is in full swing. The chancellor just announced that she will talk with the president today about how to proceed from here.
Constitutionally, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier can propose a chancellor candidate to the Bundestag even in the absence of a coalition agreement. If he or she fails to get a majority, the president can still appoint him or her if at least a plurality is reached in the third round, or disband parliament within seven days for new elections after 60 days. Which would probably not happen before the New Year though, after another attempt to win the Social Democrats for a continuation of the current grand coalition, and possibly to form a minority government of CDU/CSU with either the FDP or Greens; so elections probably in early March.
A minority government ruling with changing majorities on a case-by-case base in the Bundestag would be a first for Germany, and really goes against the German sense for stable and predictable politics, though other European countries have done it with little excitement, particularly in Scandinavia. If there's any chancellor who could pull this off, it's probably Merkel who is ideologically flexible to the point of arbitrariness; but expect alternate screaming from the left and right as government measures might be supported by SPD and Greens one day, and the AfD the next.
The prospect of new elections poses some questions, the first of which is: would it change anything? The Greens are the only party that has really risen somewhat distinctly in polls since 24 September - 9-12 percent over an election result of 8.9. Everybody else seems stuck where they have been over the last weeks - CDU/CSU 31-33 (32.9), SPD 20-21 (20.5), AfD 12-13 (12.6), FDP 10-12 (10.7), Left 9-10 (9.2). Of course a a short intense campaign for another election three or four months from now might see some change, though in what direction is anybody's guess. As such things go, turnout could be expected to be lower due to voters being disappointed and tired. The smaller parties might profit; then again, previous protest voters - particularly conservatives who had gone to the AfD and FDP, and got the prospect of having the Greens in government for their trouble - might think better and return to the big parties to get clearer conditions.
Next question though: Who are the two major parties going to run with? Merkel would be considerably weakened after the meagre 24 September result and failure to form a government, and both she and the party might come to the conclusion that it's time for a fresh start. There is an array of eternal prospective heirs, some of which have gotten rather long in the tooth; I don't think Wolfgang Schäuble will be in the running after having already been relegated from finance minister to Bundestag speaker, and Interior Minister Lothar de Maizière still has the charisma of a paperclip. Much-hyped is Finance State Secretary Jens Spahn; a delegate to a recent convention of the Greens recently had to apologize after she argued for Jamaica because else "that right-wing gay Spahn" would replace Merkel.
On the female side, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was damaged in her handling of various Bundeswehr "scandals" this year, and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was just re-elected Saarland state minister president at the start of the year; the third option would be national CDU vice chair and Rhineland-Palatinate opposition leader Julia Klöckner. Meanwhile for the SPD, I don't think they would go with Martin Schulz again after the recent spectacular failure; overall, spring elections would be entirely too early for them in their hopeful way to recovery. The smaller parties don't have the same problems, even though the AfD is in for some more infighting as they have to re-organize their national leadership after the defection of Frauke Petry - but she wasn't their top candidate in the last campaign, and I don't think her new "Blues" will take away any more from the AfD than her predecessor Bernd Lucke's ALFA. Petry herself will be lucky if she wins her district directly again.
Listening around the house, there is really no enthusiasm for new elections, not even in the AfD, despite public statements to the contrary. One reason is financial; after the recent campaign, funds are depleted. It is not widely known, but despite the extensive German public campaign financing system, it's also still a personally expensive affair for direct candidates in the districts.
|Step by step walk the thousand mile road|
So long as Merkel is ousted and 99.999999999% of the "refugees" are forcibly repatriated, I don't care who is Chancellor.
Nice is overrated
And people wonder why I carry a SIG P320
Death to Terrorists
|Lawyers, Guns |
At some point, average Germans will wake up and realize that they have once again destroyed their country from within by allowing this invasion.
It may be too late.
Borders. Language. Culture.
"To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the law abiding that their rights depend not on their own conduct but, on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless."
- Lysander Spooner
"The United States government is the largest criminal enterprise on earth."
Yes, all of Europe needs to rid itself of these "refugees".
|So let it be written, |
so let it be done...
Looks like Merkel isn't having much luck and may have to step down after the formation of a coalition failed. New elections are possible...
Talks collapse - German Coalition unable to agree
'Live long and prosper'
Still in interregnum. Following the breakdown of the Jamaica talks, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the kids to grow the fuck up and form a government, any government, rather than evading the responsibility handed to them by voters in order to pursue partisan aims; not least directed at his comrades of the SPD, who continued to rule out another grand coalition with CDU/CSU at this point. After that, SPD head Martin Schulz increasingly got between a rock and a hard place as among other major Social Democratic voting blocks, the trade unions also want another grand coalition; the Young Socialists and probably many others at the party base don't at all, as the former made abundantly clear to him at their national convention two weeks ago. Of the SPD MPs, two thirds just want to avoid new elections at all cost because they fear losing their just-won seats.
