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I'm totally unfamiliar with how Germany's electoral system works, but does Germany have a system where the ruling party can call a snap election, like say Canada or Israel? Or is it like the U.S. where results have to be endured with for 2 whole years until the next election?

The only time that an early election for the Bundestag (the lower house) can be called is when the president calls for an election after the governing majority loses a confidence vote. This election actually is an early election since there was around one year left in the Bundestag's term (the last election was in 2002). Schroder purposefully scheduled and lost a confidence vote on 1st July after his party lost big time in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, which is usually a stronghold of Schroder's party, the SPD.

Looking at the percentages, it doesn't look seem either SPD or the christian dems won. They both lost. It looks like the freaking communists won, or at least gained the most. They gained 52 seats and now have roughly equal representation as Greens and FDP. (FDP is the free market party, right?)

Am i the only one here that thinks Germany should stew in it's own crap for a little longer -- i mean really -- isn't pain a great motivator? 11% unemployment sucks... but 15% or 20% would really suck!

Lets not have a half victory here -- 4 more years of dickhead should most likely put most of the german population on our side. - Hopefully!..... But if not, more weakness to them - more power to us!

Badboy you're right, maybe they should let it all go down the tubes to finally wake up. But then again Germans have a talent for blaming the wrong reasons for their problems (the opposition, Bush, America, the environment, evil employers, oil companies...). They could come to the conclusion that the government just wasn't left enough and end up even voting the PDS back into power next time around. And the US isn't going to bail them out of voluntary communism again.

Looks like Merkey the Turkey laid an egg.

To give due credit, Schroeder's political skills look downright Clintonesque. I thought he was crazy to call that election.

According to a previous post, the conservatives would be winning without unification. From across the Atlantic, reunification looked like a transformational change imposed in a business-as-usual manner. A bold step or a reckless one? At the time, it seemed bold.

The CDU's experience should be another cautionary note to the USA's Republican party, which is pursuing a number of risky policies while trying to keep the electorate's lives unruffled.

'in deep trouble...'

...an understatement if ever I read one. At a time when Germany, in particular, needs a strong sentiment for reform to bring about the conviction necessary for a complete change of direction, the only over-ridingly strong sentiment is their hatred of the US.

The German-Franco-Arab Pact have certainly done their job well....

What this closeness show is how poorly Merkel campaigned and how badly Gerd is hated. The Greens lost a hope to be in any government now or if a new election is held.

I think we will see a new election because no government can form or show confidence and this is only good news for the SPD if true.

Well, assuming everybody keeps to their announcements as to whom they would partner with under what conditions, the only possible government is Merkel as head of a CDU-FDP-Green coalition.

Of course, we know how good the words of politicians are, but if the CDU (as seems likely) refuses junior-partner status in a Grand Coalition, and the FDP holds fast to its no to any Red-Yellow-Green coalition, Schroeder can only get enough votes to remain Chancellor if the Greens stick and he forms a coalition with Linke despite his declarations.

Please don't tell me the Greens are still a force to be reckoned with. Please. Gah.

I wondered about those pre-election polls. I thought 25% undecided was awfully large.

Oh. And let us not forget. Afghanistan went to the polls also. And they shed their blood to do so.

No German can be happy with this outcome. As for conservative Americans, tired of German hostility, I suppose it's Schadenfreude time, though I say so with little enthusiasm. Perhaps one short term result will be a muting of anti-American criticism, as the German polity focuses on domestic problems. I do get the strongest sense that Germany is a sick, discontented society now, economically, politically, and socially. I question the country's ability to work out its problems -- looks like reunification has created/recreated an ungovernable mess. I am reminded of the deep fissures in German politics in the Weimar era.

But isn't the FDP rise a good thing? Especially if they are part of the ruling coalition.

The German voters were called on to answer the most burning political question of the day, namely, "Should Germany change its course and introduce reforms to ensure its long-term solvency whilst fighting the Nanny State lethargy?" The voters responded with an overwhelming, "Jein."

It has been interesting to read all of the comments especially those of the Germans who voted and whose lives will be effected by the outcome of this election.

Surely each party and each leading candidate can claim victory for themselves and their parties just as each one can equally be called a loser to some degree.

There has been much speculation about the members as well as the leaders of the new government, which will be formed from this election.

Looking at any combination of parties to form a majority will not reflect where the German people are. There is a huge void of understanding of both Germany’s current condition and Germany’s future. Reality and the future were never the central themes of this campaign.

No one ever really spoke to this. So the German people we left to decide the future without a common understanding.

