Swings Back For Schr�der/Fischer

It seems that in the aftermath of the debate, Gerhard Schröder’s possible coalition partners have unexpectedly regained some inner poise as the German election campaign goes pirouetting into its last ten days of not-quite-frenzied democracy. The CDU and FDP both lost one point in polls taken for Stern and RTL, with the SPD three points up, the Left one point down and the Greens unchanged. Even though the SPD is still six points down on the CDU, this may be a key moment – as the potential rightwing coalition is now no longer a majority.

It was a good day for the Chancellor, as he put on 4 percentage points of personal approval – which takes him to 17 points up on Angela Merkel, at 48 to 31. This may perhaps explain why, as Jörg Lau blogs here, Germany is being covered in SPD posters featuring little else than big pictures of yer man. As a further reminder never to write off lumbering and traditionalistic German institutions, the FAZ reports today that German industry beat everybody’s production forecasts for July. For the two-month period June-July, output in manufacturing, construction and energy was up as much as 2% over the preceding two months.

Mind you, though, the Schröder recovery story does contain one socking great if – the suggestion that, if the election was today, he could form a government relies entirely on forming a coalition between the SPD, Greens and the Linkspartei. The idea of a Schröder-Lafontaine reconciliation buggers the imagination, gentle reader – although desperation is always a great motivator. And, were the LP to go back into government, you can assume that much of the Schröder agenda would go out of the window.

17 thoughts on “Swings Back For Schr�der/Fischer

  1. Yipes! SPD in coalition with Oskar? Buggered imaginations, indeed! Still, your Austrian fella there held his nose and went into coalition with Haider’s lot, didn’t he? Anything’s possible, though if this trend holds up I still think a grand coalition likeliest.

    Full disclosure here. I’m only allowed to vote in local and EU elections, not in the real ones, so for me this is all a bit like investing Monopoly money. Even so, in past elections I’d have given my vote to the SPD, not because I have any use for them (I don’t), but because getting/keeping the Union out of power was the overriding moral priority. Faced with the real possibility of Die Linke in government, I just might have to vote CDU for similarly tactical reasons. (I couldn’t vote based on actual political preference, unfortunately. I’m a liberal, you see, so of course I detest the FDP.)

  2. “German industry beat everybody’s production forecasts for July. For the two-month period June-July, output in manufacturing, construction and energy was up as much as 2% over the preceding two months.”

    Yes, there is a recovery in manufacturing, but this is, and largely has been, export driven. That’s one of the reasons the oil is off to the US, to keep the customers online. Increasing energy is also reasonably predictable. The key issue is that domestic consumption remains flat, it has been, and it will be, if it doesn’t start on a more pronounced downward path that is.

    “The idea of a Schröder-Lafontaine reconciliation buggers the imagination, gentle reader – although desperation is always a great motivator. And, were the LP to go back into government, you can assume that much of the Schröder agenda would go out of the window.”

    Yes, so for many of these reasons it won’t happen. This strange impact on our imagination you allude to would be quite intolerable in the heartland of romanticism. And more to the point it would defeat Schröders whole point in going to early elections, which was………?

  3. “Faced with the real possibility of Die Linke in government, I just might have to vote CDU for similarly tactical reasons.”

    Yeah, tactical voting, pity so many elections these days are decided more on the basis of what people don’t want than what they do (my guess is that the outcomes of last UK and Spanish elections were a result of this process – at a stretch you could say that this was even true of the re-election of Bush as the ‘swing’ voters (term advisedly and correctly used here) seemed more concerned to stop gay unions being formalised).

    You’re in the land of Nietzsche and Hegel, Mrs T, maybe the resolution/synthesis of this is a return to Nietzschean ‘active forgetting’.

  4. And more to the point it would defeat Schröders whole point in going to early elections, which was………?

    If you want my theory on that point, or even if you don’t, here it is. I think Schröder’s playing a deep game here.

    I think the man genuinely wants to bring about some real reforms. (Whether these would be the right reforms, or be sufficient, is another question, but one we need not reach here.) But he can’t. He’s hobbled both by his own party base (to the extent it hasn’t buggered off to Die Linke). And he’s hobbled by a Union-controlled upper house that can block him pretty much at will. He’s at an impasse. How can he bring about what (as I believe) he genuinely thinks the country needs??