A series of talks between President Steinmeier and party leaders culminated in what has been termed "assisted coalition talks" with Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer of the CSU and Martin Schulz of the SPD assembled at Schloss Bellevue last week. It is unlikely though that anything substantial in the way of forming a new government will develop before the New Year. Rather, parties have been sorting themselves.
The SPD national convention since Thursday this week eventually voted for open-result talks with CDU/CSU. Martin Schulz also got re-elected national chairman with a little over 80 percent after a speech in which he spoke out for the talks while also apologizing for the losing national campaign - not bad for the SPD, but a far cry from the full 100 percent he was elected with early this year. Another grand coalition thus becomes more likely, though both prospective partners have been busy drawing red lines, making unlikely demands and pricking each other in the acting government. Two weeks ago, the CDU/CSU side complained about the SPD-led foreign ministry acting out of line, including State Minister Michael Roth possibly having voted for Paris as future seat of the European Banking Authority which is moving out of London due to Brexit, rather than for Dublin as instructed in case Frankfurt fails to get a majority; nobody could be sure though since the vote was secret, but Paris got the nod.
A much more public shitstorm followed the following week's vote of CSU Agricultural Minister Christian Schmidt for extension of EU approval for use of the herbicide Glyphosat which has been campaigned against by environmentalists for some time; Germany was supposed to abstain per SOP as the SPD-led Ministry of the Environment was against. Of course the press subsequently dug up that Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks had also enacted a regulation protecting Baltic codfish on the last working day before the national election, against the wish of Schmidt's ministry.
Various SPD figures have made conditions for another grand coalition that are unlikely to be met, from introduction of single-payer healthcare to a EU minister of finances. Within CDU/CSU, opinions differ about whether to go for coalition or a minority government. Merkel is for Option A, while State Secretary of Finances Jens Spahn, who has been hyped as a possible successor to her (He's youngish! He's conservative! He's gay! He's cool!), supported a minority government this week. On cue, FDP head Christian Lindner offered to support such a government so that CDU/CSU didn't need to have themselves "blackmailed" by the SPD, after whistling back his deputy Wolfgang Kubicki just a few days earlier when the latter stated in an interview that if a grand coalition didn't come about, the Jamaica option would be back on the table.
The FDP is probably feeling a little pressure itself, since after initial gains following their walk-out from the Jamaica talks with CDU/CSU and the Greens they have markedly dropped in the polls, below their recent election result to single digits in some; so they can't be sure to improve or even just hold if all else should fail and new elections would be called. Otherwise, both CDU/CSU and AfD seem back to about to their election results after a previous shallow dive, while everybody else is holding; that's probably disappointed conservative voters who wanted the FDP to steer the government back to the right flowing back from them. The Greens thus remain the only ones to have improved a little since 24 September.
The Bavarian CSU for their part seem to have resolved the simmering conflict about Horst Seehofer's succession that I recently saw called "the Bavarian War of Succession" and has thrown the party and, by extension, national politics into disarray for more than two years for the moment. This week it was agreed that Markus Söder, whom Seehofer wanted to prevent, will indeed take over as Bavarian state minister president early next year, before the state elections in autumn; the contender for the Seehofer camp, State Interior Minister Joachim Hermann, withdrew his candidacy. Seehofer will however remain party head; it has been speculated that he is going for a ministry in Berlin, to better represent the CSU line at the national level. All of course in the name of maintaining the sacred absolute majority in Bavaria, which looks nothing like certain in the upcoming elections: Even CSU-friendly pollsters currently have them only at the level of the statewide Bundestag result from 24 September of 37-38 percent, with SPD 15-17, AfD 11-14, Greens 10-11, FDP 8-9, Free Voters 7-8 and Left Party 3-4.
