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@Zyme, "What do you mean? "

Huh? What do you mean? It must be getting late.

@ SeanM

Schröder simply knows how to handle the media :)

btw does anyone of you know Martin Hohmann? That former CDU MP who was kicked out of the party after he presented his opinion on the german jews in a speech to his followers?

"+++ Knappes Rennen in Fulda +++

[21.19] Der umstrittene rechtskonservative Ex-CDU-Politiker Martin Hohmann liefert sich im hessischen Wahlkreis 176 nach ersten Ergebnissen mit dem CDU-Kandidaten Michael Brand ein Kopf-an-Kopf-Rennen um das Direktmandat. Nach Auszählungen in fünf von insgesamt 35 Städten und Gemeinden erreichte der ehemals für die Union in den Bundestag gekommene Hohmann 5876 Erststimmen. Brand dagegen kam auf 6059 Stimmen. Die SPD-Kandidatin Claudia Blum erschien mit 4720 Erststimmen zunächst abgeschlagen."

Now what if he wins in Fulda, and takes the Conservatives a desperatly needed seat in the new Bundestag? *lol*

@seanm, charlie

$1.5m seems a pretty low price for a former G7 head of state... I'm sure there's all kind of bonuses though and it would be rich indeed to have him working for the epitome of American capitalism.

@zyme

Times like these I wonder just how deep the roots of representative democracy are in Germany.

I'm a lurker, first time commenter, and a loyal Green supporter... under the circumstances, from a leftist perspective, this is a better result than I had feared. Combined with New Zealand and Norway, it hasn't been nearly as bad a week for the centre-lefties round the world as we had been warned we would have.

Niko, you have convinced me. I allowed my hopefulness of Angela's rhetoric to mislead me. Three months ago, I knew that there was little support for Americans in any German party. I unlearned that -- wrongly -- in the last few months.

I am trying to work up a good Schadenfreude about Germany continuing to have 1.2% growth and 11% unemployment, hoping that will make them likely to vote FDP next time, but expecting things to get bad enough to force change is seldom a winning strategy. I would have rather the Germans moved in a free-market strategy now. I find that other nations -- wild generalization -- don't grasp American foreign policy until they the hard edge of the market. That somehow firms up their understanding of firm edges in general.

I will ask, however, Niko. Didn't Schroder's resurgence coincide with his stepping up his anti-American rhetoric in the debate and in his campaigning?

@ SeanM, @ the snob:

Thanks for your comments. I agree with both of you. Even if Merrill had a lucrative contract with Schroeder, they'd likely keep their lips zipped. Standard procedure, really. Lastly, it is amusing to think of Schroeder working in a city and at a profession so well-marinated in the ideals of capitalism, one would think it'd make him almost blush...almost ;)

@Zyme

"Now what if he wins in Fulda, and takes the Conservatives a desperatly needed seat in the new Bundestag? *lol*"

Well: Zero. As the CDU is not going to win any "Überhangmandat" in the state of Hessen, their total result in that state does not depend on the result in Fulda. Let me know if you need further explanations.

Come on, it's very far from the truth to say that Schroeder got voted in simply because of anti-Americanism. Of course, he brought up his stance on the war in Iraq as can be expected (given that it's a popular position in Germany). But Schroeder also focused heavily on Kirchof's so-called "Flat-Tax", the belief that the CDU/CSU would make big cuts to the welfare state, and also Merkel's lack of experience. Quite simply put, he out-debated her, as was seen in the televised debate two weeks ago. Schroeder is a far more charismatic leader than Merkel will ever be able to be, and in the end I think that perhaps charisma and personality mattered far more than either main party's policies.

As for what's going to happen now... well, frankly that's anyone's guess. Possibilities I guess would be:
* SPD, Green, Die Linke
* SPD, Green, FDP
* SPD, CDU
* CDU, Green, FDP

Almost all of these options seem fairly unlikely though. Die Linke and the SPD are adamantly refusing to even discuss a coalition, the FDP have already declared that they won't enter into a coalition with the SPD & Greens, Schroeder and his SPD have declared they won't enter into a coalition with the CDU. In fact, strangely enough, I think the CDU/Green/FDP coalition is the least unlikely. That said, none of these possibilities seem very plausible or workable.