    How about this: call and lose a snap election, and then let the Union do his dirty work for him. I don’t think that Angela’s reform package would, in the end, be terribly different to what Gerd himself would do if he could swing it. It will hurt, of course, and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the land. And, Gerd may be hoping, by the time of the next general election, this will translate into a sufficient drubbing of the Union to put the SPD back into power. The SPD will be able to use the unpopularity of the Union-led government’s reforms to get the Union back out of office; but it won’t be in a hurry to undo them.

    You might think this crazy fantasy, of course, and you are probably right.

  5. “or even if you don’t”

    Well, I’m glad we had a choice :).

    But, for what it’s worth, I completely agree with you. The only caveat I have relates to this part:

    “but it won’t be in a hurry to undo them.”

    More to the point by that time there will be yet another set of ‘difficult’ reforms (lets call them Hartz XIV, XV, XVI and XVII) on the table, and this time it will be Angela who will be trying to play Gerd’s trick on Gerds successor and calling the early election, and so we will go on, off into a seemingly infinite future.

    The thing that could kybosh all this of course would be the worst of all outcomes in the worst of all possible worlds: the grand coalition. I take it from Alex’s poll results that the possibility of that particular outcome just went up a touch.

  6. @Edward – A whole comment without mentioning demographics once! Are you all right? True, the chance of a grand coalition just jagged up a notch..although, the K-Frage would be a very difficult one, and more so with every extra SPD seat. Someone described it as the grand coalition of the Besitzstandwahrer (roughly, the pull-up-the-ladder-Jack-I’m-all-rights)..

    @Tilton: I don’t think he’s playing a deep game. I think he’s playing a shallow game. He is, in my view, an unscrupulous operator chiefly concerned with Herr Schröder, G. I suspect he’d be willing in extremis to bury the hatchet if he stayed as chancellor.

    If, on the uzzer hand, he was really concerned with reform, what price an attempt to lure the FDP away? After all, the Oskar and Gregor Show are hardly going into coalition with Angie…now that would do something really weird to the imagination.

  7. If Germany had a liberal party, Alec, I’d be thrilled to bits to see the SPD try to lure it away. As it is, Germany has only the FDP, a contemptible Klientelpartei devoted to securing tax shelters for dentists and eating the Union’s toads.

    Your man Pinkwart seems half-decent, and even Hermann Otto ‘The Politician Formerly Known As “Prince”‘ Solms might not be as bad as all that. But Gerhardt is a colourless, uninspiring, ineffectual nonentity, and Guido the Boy Party-Leader is worse than useless, as his handling of, or rather abject failure to handle, Möllemann’s antisemitic Kokettieren shows. It’s ironic, and profoundly disheartening, that it took Möllemann himself to solve the problem he represented for his party, through his (to use your excellent phrase, which I shall surely use again) homoeopathic parachuting.

  8. “True, the chance of a grand coalition just jagged up a notch..although, the K-Frage would be a very difficult one, and more so with every extra SPD seat. Someone described it as the grand coalition of the Besitzstandwahrer (roughly, the pull-up-the-ladder-Jack-I’m-all-rights)..”

    And lets guess just who we can find between those Bestizstandwahrer: “pensioners and those soon to be”. There are lot of those kind of voters out there so they won’t be ignored. I don’t know what a grand coalition will put on the political agenda but it won’t have much pressure for any strong Rentenreform.

  9. OK, personal disclaimer. I am sitting in an internet cafe in Sarajevo and have already voted by mail.

    Which brings me to point #1.
    Voting by mail was 18% in the last election. As far as I can predict this election in the late holiday seasons with a lot of expatriates voting in addition will have a higher turnout of votes by mail.

    #2
    You are seeing the effect of the debates here. As there will be no repeats, the effect is likely to wear off, not continue.

    #3
    Don’t forget overhanging seats. The strong left might do some strange things to the electoral system.

    #4
    It would take a real miracle for the gap to close. The CDU, as usual, will be the strongest party. The Greens won’t stand for a Volksfront government, so if it it comes to that will have a grand coalition under CDU leadership.