The AfD also went about succession issues at last weekend's national convention in Hannover, replacing former national co-head Frauke Petry after her desertion on the day after the Bundestag election. Berlin chapter head Georg Pazderski, a former Bundeswehr colonel of the party's moderate wing, had announced to run, but was opposed by the right wing(s)* who consider him having been too close to Petry, particularly in supporting her motion to throw Thuringia state chapter head Björn Höcke out over his attacks on German Holocaust rememberance culture, and generally disagree with the moderates' aim to make the AfD fit for government participation in a coalition with the post-Merkel CDU and possibly the FDP, rather wanting to preserve the party's "movement" character than becoming part of the political establishment. So they asked national vice head and Bundestag group co-leader Alexander Gauland to run against Pazderski, but Gauland has always been content to lead from second rank, and initially declined. Instead, Schleswig-Holstein state party spokeswoman Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein was hastily brought out by the right wing, and in the first round scored twelve more votes than Pazderski, leaving neither of them with the necessary majority.
In the end, Gauland still had to jump into the breach and was elected co-head, with Pazderski becoming vice head, both with rather meagre results reflecting the polarized atmosphere at the convention. Baden-Württemberg state head Jörg Meuthen remains as the other co-head, but is generally considered a weak leader; he presided over last year's split of the AfD's BW state assembly group when they couldn't agree on throwing out member Wolfgang Gedeon over an anti-semitic tome the latter wrote. In fact Gedeon, who eventually quit the group after a talk with Frauke Petry, has since been invited back by them as a "guest", and filed three motions criticizing the US and Israel, calling for freezing cooperation with NATO and for an alliance with Russia at the national convention along with four BW state assembly members, including two group vice leaders. Meanwhile Meuthen has announced that he will resign the group leadership and take over the AfD seat in the European Parliament (but also remain a member of the BW assembly) vacated by Beatrix von Storch, who was elected to the Bundestag. Overall, the results of the Hannover convention were judged to indicate the party moving further to the right.
Meanwhile the new Bundestag had its first somewhat regular session days, mostly to get the extensions for Bundeswehr deployment mandates on the way which would otherwise expire at the end of the year or the month after. Like four years ago, a "main committee" was installed to take over all committee work while people haven't figured out yet who will be the government and who the opposition, how ministries will be shaped, and how this will impact the respective parliamentary committees. What I took away from the debates is that while overall the AfD isn't talking more shit than the Left Party in the house has for ages, often even the exact same shit, it now amounts to double the previous volume. Those stalwart fighters against Islamism oppose the deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Mali in support of the fight against the IS and similar ilk. The Left of course tried to cover the embarrassing fact that they completely agree with the bloody fascists of the AfD on that count by calling them just that very loudly.
From the Bundestag perspective, a minority government with changing majorities for individual measures would mean more work than another grand coalition snoozefest, but in view of people always complaining that the government has forever treated parliament as as mere extension of its bench with the respective coalition meekly following along, it may just be what makes assume it a more assertive role. Some have pointed out that in the few cases of minority governments in the states, parliamentarians enjoyed the suddden attention afforded to them by governments very much. All in all, it's not like this is a constitutional crisis; there's an acting government on which the constitution mentions no time limit, an elected Bundestag which can act any time it wants to, and a president who can make them act if they're dragging their heels too much.
* I saw it stated recently that the AfD's right wing is itself split into an East and West German wing respectively, which differ mainly over economic and welfare policy; while the Westerners tend to be pro-market, the Easterners want to roll back the Schröderian welfare reforms of 2002/2003 completely, if not even more socialism. Also, while both lambast the moderates for their aim of government participation, the Westerners seem to go more for the perpetual opposition approach while the Easterners have a somewhat likely perspective of eventually deciding who will form a government with them; after all they already came out second in several recent East German state elections, and beat the CDU by 0.1 points in state-wide results for the Bundestag in Saxony.
I look forward to your updates. Another excellent synopsis.
A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.
One step closer to a new government - or new elections if the Social Democratic party base balks in the end. After the clusterfuck of the Jamaica explorations, CDU/CSU and SPD had agreed to hold swift, streamlined probing talks for a possible continuation of the grand coalition. As could be expected considering the circumstances, the resulting preliminary agreement was nothing spectacular and even widely sensible. Even more then four years ago, the question is however whether the SPD base can be won over to the prospect of grinding the party up further as an enabler for yet another Merkel government. The Young Socialists for one remain adamantly opposed and have engaged on a campaign against it in the internal debates. The national party leadership in turn toured states campaigning for assent, and on 21 January a convention gave half-hearted authorization with a 56-percent vote to enter official coalition talks with CDU/CSU, knowing that the eventual result would still have to be ratified by a base referendum.