Niko, I have to point out that Blair is no socialist - certainly not of the traditional (or European) type. He's significantly more right-wing than Merkel and probably than the rest of the CDU and FDP parties. While he has increased spending in the NHS (health service), he has drastically cut welfare benefits, and the top rate of income tax (for earnings over £30,000 - $54,000 or €44,000) is only 40%.

My personal view is that fresh elections are probably the result of this vote. Whatever happens, it's certainly going to be an interesting, if rocky, road ahead in German politics for the next few months.

It seems the German people are going to as they say "live in interesting times."

Good luck as I plan on putting as much pressure on my government to disolve and disentangle all relationships with Germany and NATO as quickly as humanly possible.

No, Blair is more right-wing than Merkel because:
1. He has drastically cut welfare benefits since he came to power. Bear in mind that they weren't exactly high in 1997, as the Conservatives were in power beforehand. It's also not true to say that "he opposes further cuts to the welfare system" - having slashed unemployment benefit, he's now planning to take on the disabled and cut incapacity benefit.
2. Blair has failed to reinstate the link between pensions and earnings, and partly as a result, we now have lower pensions than even the USA. (UK 37.1%; USA 38.6%; Germany 45.8%; France 52.9%; Sweden 64.8% of average earnings, source OECD)
3. Blair has introduced both Tuition Fees (1998) - around £1250 a year - and now Top-up-Fees (2005) - up to £3000 a year into university education
4. The reason I mentioned the 40% income tax rate was that this is the main reason that spending on benefits, pensions and tuition fees has decreased. Kirchof's tax plan to decrease income tax to 25% of course would be a more right-wing taxation policy than both Blair's and the former tax policy of the CDU.

Blair does not at all "favor increased immigration with no questions asked". That's absolute rubbish, and an idea perpetuated by the Conservatives and the rest of the Right during our recent election. In fact, asylum admissions into the UK are now lower than in 1995, when the Tories were in power, and asylum applications have fallen 65% in the last two years alone... (source: UNHCR)

Re Iraq - I certainly don't want this to become a long and protracted argument about the war in Iraq (such arguments have proven themselves to be never-ending and ultimately pointless), but no, I don't think his support for it made him a right-winger. There is a minority opinion on the left which believes that the Iraq war was just on human rights grounds (Harry's Place and David Aaronovitch, for example).

@ Nico
I just read the first lot of the comments (sorry - no time for all of them) where you wrote: "the FDP will jump ship and join SPD/Greens. Mark my words."
You obviously know very little about German politics especially the if it concerns the FDP.
The "jump ship mentality" as you call it of the FDP, that was ages ago and is a bad mark that's still making them smell foul for a lot of voters ...
So - one thing is absolutely sure - they will NOT enter a coalition with the SPD. They promised it, they got voted for that, they said it the whole evening in every statement - and they would be out of politics for a minimum of 20 years if they did.
They already had this "experience" years ago and they are glad they recovered from the nearly dead - a coalition with the SPD at this state would be complete suicide.

This estimation comes from someone who has voted FDP at many many elections.

I had the impression that Westerwelle was trying to give a strong commitment that - at least under his leadership - the FDP would not join an "Ampel" coalition tonight. After all his talk during the last week, and especially today, he would be finished if he changed his mind about cooperating with Schröder. And with the exceptional election result for the FDP, it is unlikely that anyone else in the party would dare to challenge their leader on that.
The game Münte and Schröder seem to be playing with the FDP is that the SPD is now trying to create the illusion that Red-Green-Yellow was still an option in order to improve their bargaining position with the CDU, while Westerwelle has every incentive to destroy that illusion in order to make the CDU appear as the stronger partner in such a coalition. The "Black Ampel" may still have a remote chance, but at the moment, it doesn't seem to me that any party is placing their bets on that possibility right now.

1. I don't know much about the FDP's internal politics, and the personalities that drive the party. Its probably the only party that comes close to the Libertarian Party. However, there is no principled libertarian party in Germany.

