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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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: Beck Again

Before anything else, the Federal Constitutional Court in fabulous Karlsruhe has ruled that publishing the election results from everywhere else before the delayed Dresden poll is indeed legal.

Minister-President of Rheinland-Pfalz, Kurt Beck, has done it again. This time he burst into the headlines by attacking the Greens. He told the Rheinische Merkur that the continuation of Red-Green was not the highest priority compared to making the SPD the biggest single party, and went on to say that in the event that a Red-Green government was impossible, he would prefer a grand coalition coloured red and black like a 1980s teenage boy’s bedroom. He further expressed pleasure that the SPD, apparently, was campaigning on an independent platform to the Greens.

For this he got a bollocking from Gerhard Schröder..
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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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Red light or green?

You already know, because Alex has been doing such a good job of making sure you do, that the impending German elections will be as close-run as the related campaign has been shambolic. According to the polls, the Union and FDP will outpoll the currently governing SPD-Green coalition; but not by enough for a majority. What’s more, the Union has been slipping (slightly) of late whilst the SPD are (slightly) gaining. Black/Yellow (48%) are still doing better than Red/Green (42%), but not as well as Red/Green/Even Redder1 (49%).

What’s interesting about all this, though, is the number that’s not being loudly pointed at: Red/Green/Yellow, which is currently the same as Black/Yellow. This is the so-called Ampelkoalition (‘traffic-light coalition’, based on party colours). Down in the comments to one of Alex’s earlier posts there’s been some talk about this as an increasingly likely outcome of the vote, though one commenter begs to differ.

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The Imagination Attempts to..Relax

Another set of polls, this time taken for ARD TV and reported here, seem to bear out the surprising recovery of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the imagination-buggering prospect of a Red-Red-Green coalition. The CDU was down 2% at 41% and the SPD up 2% at 34%, with the Greens solid at 7%, the Linkspartei down 0.5% at 8.5%, and (curiously) the Homeopathic Parachute Club FDP up 0.5% at 6.5%.

Surely the 0.5% can’t be the same people? Anyway, that would put the Coalition of the Desperate at 49.5% against 47.5% for the Festival of Stern..if, of course, the imagination can be persuaded to “take it”. In these increasingly odd political waters, the first signs of people positioning themselves for post-election coalition talks are now visible. Coalition negotiations are the hard-core porn of politics, and this looks like it’s going to be absolutely filthy, especially if the death of the NPD candidate in Dresden prolongs things.

Schröder has publicly refused to talk coalitions, saying it would be wrong (ha! he wants it really!), and that his aim is to make the SPD the largest party and continue the coalition with the Greens. Angela Merkel has called him out and accused him of, ah, flirting with the Linkspartei, whilst Joschka Fischer has claimed that he will never, no, nay, never no more deal with Oskar Lafontaine. Nuh. Lafontaine further claims he has “not the slightest fear” of a grand coalition, although it would be worse than a rightwing government..and he is also busy rowing back on his remarks about foreign workers.

And for their sad little part, the neo-Nazis have selected their replacement candidate for Dresden. In an astonishingly original move, it’s Franz Schönhuber, the ancient founder, leader, general secretary and dogcatcher of the outlawed Republican Party, an octogenarian fascist who I thought was dead. Yawn!

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.

A curious trend in the Balkans

2000-2004: Under the rule of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Romania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Romania’s GDP increases by an average of nearly 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Romania joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

December 2004: voters reject Nastase and PSD, voting in the opposition in a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the National Movement Simeon II (NDST) and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburgotski, Bulgaria enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Bulgaria’s GDP increases by an average of around 5% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Bulgaria joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

June 2005: Voters reject Saxecoburgotski and NDST, voting in the opposition, which now appears likely to form a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the Socialist Party and Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Albania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Albania’s GDP increases by an average of about 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Albania is accepted into the Partnership for Peace and moves from being an impoverished semi-pariah to a serious candidate for EU accession sometime in the next decade.

July 2005: Voters reject Nano and the Socialists, returning to former President Sali Berisha, out of office since 1997. Berisha will form a coalition government with several minor parties.

What’s going on here?
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