Negotiations went over the last ten days, originally planned to end on Sunday but with Monday and Tuesday already planned in as reserve. Distribution of cabinet posts apparently was what still sent the talks into overtime until this morning, along with the issues of unreasonable limitation of work contracts and different pay for treatment of privately and publically health-insured. Though compared to the Jamica epos, negotiations went at lightning speed and were actually the shortest in post-war history. The result in all its German-language 177-page glory is here. Major points on topics currently politically relevant here:
- Finances. The aim of a balanced budget with no new debts is upheld. No tax raises. The "solidarity surcharge" for the buildup of the East German states will be incrementally abolished, starting with a "distinct step" fully relieving 90 percent of payers this term. The states will receive eight billion Euros through 2021 to pay for the after-effects of the 2015 refugee crisis.
- Labor. Possibilities to time-limit work contracts without a reason in fact is restricted to 2.5 percent of employees for businesses with more than 75, and limited contracts can be given only for 18 months. The right to return from part- to fulltime that the SPD couldn't get through in the probing talks will be given to one in 15 employees in businesses with 45-200. Premiums for public unemployment insurance will drop by 0.3 points. There will be a new re-integration program for long-time unemployed and a law regulating immigration of foreign labor; looks like this will finally be a general immigration law by another name, since CDU/CSU have long rejected this.
- Pensions. Level not to drop below 48 percent and premiums not rise over 20 percent of income until 2025, a commitee to think about the time after. For people who have worked at least 35 years, raised kids and cared for relatives, there will be a minimum pension ten percent above basic welfare level; future early pensioners on health reasons will be treated like they worked until regular pension age. Mothers who gave birth to at least three children before 1992 will be credited with a third year of education time as work. Self-employed will be required to care for their retirement.
- Health. In the quarrel over different pay for treatment of privately and publically insured, leading to long waiting times in appointments for the less attractive latter ones, a committee is to develop a common pay scheme until 2019; it will then be decided whether it will be adopted. The shortage of labor in the caregiving field is to be addressed by an additional 8,000 personnel immediately as well as a training and attractivity enhancement program. It will be made easier for relatives to take time-outs from work to care for their kin (also see right to return from part- to fulltime above). Pay for caregivers to become more equal by national collective labor agreements and leveling minimum wages in East and West Germany.
- Housing. Families will get public support worth 1,200 Euros per child and year for acquiring private housing, for a total of 440 million per year. The constitution to be changed so the federal government can put money into social housing beyond 2019; more property for housing to be made available through a reform of property tax. Landlords will be required to state the previous rent to new tenants in order to make the so-far ineffective cap on rent increases in urban areas work; rebuilding costs also to be shared by only eight rather than the previous eleven percent by tenants, with a total cap to avoid people being purposefully priced out of their dwellings. Stricter regulations against circumventing property purchase tax in selling housing.
- Families. Tax breaks and public support for children to rise by 25 Euros per kid and month. Childrens' rights to be enshrined in the constitution, whatever that means. Also some scheme of vouchers for household aids for busy parents who can't afford it themselves.
- Education. The constitutional ban on federal-state cooperation to be further losened so the federal government can give money to schools. There will be a right to all-day care for elementary schoolchildren, two billion Euros for the expansion of day schools, five billion for digital equipment of schools, one billion for reform of public support for university students and trainees, and 600 million for improving equipment of universities.
- Digitalization. Full coverage with gigabit net to be achieved by 2025 with funds worth ten to twelve billion Euros; there is to be a legal right to fast internet access. By 2022 citizens are to be able to have all appropriate acts of public administration done online. Net neutrality to be maintained and a data ethics committee to be installed. Gaps in cellphone coverage to be closed in cooperation with providers.
- Refugees. The aim from the probing talks that annual total numbers should not exceed 180,000-220,000 is upheld. The right to family reunions for those with subsidiary protection status remains suspended until until 31 July and will then be limited to 1,000 per month by a new law; the existing hardship exemptions will be maintained. Asylum proceedings will take place in centralized reception, decision and deportation facilities in the future.
- Security. Another 7,500 positions each will be created with the security agencies of the federal government and states, plus 6,000 in the legal system. There will be national uniform rules for dealing with registered terrorist threats; obviously a lesson from the inter-state cockups in the case of Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri. Prevention and droput programs against left- and right-wing extremism, Islamism and anti-Semitism will be expanded.
- Defense. The usual non-committal phrases about giving the Bundeswehr the best possible equipment, training and care while also stating that the armed forces will procure what they need, not what is offered to them. The defense budget will be raised in step with developmental aid, any leeway in the national budget to be used for these first. Participation in missions in Afghanistan and Mali will be expanded, while it will be reduced in the operations against the IS. Arms exports to be further restricted. The agreement from the probing talks to not deliver arms to any party involved in the Yemen war is qualified by grandfathering in already-authorized deliveries if manufacturers can prove that deliveries will remain in the receiving country; some have pointed out this seems tailored to protect the upcoming delivery of patrol boats to Saudi Arabia. These restrictions will also be sought to be shared by European partners, which is another nice dream.