Even if there had been a full and open debate on reality, I personally am not sure that Germany would be ready for change. I actually question if Germany can ever change. There are just too many people who depend on the social welfare state for some benefit and fear the loss of those benefits. It is OK to talk about change as long as those changes do not effect your life. When those changes might, then most people reconsider their choices.

In the case of Germans, the past is always better than the future. The known better than the unknown. To break this cycle requires a strong leader. There appears to be no such leader in Germany one that can marshal the strengths and courage of the German people and move the nation forward.

No matter which parties form the next government it will be both weak and ineffective. that is unless you consider the past 7 years to have been effective. The German people have not given any party or leader a mandate to move Germany from where it is today to some point in the future.

So Germany will drift even more and will continue its decline as more time is wasted.

No rational person should consider the outcome of this election a success.


What a disaster. Leaving this country behind looks better every day. Only, what does a German lawyer do in the US?

Schröder sure looks like Clinton, except for - lacking Bill´s convictions. Germany is like a patient that fears the doctor, because he could diagnose the pain as something seriuous. Rather than the truth, we like to leave the illusion intact. Maybe once unemployment is at 20%, growth is negative and unrest starts, maybe once the suffering grows, things will change. Until then: fear of change, jealousy and mediocrity will continue to rule.

@Hanjo

LOL.. Schroeder is like Clinton except he doesn't have convictions..
was that supposed to be ironic? I sure hope you don't think Clinton has convictions!!!
Sorry, your comment is great and I agree with it, I do compare Schroeder with Clinton myself.. except I like you caveat.. without the convictions..
Schroder is Clinton without morals..
Hey I did vote for Clinton twice, but in the meantime I ahve become a neocon..

@ amiexpat
Ironic it was meant to be. Schröder does the Chancellor Show, and for reasons I cannot fathom, Germans prefer froth over substance.

I would not wish this mess on anyone. Germany has enough conflict already between what use to be East and West Germany.

On some boards people are blaming Merkel but in the end German voters chose this outcome-you have to ask why?

In effect they voted to nullify much of the leadership potential of the "new" government to effectively coast for awhile. Neutralizing government sometimes is not a bad idea-it can keep politicians from implementing "new" ideas that effectively could make things worse.

Is that what Germans have been seeing governmental policies that have actually made the economy worse?

I just wish that Germans could have chosen to "coast" with their economy in a better place-and unfortunately-that the growing or continued bitterness between East and West Germany-I feel-from reading der Spiegel{Are they correct? Did they incourage the division? This is something the American media thrives on!} actually was a situation that was begging for a strong unifying leadership to correct but somehow the German electorate voted the potential for that away yesterday.

Germans saw fit to send aid to us in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina - I hope that in a week or two we amis will reciprocate in the wake of Germany's disaster.


Leaving this country behind looks better every day. Only, what does a German lawyer do in the US?

Work for the ACLU?


Hey I did vote for Clinton twice, but in the meantime I ahve become a neocon.

I'm still waiting to meet the conservative who became liberal. Welcome to the club. ;)

Clinton has convictions. He was disbarred for suborning perjury, to name one.

Hanjo, International Corporate Law, but you already knew that. ;-) Enjoy New York.

Doug, you're still waiting for the R who became a D? Didn't you watch the news? There were Repubs that had become Demons all over the place and they were voting for sKerry because they wanted courage and honesty. Didn't you believe them? ;-)

"I'm still waiting to meet the conservative who became liberal."

www.andrewsullivan.com

Though to be honest, even when Andrew was a "conservative" he still demonstrated the crass emotional sentimentalism and histrionics that liberals are so fond of. I suppose that's what made the transistion easy.

Wiithout Schadenfreude, the arrival of Die Linke as a force in national politics doesn't seem like a good development. Weren't many of them involved in unsavory ways with the former SED regime in the DDR?

Doug, even before someone had offered the name of Andrew Sullivan I was formulating my response, as I have considered this before. The only time you see conservatives becoming liberals is when they want to get laid. Whether it's in college, middle age, or old age, you can almost always trace it back to that.

David, the regional picture is quite interesting: old East Germany, or bordering France and the Netherlands: SPD with stronger support, and Linke and Greens higher percentages. Everything else, CDU/CSU, with higher FDP percentage. That bears some Red State/Blue State similarity.

If Bush had supported gay marriage, Sullivan would have worshipped him..
Sullivan got old on the issue after awhile.

There were Repubs that had become Demons all over the place and they were voting for sKerry because they wanted courage and honesty. Didn't you believe them? ;-)

Of course not. I can recognize courage and honesty. ;)

@Jason - good case, I'd forgotten Sully - and I agree with your assessment. I just mean that of the conservatives I know, it seems like most were once liberal. Of the liberals I know... it seems like ALL were once liberal. If you catch my meaning.