(a) It appears to me that the most likely scenario is the SDP & CDU grand coalition. It means there will never be a radical economic reform in Germany. The concept of aboliting the income tax (the most hideous tax) is absolutely foreign to them. The next close thing was the flat tax, but that is nowhere to be seen either. So, they are left with (i) a complicated tax system, which probably is 14,593 pages (I am being sarcastic), which only tax lawyers and accountant can understand. So the little people are screwed, because they can't afford to hire tax lawyers and CPAs to find loopholes in the tax code, (ii) state spending a large portion of the GDP with promises to the future generation that the state will pay for the health care and pension (of course the state has to steal ...ooops tax the money from individuals to pay for the services), (iii) labor market which is not free, but regulated and encourages higher unemployment, (iv) taxes on capital formation, which discourages creation of jobs and business.

Its the same old, same old.

Q: Why would the FDP want to be associated with a failure?

(b) the second likely scenario is SDP/LP/Green coalition. See above, except with a much terrible outcome.

2. Maybe the FDP should sit and watch how Germany is slowly crumbling (low competitiveness, high unemployment, lower state benefits, lower economic growth, higher trade barriers, protectionism, more power to the trade unions, more strikes, etc).

Then, hopefully, either the CDU will adopt free-market, libertarian positions, or maybe (not likely) the voters will vote for the FDP and accept some austere measures for the sake of the future generation.

1. Calling the parties or the political/economic theories right-wing and left-wing is confusing, inaccurate and incomplete .

2. This site has the world's smallest political quiz - http://www.theadvocates.org/index.html

Look at the upper right portion.

(a) In essence there are 5 positions/political theories/parties:

1. Libertarian;
2. Liberal;
3. Conservative;
4. Centrist;
5. Authoritarian.

(b) Now you can see that dividing people into right and left is incomplete, inaccurate and misleading.

(c) The test is simple - how much (i) economic and (ii) personal freedom should an individual have viz-a-viz the state.


3. Here is the link to the The US National Libertarian Party - http://www.lp.org/issues/issues.shtml, where you can learn and educate yourself about the libertarians party issues.

4. Here is a Libertarian Purity Test - http://www.bcaplan.com/cgi/purity.cgi

Be reminded that the libertarians are not uniform and they come in different forms - haha. However, in general they believe in more economic and personal freedoms for an individual, and less economic and personal power to the all-knowing, all-understanding, all-generous, all-providing, all-caring state.

I believe all pre-election promises about future party alliances are now null and void, given that the people have spoken. As Konrad argued above, all talk since the election last night is part of the bargaining process, not attempts to solidify positions. The process is going to be long because the major parties have lost relative to the smaller parties and that's going to cost them some measure of control over future events. In the course of the deliberations, a lot of previously entrenched positions will crumble. The Greens and the FDP are the big winners who are now in a position to bargain their way into more powerful positions. Keeping in mind Thade's objection that the FDP have made fundamental promises to their base, I suggest the likely alliances, in order of probability are as follows:

1. SPD, Greens, FDP
2. SPD, Greens, Linke
3. SPD, CDU
4. CDU, FDP, Greens

While I agree with Thade that the FDP would lose all credibility if they should announce an SPD/Green/FDP alliance this morning, in the coming days and possibly weeks, the FDP will be faced with scenario #2, which would appeal to their voter base even less. The only scenario that would not be so painful for the pre-established positions would be #4, CDU/FDP/Green. Unfortunately the total vote for the left (SPD/Linke/Greens) is, at this stage, greater than 50%, even if all parties have ruled out an alliance with the Linke: the people have spoken and the Linke received over a quarter of the vote in the former East Germany.

I only give a Grand Coalition third place in the probability stakes because it's too large and unwieldy. Compared to scenario #1 and #2, the SPD would surrender too much of their power to the CDU, and vice versa. As well, internal disputes among the governing parties would fracture the alliance as both major parties formed shifting alliances with the smaller parties to help push various contentious policies through.

Whatever outcome, I would not be surprised to see the final result delayed for two weeks while we await the delayed election in Dresden. In the meantime I expect all former positions to crumble, reform, realign, shift again...

@Sean,

I agree with the probability ranking but the #1 option is 95% likely.

People who don't understand that undersestimate the greed of the FDP suits and overvalue their coalition statement towards the CDU.

The only other significant possibility is that they all jockey for position and we have soon new elections.

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