- Europe. Germany to engage with France in a strengthening of the EU and reform of the Eurozone. In refugee policy, the aim is a share of responsibility in solidarity; it is also stated that Germany is generally prepared to make higher contribution to the EU budget.
- Climate/Energy. The national aim to reduce emission of greenhouse gases by 40 percent of the 1990 level by 2020 is given up. Instead there are to be legally binding aims for individual fields like energy, transport, agriculture and buildings until 2030; a committee is to come up with a program for this until year's end. Renewables are intended to have a 65 percent share in the energy mix by the same point, while coal power is to be incrementally reduced and stopped. Electric car development will be supported, while there is some vague noise about updating diesel engines to improve air quality. For far-reaching cases like the VW diesel scandal, pattern declaratory action is to be introduced from November this year to strengthen the rights and reduce financial risk for the individual.
- Agriculture/Consumer Protection. An official label for meat from humanely-kept animals to be introduced; the mass killing of male chicken hatchlings will be stopped until the end of next year. The spreading of wolves in Germany will be controlled. Use of the controversial herbicide Glyphosate is to end as soon as possible. The content of sugar, salt and fat in ready-to-eat products is to be reduced and indicated by colored markings. Glad we talked about that.
Post-wise, the CDU gets the Chancellor's Office (obviously) including the state minister for migration, refugees and integration as well as the ministries of defense, economy and energy, health, education and research, and nutrition and agriculture. The CSU gets interior, expanded by construction and homeland (AIUI the latter is not in a security sense but in response to the CSU demand of more political pronounciation of patriotism, "German lead culture", etc.), alleged to be taken over by future Bavarian ex-minister president Horst Seehofer; plus transport and digital infrastructure, and economic cooperation and development.
The SPD is getting labor and social affairs, justice and consumer protection, family, seniors, women and youth, and environment. Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz is rumored to become finance minister and vice chancellor; Social Democrats spent the last four years regretting that they didn't secure the critical finance ministry in 2013, and this is probably what they need to sell their base on the agreement. Martin "I will never join a Merkel cabinet" Schulz will take foreign, and has confirmed he will hand over party leadership, apparently to Andrea Nahles, thus ending his spell as national head that started with so much fanfare only to nosedive into lacklustry. Of course Schulz has stated ministers will only be named after the base referendum on the agreement so "nobody gets burnt ahead of time"; nice dream.
Incidentally, the cutoff set by the SPD leadership for new party members joining to vote in the referendum was yesterday at 1800 hours; reportedly a little over 24,000 had joined by then, about a five percent growth. How the vote will go remains to be seen. As four years ago, several complaints were filed with the Constitutional Court that having the party base decide infringes upon the freedom of MPs to exercise their mandate, but as of today they have all been rejected. Last term the court already found that it's up to parties to organize their internal decision process.
No matter the outcome, this is obviously Merkel's last term, if for no other reason that no chancellor has ever served five; Helmut Kohl tried in 1998 and got shot down in flames. Of course if her partners from the SPD are unlucky, this might be their last term ever, as a party, too; their trajectory over the last 15 years doesn't instill confidence of a reversal towards importance. Frankly, they have seen their substance being chipped away starting in the 80s with the emergence of the Greens for progressive leftists, then the Left Party taking in those discontent with Gerhard Schröder's welfare reforms from 2003, then Merkel's CDU taking over any issue they tried to bank on, and now the AfD also championing a return to the old welfare state. About the only party not poaching in their classical voter base is the classical liberal FDP ...
Anyway, at this point I'm watching from the outside. I extended my contract from the previous term to the end of last year for ease of various calculations and because I had just started to run a campaign against hysteria about aircraft emergency fuel dumping in our district I enjoyed very much (that's fairly regular since the area is west of Frankfurt where trans-atlantic flights usually notice post-takeoff problems requiring an immediate return), then called it quits. Right now I'm enjoying some much-needed downtime and looking around for follow-ons. I had applied to a position at the Berlin HQ of a federal law enforcement agency before the elections and made it into the second round of selection, but in the end someone else got the nod. Not in a hurry to get back on a treadmill after the last ten years either; it took me two weeks after New Year before I could even begin to let go, and I have finally time to pursue some private projects.