When Sully gives birth to a child, I'll support gay marriage.

Sorry, I can't buy the comparisons between Schroeder and Clinton. I voted for Clinton in 1992 and for Dole in 1996 because I couldn't stand the smell.

But let's be objective. Clinton got a BJ and copped a few feels - and lied about it. In light of the events of 9/11 and since it all looks a little trivial. In Clinton's favor is the fact that he presided over a country which became more prosperous and more powerful during his watch. He has also been a productive and supportive ex-President.

Schroeder - well what has Schroeder done? He's watched while German unemployment rose over 5 million, and he's done major and lasting damage to relations with the US. In his favor he has pushed some half-hearted economic reforms through a resisting party.

A more apt comparison for Schroeder is with Jimmy Carter - another half-hearted reformer. As an ex-President Carter has reliably carped at and undermined the efforts of every one of his successors in the office - much has Schroeder has done to Bush.

@Don, "Clinton... presided over a country which became more prosperous and more powerful during his watch. He has also been a productive and supportive ex-President. Schroeder - well what has Schroeder done?"

To be fair, you must ask how Clinton's legacy would appear today if his Presidency had started in 1998, at the beginning of the millenium tech bubble, and included 911 and its aftermath. Impossible to say with any certainty but it does start to raise more reasonable comparisons.

"He has also been a productive and supportive ex-President. "

Clinton left office in disgrace, having been impeached, pardoning an unbelievable range of rascals, plundering White House property and losing his law license. His stature today derives directly from the attempts of George Bush (#43) to rehabilitate him. Were the tables turned and that had been Bush leaving in January 2001, a Clinton presidency would have lost no time in denouncing him and keeping him in a Nixon-like wilderness. Bush will pay the price of this lack of Politic when Clinton inevitably turns on him, as he has already started to do, from his new found position of prestige.

I'm afraid I can't agree, SeanM. Perhaps your argument about starting in 1998 would hold some weight if we were comparing Bush 43 with Clinton - but we're not. We're comparing Clinton with Schroeder - and Schroeder is far worse.

Even if we were to compare 1998-2005 as a basis for comparison between Clinton and Schroeder, however, can is be doubted that the US is doing far better than Germany has during that period?

Would Clinton have 'denounced' Bush 43 had the tables been turned? I can only judge from what Clinton's actual behavior after succeeding Bush 41. I don't recall any unusual denunciations and castings out into Nixon-like wilderness. Clinton could be dangerous as active foes like Gingrich, Hyde, and Livingston could testify - but he tended to ignore people who weren't a political threat - like Bush 41.

I think Bush 43 and Clinton have made good use of each other politically. Bush has treated Clinton with respect, and Clinton has made it very clear that most of the actions taken by the Bush administration had their roots in discussions during the Clinton administration. Clinton has I think been more supportive of Bush 43 than anyone had the right to expect.

@Don, "I can only judge from what Clinton's actual behavior after succeeding Bush 41"

I don't believe Clinton was evil: there was no reason for him to denounce Bush #41 and may not have worked had he tried. Nixon had been threatened with impeachment so resigned, leaving the office in disgrace. Clinton had refused to resign after having been impeached. My comparison was to how an ex-president would be treated by Clinton under such circumstances. Bush #43 has rehabilitated Clinton, most recently by bringing him together with his father to oversee tsunami relief.

On your point regarding Schroeder, we are in more agreement. However when Schroeder was elected he had no real policy for how to implement his promise of reducing unemployment, other than blind belief in himself and/or hope that the world's economic climate would improve, raising German's boat on the rising tide. To begin with, the millenium/tech bubble had some early positive effects, but once the wave had crested in 2000, the German economy was left to struggle, with no improvement, and indeed some worsening in the employment situation.

To compare Clinton to Schroeder, I try to imagine, given Clinton's record, how he would have handled a similar situation as Schroeder starting in 1998. It's hard to imagine Clinton not taking credit for the dramatic improvement in the economy in 1999-2000, but how would he look five years later after the bubble burst? Now many may believe that he would have magically managed the situation better, but they forget how poorly the economy performed in Clinton's first two years. At the time, 1993-4 was widely termed the slowest economic recovery on record, principally due to the tax increases he'd enacted in 1993.

What we can say, is that since January 2001, and despite the tragedy of 911, Bush #43 has performed remarkably better than Schroeder. If however, it all turns out to be due to deficit financing and not the fundamental strength of the economy, history will not judge Bush well either.

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