Dutch elections: preliminary round-up/impressions

The 2006 parliamentary elections in The Netherlands have produced some interesting results. Another centre-right coalition of CDA, VVD and D66 (before the latter blew up that very same coalition, see comments) seems to be off the table and the formation of a new coalition will prove to be very difficult what with the votes spread out more evenly over the main parties. There are now four major contenders instead of three. Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, who will probably continue to be Prime Minister, will now have to consider forming either a left-leaning coalition or risk an unworkable monster coalition. From The Guardian:

The Netherlands is facing political deadlock after the governing Christian Democrats scraped an unconvincing win in yesterday’s election and parties on the hard left and right performed well enough to impede their ability to form a government. As political leaders braced themselves for weeks of horse-trading to form a coalition, the outgoing finance minister delivered a blunt assessment of the result.

“It’s chaos,” Gerrit Zalm, a member of the Liberal (VVD) party was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The real winner is the only party that actually did not participate, which is the party of the anarchists.”

A summary round-up of the results can be found below the fold.
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Changing Colors

The CDU in Baden-Wuerttemberg is conducting negotiations with the Greens in that state to decide if the two parties should form a coalition government. If they do, it will be the first “black-green” coalition at the state level, and another sign of fluidity in Germany’s post-reunification party politics.

Update: Maybe next time. The CDU and FDP will, according to reports today, continue the coalition that has run the southwest for the last 10 years. Germany changes slowly.
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Problems. And Games.

Unfortunately, following our recent move to a different hosting provider, some Euros in the Fistful are still experiencing technical difficulties when trying to post. We’re trying to solve the problem as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, other people are experiencing problems as well. The “K-question”, the question who will become the next Chancellor, and presumably the amjor stumbling block on the way to true coalition negotiations between the CDU and the SPD, is still as close to a solution as it was when the polls closed on September 18. Both parties are still hoping the other one will blink first.
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The Coalition Inside the Party

The Jamaican solution is now rapidly hurtling towards the plausibility horizon, as perhaps the most serious objection against it becomes blindingly clear. After all, the CDU-CSU is in itself a coalition of two parties. It’s usually in British politics that one speaks of a party being in itself a coalition, assuming as one does that proportional representation countries tend to make their coalitions explicit. But it remains true that political parties are rarely monolithic.

Down-blog, there’s been a discussion going about whether the CDU-CSU is really a single entity, a pair of political parties who share a parliamentary fraction, two political parties in coalition, or something else. Whatever it formally is, there are indubitably both CDU and CSU MPs. And that’s all you need for a potential inner-party politics. The CSU’s leader, Edmund Stoiber, is seriously not happy with the Jamaican option. Here, he tells the CSU faction in the Bavarian parliament (what, there are others? Who knew?) that “the contradictions between the interested parties are so great that such an alliance is not in sight”, and that the Greens “would have to reinvent themselves completely”. The Bavarian interior minister remarked that the CSU would have to swallow not just a frog but a giant toad to join such a coalition, and the minister of the economy pointed out all the policy disputes listed in my last post, and then some more. Not just the kerazy Bavarians said so – the Federal CDU’s deputy leader Christoph Böhr said that he could not imagine “throwing the heart of our manifesto into the wastepaper basket”. Damn, the metaphors are getting a hammering.

On the other hand, although Claudia Roth, one of the Greens’ multiple leaders, repeated that the FDP would have to do what Stoiber said the Greens would have to (she used exactly the same words) before they could join a traffic light coalition, her colleague and fellow-leader Reinhard Bütikofer signalled that the Greens were available for talks with both the CDU and the FDP. He also said that “his fantasy did not reach far enough” to visualise Angela Merkel becoming chancellor.

Meanwhile, on the Ampelkoalition front….

Losing the CSU would outweigh gaining the Greens, so that’s as good as a veto of the idea.
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German Election Political Crisis Roundup

In the maelstrom, one thing is clear: SPD General Secretary Franz Müntefering, he of the Kapitalismusdebatte, is staying in his post after the parliamentary party voted by a 93% majority to keep him. In other news: Earth continues to orbit Sun, Pope Benedict says committed to Catholicism, bear sighted shitting in woods. His talents in the smoke-filled backroom will be needed, as SPD-CDU, SPD-Green, and CDU-FDP negotiations were announced today. No word on Green-FDP conversations…and nobody wants to play with Oskar and Gregor in the naughty corner.

Angela Merkel may fall prey to the CDU’s Old Grey Man tendency as early as this afternoon, when she presents herself for re-election as parliamentary party leader. There are no other candidates, this being something of a ritual in German and Austrian politics, but if the OGMs are sufficiently angry about their campaign’s spectacular train crash, she could be on her way to join Joschka Fischer and Paul Kirchhof in obscurity by tonight…actually, hold that, she has been re-elected by 98.6% of the vote. Which is actually better than she got before the disastrous election campaign – work that out.