Thanks for the update. Unless a SigForum member speaks and reads German, it’s fairly hard to follow what’s going on in Germany. Having someone on the ground can give us a better perspective rather than what is filtered thru the news media.
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." — Mark Twain
Thanks for the heads up, that's some good reading. I had hoped to see more on defense side but I'm glad they capped the refugees. I'm a little surprised that they are putting more money into the EU.
If you are ever in Wiesbaden, first beer is on me.
Frankly, a lot of the phrasing in the agreement is just so that the parties can say they got in their demands, but redundant to reality. For example, the ca. 200,000 cap on refugees is an old pet demand by the Bavarian conservatives; in truth numbers have been below that the last two years following the 2015 crisis already, and rejecting any comers beyond that would be straight unconstitutional, counter to the UN Refugee Convention, etc. anyway. What you can do of course is counting people you admit voluntarily against those, and reinstating family reunions for those with subsidiary protection status was an SPD demand; however again, actual throughput is determined by how quickly German embassies process applications, and the number of family members joining those arrived in Germany last year has been counted in dozens, far from the supposedly strict limit of 1,000 per month.
Similarly, the section on Europe was urged by the Social Democrats who wanted to latch on to the French president's recent initiatives of strengthening the EU, but they might as well have spared the ink; with the impending Brexit the relative share in the EU budget gets bigger for anyone else anyway. In fact redistribution of shares is a major pressure point for net payers like Germany in the current negotiations about the next multi-year financial framework, since they want net receivers to abide more strictly to the common European agreements in return.
Additional details for defense:
- A draft law to increase availability of military personnel through more competitive pay, more flexible regulations, better compensation for the challenges soldier face through transfers and improved social security will be introduced this year.
- Training structures wil be evaluated, and where appropriate centralized training will revert to the troops (for example, it used to be that future officers and NCOs grew up in the battalions to which they returned between school courses. These days, officer candidates train in dedicated non-branch-specific units in the name of better personnel management, from where they go to Bundeswehr Uni and thence to the force as first lieutenants without having spent a day with the troops, which is anathema to oldtimers like me).
- Military bases earmarked for or already transfered to civilian use will be looked at again in view of possible future needs due to changes of policy and personnel concerning the revised threat assessment for Eastern Europe.
- Procurement organization will be further revised. For all the mishandling of "scandals" in the Bundeswehr last year you can blame acting Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen for, she has done a good job on shaking up the good old boys networks who used to provide the troops with equipment over time, over budget and short of specifications. Also, exemptions to European competition rules will be used better to safeguard national leadership in military technologies.
- An Agency for Disruptive Innovations in Cyber Security and Key Technologies will be installed by the Minstries of Defense and Interior along with an IT security funds for the protection of relevant key technologies.
- Within the framework of the new European Security Union, development of a Eurodrone will be further pursued. The Israeli Heron TP will be procured as a stopgap for the Bundeswehr. Parliament will decide separately on procurement of armament (before the elections the SPD suddenly vetoed procurement of the Heron on the grounds that the agreed "extensive political debate on armed UAVs" hadn't occurred when in truth it had two years before already). Extra-legal killings by UAV are categorically rejected.
The base referendum of the Social Democrats on the coalition agreement came out 66 percent of valid ballots in favor today, with a 78 percent turnout. Not quite the 75 percent assent of four years ago, but nonetheless a clear yes; so I guess that's that. No date has been set for the forming of the new government, but I expect it will be before the end of the month. The SPD intends to announce its cabinet ministers only on 12 March "so they don't get burned in public debate in the meantime"; and if you believe they can keep the list from leaking out before, I have a job offer for an SPD chancellor to sell you. Because over the course of the last weeks the party managed to destroy yet another national chairman and plunge to yet another historic low in the polls.
Martin Schulz' reversal reversal on joining a Merkel cabinet pissed the party off so much that he stepped back from it two days later to save the base referendum. This came after acting foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel complained publically about unfaithfulness towards him, as he had supposedly been promised to keep the position when he ceded the top candidacy to Schulz before the national campaign last year, poisoned chalice though that might have been. Already having announced his handing over party leadership to Andrea Nahles, this will make Schulz a mere Bundestag backbencher
In fact he stated to hand over chairmanship to Nahles provisionally the next week already, way ahead of the April convention where the change would have been put to the vote. Which looked rather like jumping out of a burning tower and actually pissed off the party even more, because the base was upset with the way Nahles, who is currently not even a member of the national board, was being foisted on them without an election. People demanded another base vote on the position, with several members from the booneys throwing their hat in the ring already. In the end, Hamburg Lord Mayor Olaf Scholz took over as Schulz' duly elected deputy, but at this point the party was in utter disarray.
