German Election: Lawyered Up

Well, it’s back to another wave of German electoral goodness. The latest bizarre artefact of coalition weirdness is that Angela Merkel’s team are frantically denying claims that they have a secret plan to call new elections in the event that the elections end in a hung parliament. Obviously, this would rely on Merkel actually becoming Chancellor, but without a working majority…and would mean a really tiresome bout of national self loathing.

As the election campaign powers into the final desperate dash, some rightwingers have been frantically signalling that they might, might, just go in for a grand coalition (read: that way we can ditch the bitch AND get back in power). The CDU’s deputy leader, and chief in Rheinland-Pfalz, says at the link above that this would encompass “their duty as citizens”. Ha. (What is it with people from RP?)

Meanwhile, on the Handelsblatt‘s election futures market Wahlstreet, where the percentages are quoted to two decimal places and the cigarettes are paid for on the bill, the CDU showed a marked turn for the better, pushing back over 40%. But the Greens also showed an uptick, or perhaps only a technical rally, getting back to 8.1%. The result? Neither black-gold or red-green can quite make the nut. BG is hovering around 47-48%, with RG around 41% – which sounds like a decisive margin until you remember that the Linke are still in the game, with enough points to push RG over the finish line. And, equally, there are still enough FDP about to give the Ampelkoalition a majority over all other parties….
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There’s nothing better for livening up all this dull, wonkish chatter about the German elections than a bit of CDU-bashing. So, how shall I bash them today? Oh, I know! How about this: they’re a shower of xenophobe racists.

Yes, yes; not exactly news, is it? What is news, though, is that the Union appears to value xenophobia even more than it does winning elections.

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CDU: Screwing up on purpose?

Ok, now that Edward has already mentioned it, I might as well explain in a little more detail what I meant by saying that “on some level, the CDU might be afraid to win.”

Last Saturday evening, strolling through Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, Edward asked me about my gut feeling concerning the outcome of the German election next week. I told him that, while it was rather entertaining, this campaign has also been confusing – and confused – in many ways, particularly when looking at the CDU. And I believe the confused and confusing campaign the CDU is conducting is even more an expression of the way the German establishment is puzzled about the way ahead than the fact that Schröder “called” the elections a year too early, too early for any of his reforms to have any perceptible impact on the economy, not even in the West.
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German Election: Pollwatch

Today’s Handelsblatt reports that a poll carried out for N24 TV shows the CDU stabilising in the polls after last week’s Schröder Surge. The CDU was on 42%, up 1.5%, with the FDP on 6%, down 0.5%, putting the Festival of Sternness Coalition on 48.5%. The SPD sank back one percentage point to 33.5%, with the Greens unchanged on 7% and the Left on 8%, also unchanged – putting the two camps exactly level and the Ampelkoalition on 46.5%. (Regarding the “traffic light option”, it’s worth remembering that the Left and the CDU-CSU are not exactly the material of a stable opposition, and a minority government could theoretically survive by playing them off against each other.)

Interestingly, an opportunity to test the validity of electoral spread betting has come up – the betting market Wahlstreet (ouch) has the SPD on 34% and the CDU just under 40%, with Greens on 8.5%, Left on 7.5% and FDP on 7.5%. This would put the Red-Red-Green buggered imagination option in the box seat with exactly 50%, the CDU/FDP on 47.5%…and the Ampelkoalition over the finishing line with an impressive 50%. (Amusingly, given that the margin of error for the polls is 2.5%, Wahlstreet quotes to the nearest two decimal places.) Over time, it seems that votes are drifting very gradually from the smaller to the bigger parties.

You might think this is of limited interest, seeing as Guido “He’s Not Dull – He’s a Statesman” Westerwelle told the nation in last night’s TV debate that the FDP would be in opposition if the CDU/FDP ticket didn’t make it (Link to the Austrian newspaper whose website uses frames). But, not so fast!
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Where Will It Lead Us From Here?

The German election campaign is cranking up to as close to a throbbing wave of intensity as you are likely to find in modern Germany. Very soon, Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der is going to take on the CDU’s Angela Merkel in a televised debate. Merkel has always had to do it tough in the CDU, as I’ve remarked on before, because she isn’t really the kind of person who fits the traditional shape of the post-war German conservative movement. Last time around, she was party leader but was ditched as Spitzenkandidat (a German term which compromises between a quasi-US presidential candidacy and the reality of a Westminster-style constitution) in favour of the hard-right Bavarian, Edmund Stoiber. This time, though, the polls are running heavily in her favour, after she spent the intervening period selectively eliminating the men (and they were) who did her in the first time around.

This is where it gets interesting. Last week, she was moved to give a speech in which she said a very remarkable thing. Apparently, Germany needs to retrieve the spirit of the Gr�nderzeit. This word is usually translated into English as the Founders’ Generation, which doesn’t sound terribly interesting or controversial. The point is, though, which generation, and what did they found? When you speak of the Gr�nderzeit in Germany, or Austria, you mean the 1870s and the foundation of united Germany. For some reason the Austrians use it too, perhaps stretching the definition to include the 1867 Austro-Hungarian Compromise or Ausgleich. It’s not an especially controversial word, but then, that is in part because it’s most often used to describe architecture.

Outside Germany, though, you might be forgiven for thinking this pretty eyebrow-raising. In the Anglosphere, it is fairly conventional wisdom to hold that the Wilhelmine empire was a fatal aberration in Germany’s historic development, the point at which the Germans swung off the Whiggish tracks into the future onto that infamous Sonderweg that in the end led to world war, Weimar, Hitler, more war, Auschwitz, and partition. And that foundation, after all, took place by means of conquering northern France. The proclamation of the empire took place at Versailles.

(So far, so clich�d.)

The Left would never in a million years have said such a thing. Gr�nderzeit? The time of Bismarck’s Antisocialist Laws? The foundation of the three-class voting system? Surely the injustices that began the SPD’s historic struggle. Why she did, though, is part of a very important point about identity, history and German politics.
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Schr?der Strikes Back

What better way to bury the news of your party’s ouster from power in a state it’s ruled for nearly 40 years than to up the ante?

Give this to Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, he still knows how to dominate the news cycle like no one else in Germany. Angela Merkel didn’t hear the news until she was walking into the TV studios. I just saw Edmund Stoiber hem and haw about who would actually be the opposition candidate for chancellor. Squirming on the end of the moderator’s pointed questions, he was. Could not bring himself to say, “Yes, I support Angela Merkel.” Just couldn’t do it.

And there’s this:
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Schr?der: early elections in Autumn.

I suppose German politics aren’t entirely predictable anymore. A few minutes ago, German Chancellor Schroeder confirmed earlier statements by Franz Muentefering, the SPD’s chairman, that the current red-green coalition will seek a – constitutionally problematic – vote of no-confidence to allow the early dissolution of the Bundestag and hold federal elections in autumn this year.
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In comments to an earlier post on neonazi electoral gains in eastern Germany, I noted that Germany’s mainstream right wing Union parties normally respond to this sort of thing with a rightward lurch of their own. And indeed, they are right on schedule.
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