Here, we learn that the CSU has been thrown into a horridly intense introspection nightmare, as Dr. Gonzo might have put it, by the fact that they polled less than 50% for only the second time in their history. 49.6% doesn’t sound at all bad, until you remember that they don’t really have democracy in Bavaria, they have the CSU and its VERY long-lasting leaders, who play on Bavarian local patriotism and Catholic conservatism to claim a monster powerbase. The other parties’ comparative success may have the unintended consequence of saving Angela Merkel, because the CSU can hardly say “Told you so, we should have gone with a real man like Stoiber” if they buggered up their own campaign. Interestingly, it was none other than Edmund Stoiber who formally nominated Merkel as fraction leader – presumably signalling loyalty?

The old crook Wolfgang Schäuble, whose political career mysteriously continues to survive his disgrace in the Helmut Kohl party funding scandal, spoke out for a Jamaica coalition. He says it’s “our duty as democrats” and that a government without Merkel is “unthinkable”. Do not believe a word this man says. The Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s interviewer describes the grand coalition as the Elefantenhochzeit or elephants’ wedding – can we start using that?

In other dishonesty-related news, Franz Müntefering is trying to make out that the SPD is really the biggest single party and hence entitled to form a government on the grounds that the CDU and CSU are two separate entities. Jeer at the absurd sophistry!

Renate Künast is to take over Fischer’s duties pro tempore, reports the Austrian newspaper whose website uses frames. Check out the conspiracy madness in the forums; apparently Fischer is plotting to put Künast in so as to achieve a Jamaica coalition, because he’s a warmonger. Sometimes Der Standard’s forums make me glad I don’t live in Vienna any more and don’t have to listen to this infantile nonsense.

The appalling tabloid Bild Zeitung, who I refuse to link to, claims Schröder will drop his demand for the Chancellery if the CDU pick someone other than Merkel. Given 98.6% of them just voted for her, I take it that statement is no longer operative.

Breaking: Fischer Resigns, and a Green Light

Handelsblatt reports that Joschka Fischer, one of the Greens’ two co-leaders and the Red-Green government’s foreign minister and deputy chancellor, has announced his resignation from both his party and state offices. He will, however, take up his seat in the Bundestag. Apparently he thinks the Greens need “a new formation” (eine Neuaufstellung) and that “clarity must reign”. Further, the party needs to be led by younger people.

Perhaps more importantly, he also said that it could be “realistically expected” that the Greens would not be represented in the next government. That can only realistically mean that he expects a grand coalition – an SPD/FDP/Left or CDU/SPD/Left coalition can be ruled out with some confidence, and a CDU/FDP/Left coalition with absolute certainty. The Greens will now have to elect two new parliamentary leaders.

Which brings me to another point..
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Catastrophic success?

In one of his many excellent pieces in the run-up to the German election, Alex mentioned the phenomenon of ‘overhang mandates’. These are extra parliamentary seats that a party gains by winning more seats via one of German’s two electoral methods than by the other. This might seem odd enough. What’s even odder is that a party could lose a seat if too many people vote for it.

German electoral law is complex. In a comment to one of Tobias’s posts, Florian recommended the wahlrecht.de website as a good primer on how it works. He also mentioned examples of some of the electoral weirdnesses explained by wahlrecht.de. For example, did you know (asks Florian) that, under certain circumstances, a vote can have ‘negative weight’ — can reduce the parliamentary representation of the party for which it is cast?

Well, it can. And this conundrum is worth looking at closely, because right now it is more than a mere electoral curiosity. There is one electoral district in Germany, Dresden I, that has not yet voted. (Those who’ve been paying a perhaps unhealthy level of attention to the German elections will know that the death of a neonazi candidate has forced the delay of the election.) And in Dresden I, there is a very real chance that a local triumph of the CDU could cause the party to lose a seat in the national parliament. The reason? It’s those overhang mandates that Alex kept mentioning.

Excellent as wahlrecht.de is, it’s in German. Below the fold, then, is a summary explanation of how the CDU could lose a seat by gaining votes. For those who read German and are interested in that sort of thing, there are links to the relevant passages of the BWahlG (German Federal Electoral Act).

In the mean time, we should note that the possible ‘negative weight’ of CDU votes in Dresden I, though perverse and undemocratic, would not affect the overall results in Germany. Even if the CDU are ‘catastrophically successful’ in Dresden I, the Union will still have more seats than the SPD, albeit with a lead of only 2 rather than 3 MPs. The really perverse thing that could come out of the Dresden special election is this: CDU and SPD wind up with an equal number of seats. As the Spiegel explains, however, this is mathematically a possibility, but in real-world terms exceedingly unlikely. To achieve this result, the SPD would need to poll 91% of voters in the district, and every single eligible voter would have to vote.

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Grand coalition under Schröder?


CDU advertising for Schröder
Being stuck in a traffic jam is probably not the best place to be to blog about the German election. On the other hand, it may well be an excellent metaphor for the result of today’s German elections, which Mrs T sketched below. Hearing the results on the radio, the first thing I that sprang to mind was Goethe – “Here now I stand, poor fool, and see I’m just as wise as formerly.” Well, maybe not quite.
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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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Unwanted

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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