By mid-February they had crashed to 15-18 percent in national polls from an already historically bad election result of 20.5; the old joke about the SPD's "Project 18" (originally a campaign by the liberal FDP to reach that number from below) doesn't look so funny right now. Currently they're just three to five points removed from the AfD, and one pollster actually has them half a point below the newcomers; though the starker numbers are by companies who are prone to volatiliy, and are fringe-friendly due to internet-based surveys. It should be kept in mind we're talking about the same pollsters whose SPD numbers went through the roof after the coronation of Martin Schulz early last year. Still, fear of the party's fate was probably a motivator in the positive result of the base referendum on the coalition agreement; in case of new elections, they might well have dropped behind the AfD.
Well, nobody has claimed SPD national chairman was a job with long-term prospects at least since Oskar Lafontaine kicked Rudolf Scharping over the ledge back in 1995. But this is Germany's oldest existing party, its roots going back to 1863, which declared the Republic in 1918 by its subsequent first President Friedrich Ebert and provided its first three heads of government, was the only party to vote against handing the Nazis dictatorial powers in 1933; and has had chancellors like Willy Brandt, who embarked on a then-controversial reconcillation policy with Eastern Europe in the 70s, and Helmut Schmidt, who steered the Republic through the heyday of left-wing terrorism and designed NATO's double-track decision of countering Soviet IRBM deployment with the basing of Pershing 2 and cruise missiles in Europe. Even Gerhard Schröder, for all you can say about him otherwise, made the necessary hard calls with Germany's first military combat missions since WW II in the 90s and the welfare reforms from 2003.
The current SPD merely never fails to take the spotlight off Angela Merkel's CDU, which is still embroiled in its own debate about future direction. Other than the Young Socialists, surprisingly nobody on either side seems to have issues with the content of the negotiated coalition agreement; everybody is just complaining about post distribution. In the CDU, many are unhappy that Merkel ceded the finance ministry to the Social Democrats, and other competences to the Bavarian conservatives of the CSU; internal state and gender arithmetics also seemed to result in many hopefuls of the younger generation not ending up in cabinet, like current Finance State Secretary Jens Spahn, who is the conservative wing's poster child for having been critical of Merkel's policies. For example, Merkel had promised to give half of the CDU/CSU cabinet posts to women. And in both CDU and SPD, East Germans are complaining that the chancellor seems to be the only one of them in the next cabinet.
Two weeks ago Merkel announced Saarland State Minister President Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK for short) to be the party's next secretary general, replacing luckless and health-troubled Peter Tauber in a somewhat surprising move, since this is generally considered a step down in a political career; it was seen as Merkel finally starting to organize her succession. AKK has long been touted as her possible heiress since she is close to her to the point of being called a Mini-Merkel. Yet even the chancellor's conservative critics welcomed the choice, crediting Kramp-Karrenbauer with being able to straddle the party's wings due to her socially conservative positions. However, they were still demanding some of their representatives from the younger generation (which AKK is not, at 55) to be included in the next cabinet. Merkel finally yielded and announced Jens Spahn to be the next health minister at the expense of her close ally, incumbent Hermann Gröhe, who was pushed out by the aforementioned arithmetics.
This satisfied the critics, and a CDU convention voted for the coalition agreement despite an unusually extensive and critical debate with only 27 out of 975 delegates against; Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was also elected new secretary general with a rather socialist 98.9 percent after a celebrated speech. It is widely held that the competition for Merkel's succession and overall direction of the party will be between her and Spahn. Either way, provided that she doesn't succumb to the eternal politician's lure to run just one more time in three-and-a-half years, Merkel would be the first chancellor to leave office on her own accord; all her predecessors were voted out or, in the case of Konrad Adenauer, had to agree to hand over the office at half-time in his fourth term to win the FDP for a coalition government in 1961.
|Gracie Allen is my |
This may be a perverse question (not to mention a difficult thing to predict), but what are the odds of AKK and Spahn getting all of the noise as heirs presumptive only to have someone else become chancellor? It seems as though Merkel's put so much into getting a workable coalition that the CDU doesn't have a very distinctive program. I mean, if they did, wouldn't more parties be more critical of the coalition agenda?
und die Menge wurde wild mit Delirium und die Einwanderer stießen den großen Kanzler an. Nicht.
”The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.”