  10. At the time of this writing, Mr. Schröder appears to be on his way of getting a mandate for a minority government. It is unlikely that he will accept it, but such a decision by him would be detrimental both to his country and his reputation among future historians. The SPD is running on a somewhat vague, but not indistinguishable platform which it could successfully implement if Schröder engaged in some arm-twisting – with respect to both Mr. Lafontaine (“If you want the BÜRGERVERSICHERUNG, you will have to play ball with me”) and the Merkel/Westerwelle team (“Pension reform means extending the duration of working life. Support me against Mr. Lafontaine, or you will just lose your credibility as structural reformers.”)

    A grand coalition would open up the perspective of the SPD being subsequently slaughtered as much as the Labour Party was when MacDonald demonstrated what a truly clueless politician might act like. It´s the option Mr. Schröder would be well advised not to choose with Mr. Lafontaine in his neck. There aren´t many political talents of Lafontaine´s calibre to be found in all of Europe. When the Greens rose to prominence during Mr. Schmidt´s tenure, there wasn´t much Mr. Schmidt could have done about it. Vis-á-vis Mr. Lafontaine, Mr. Schröder is in a different position.

    Edward´s definition of tactical voting is pretty much what I would expect of a narcissistic first-time voter (But I want to have it all! Why do I have to compromise with 80 million other people in my country?). A more practical definition would be voting against your conviction in order to hasten the other party´s demise in the medium run (I´m pretty sure Ms. Merkel wouldn´t manage to hold on to power after 4 years if she got elected now. Wouldn´t it be in the interest of future election successes of the SPD if some Social Democrats decided to give their vote to Merkel this time around?) Then again Edward has surely outdone most narcissistic first-time voters by never voting a second time.

  11. I think what Joerg is referring to here is a quote I once (approvingly) posted on Bonobo Land. The quote is from Andy Warhol:

    “There’s so much in the papers about Ronald Reagan and it looks like he’s on his way to become president, it does look scary. I voted once. In the fifties, I don’t remember which election. I pulled the wrong lever because I was confused, I couldn’t figure out how to work the thing. There was no practice model outside, it was a church on 35th Street between Park and Lex. This was when I was living at 242 Lexington. And then I got called for jury duty and I wrote back: ‘Moved.’ I have never voted again.”

    Part of ‘edward’ esoterica I think.

  12. I would definitely not accuse Edward of having a Warholian personality. I didn´t even know that Warhol was the author of the famous “Confessions of an absenteeist voter”.
    Given his demographic hobby horse, the fragmentation of his thesis across what seems like a million blog entries and his predilection for setting the hands of the clock that indicate the remaining lifespan of Germany, Japan and Russia, my hunch is that Edward might have hit a very peculiar trifecta in reincarnating a whole ensemble of personae that are well-known to the readers of Laurence Sterne´s Tristram Shandy.

  13. ” The idea of a Schröder-Lafontaine reconciliation buggers the imagination, gentle reader …”
    What an amazing turn of phrase!

  14. The mention of posters in this campaign is interesting. The FDP and CDU relied on massive pictures of their leaders right from the start, where the SPD launched straight into an attack through their posters of the proposed policies from the opposition.

    While this was going on the Bild Zeitung decided to enter the picture. This newspaper believes that it forms and controls public opinion. In order to do this wonderful feat, they try and find stories which will discredit their perceived opponant. In this case they picked on the fact that no posters of Gerhard Schröder were to be seen, ignoring the real reasons for this. Bild Zeitung wished to prove that the grassroots members of the SPD were afraid that pictures of the Kanzlet would lead to a lower vote for their party and had, therefore, decided not to use him. To this effect, Bild Zeitung reporters went so far as to telephone anyone and everyone they could find in all levels of the SPD, right down to the smallest, local group, asking them to confirm that the SPD were scared to use the pictures.

    Needless to say, they failed and the story couldn’t be published. The truth of the matter, from SPD sources, is slightly different. The main posters were launched specifically to bring policy over in comparison to the CDU. The smaller posters with Schröder on were delayed through printer problems. The larger posters were delayed specifically to allow concentration on policy.

    Pi.

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