امّا شما مشخص خواهد شد كه با همه شما را ملاقات کنند
Well, obviously a lot can happen in three years. In the mid-90s, everbody took for granted that then-interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble was Helmut Kohl's heir apparent in the CDU. Then Kohl got a bug up his ass about running for a fifth term and was promptly shot down in flames. Schäuble became national party chairman and Bundestag opposition leader, but had to step down two years later over revelations of illegal donations to the CDU under Kohl, who refused to name the donors because "he had given them his word" (the sources were originally declared "Jewish inheritances"; actually it probably was mostly industry money laundered in Switzerland for black party coffers since the 70s). Angela Merkel, whom Kohl had taken into his first post-reunification cabinet as minister for women and youth because she was, well, a woman, young and East German, and was always belittled as "Kohl's girl", took the chance for a public reckoning with her mentor and rose to the top.
The CDU is usually described as a "chancellor election club"; ideology is not so important as long as the head cheese can keep them in power. It's no accident that their chancellors have been in office more often and longer than the SPD's. The SPD has wasted theirs for doing the right thing against what felt good to the party - Helmut Schmidt's support eroded over his pushing for the NATO Double-Track Decision, and the party crumbled under Gerhard Schröder over the Hartz welfare reforms. The CDU has stuck to Merkel despite her taking over any position that looked like the opposition could rise on it, abolishing military conscription, quitting nuclear power, legalizing gay marriage etc., because her strategy delivered at the ballot, particularly by winning voters from the increasing urban demographic among which the party has traditionally scored badly. She got burned early on when her support for US policy on Iraq and plans for a simplified tax system cost her the first and nearly the second bid for chancellorship, and became flexible to the point of arbitrariness in government. That allowed her to use political capital for the few things she really thought vital, like keeping the European project together - the driver behind her controversial policy both in saving Greece from financial ruin and during the refugee crisis.
Historically, the CDU was formed post-WW II as a trans-denominational Christian center-right party (as opposed to the Catholic "Zentrum" of the Weimar Republic) and officially builds itself on three pillars - classical conservatism, economic liberalism and Christian social teachings. These somewhat contradictory traditions have actually critically shaped the successful "social market economy" system of post-war Germany which holds that with economic success comes social responsibility; it is particularly connected with the CDU's economic minister and later chancellor Ludwig Erhard who presided over West Germany's "economic miracle" after WW II until 1966. However, the party's conservative wing has long been withering away. Even in the 80s, its adherents began complaining when Kohl's announced "mental-moral turnaround" in politics didn't materialize, and there have been increasing charges of the "social-democratization" of the party under Merkel. There are very few notable proponents of this wing now, and most are of the outgoing generation, though some inner-party circles of conservatives have formed lately.
However - the CDU's inherent flexibility also means that if overall German politics shift right again after the development of the last decades, it can probably adapt to that, too, without breaking apart like parties on the left tend to do. Largely because alternatives for disgruntled conservatives forming on the right have generally rapidly devolved into straight Nazidom. That happened to the Republicans which were formed in the 80s by former CSU members who were pissed off by Bavarian State Minister President Franz-Josef Strauß negotiating a billion-Mark credit for the DDR in return for easing the inner-German border regime, dismantling the self-triggered shooting devices etc., but were taken over by former Waffen-SS member Franz Schönhuber and flooded by old and new Nazis. The current AfD long looked like the first serious choice, but has taken the wrong turn at every crossroads to becoming sort of a national CSU to the right of the CDU. Their West German conservative pro-market wing still exists, but they have steadily been losing ground against the Western anti-American, anti-Israel-to-anti-Semitic, pro-Russian "death before establishment" wing and the essentially national-and-socialist Eastern wing - these guys not only want to turn back the Schröderian welfare reforms, but have been glorifying the social amenities of the old DDR. In fact they have attracted many previous voters of both the SPD and Left Party; they are also sharing the anti-Western liberalism outlook with the latter.
A debate is ongoing in the CDU over how far the party should go to win back their own voters who have gone to the AfD. As I see it, the issue is less about reinstating conservative positions - the party has already implemented considerably more restrictive policies on immigration in the last two years for example, not least because the refugee crisis permitted them to push them through against their coalition partner of the SPD; that's just the good old Merkelian way of going with the shifts of popular mood. The real question is how far the party can stretch to also accommodate its voters in the political center, where most are to be had. Both the CDU and SPD are considered Volksparteien, able to cover large segments of society, but the SPD has arguably lost that status by now as they have been reduced to below 20 percent after their voters were subsequently taken away by the Greens, Left Party, CDU and AfD. It will be interesting to see how the CDU as the remaining large-ish party deals with the programmatic challenge, and who will come out on top to implement the results for the next elections.
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