The Democratic Left/PDS Alliance

We had some discussion on this topic back in May. The FT this morning – in addition to reporting a change of tack by Hans Eichel and Wolfgang Clement on wage levels – suggests that the Democratic Left-PDS alliance was making headway:

An early poll for ZDF television showed 18 per cent of people would consider voting for the new leftwing coalition. Mr Lafontaine said he was optimistic the new group could become the third largest party. The conservative opposition currently has an overwhelming lead in opinion polls.

Any observations from Germany on all this?

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

10 thoughts on “The Democratic Left/PDS Alliance

  1. I don’t know anyone who would consider voting for them. If you take a look at the results from the “sunday question” the PDS is present with its usual 5%, the WASG falls under “other”.
    If you take the question that gave the 18% figure, you can see, that PDS voters make up the bulk of those who can imagine voting for the alliance their party is going to enter, though only 86% of former PDS voters say they can _imagine_ voting for the new alliance.
    The percentages from the other parties are pretty much what you would expect. The 7% and 9% percent of CDU/CSU and FDP voters who “can imagine” voting for the new far left alliance indicates to me, that respondents actually answered the question in the sense of “can imagine” and not in the sense of “will” or “will probably”. I don’t for a moment believe that 8% of conservative/libertarian voters seriously consider voting for the far left.
    Rather, I believe this question reflects beliefs on the constitutionality of the new party. Remember, we had a trial on the constituionality of the NPD, and the legitimacy of the PDS is still questioned in conservative circles. The have gained some acceptance in recent years, both because of consistent good results in the former GDR, and because they shifted their emphasis from being the party of socialism to being the party representing eastern Germany.

  2. Given the mathematics of the 5% clause, the main beneficiaries of the Left Alliance will be the FDP. The polls are currently showing that a absolute majority for the Union is possible… but only if the PDS doesn’t crack 5%. Since the Alliance would almost certainly make it into the Bundestag, the Union will need a coalition partner, and Guido Westerwelle will get his coveted minister post.

  3. “the Union will need a coalition partner”

    Which leads us to the question, will this impact be good for Germany? I have changed my thinking in recent years and tend to think absolute majorities are less desireable, and that coalitions mean more dialogue. But is this applicable to Germany?

  4. In response to Scott’s accurate observation regarding the current polls and a CDU/CSU absolute majority, my feeling is that, come election time there is next to no chance at all that the CDU/CSU will gain an absolute majority. For one, I think that, seeing those polls a large number of voters who would prefer a coalition government to an absolute majority will back off voting for the CDU/CSU (peeling to the left or to the right – depending on their personal politics). In addition to that, I fully expect to see both the SPD and the Greens rally somewhat from their absolute nadir at present in the lead-up to the elections. Not enough to win, of course, but surely enough to ensure there is no absolute majority. As a result of those assumptions/expectations of mine, I’d have said that the main beneficiary of this left-wing alliance is actually going to be PDS, for whom it will in all probability ensure a parliamentary presence which was otherwise looking very dubious indeed.

    As for Edward’s question, I get the strong impression that most Germans agree with you that coalitions are preferable to absolute majorities. Given their history, it is not difficult to see why they favour the maximum possible set of checks and balances on one party’s power and policy implementation potential. I would stress that I don’t have any figures to hand to back this feeling up. It’s just based on living here, talking to people and reading/watching the news. Hope some of that helps.

  5. There are some who would like to have a big coalition of CDU and SPD, but view people, I suggest, would like to have only the CDU in power.
    Coalition are just something people got used to and a change of the systhem would require a lot of PR to convince people. Just a question of habit, I think.

  6. I am wondering what it is going to do to those that have in the past voted for the PDS, because it was the voice of the East. Since, as an alliance, that claim can be made less convincing, especially with Lafontaine as one of the prominent candidates, it could deter some voters from the East to vote for the alliance.

    This won’t prevent the Left alliance to get into parliament, but I’d be curious to see if another regional party will be founded as a response. However, that will happen much later (if at all), depending on how the influence of the East on politics develops. If the same happens to the left alliance that happened to B90/Greens, it is possible that in the future we see either a new East German party or possibly other forms of civic engagement and a drop in voter turnout in the East. Just speculation though.

  7. For one, I think that, seeing those polls a large number of voters who would prefer a coalition government to an absolute majority will back off voting for the CDU/CSU (peeling to the left or to the right – depending on their personal politics).

    Balanced with those on the left who stay at home. If there are overhang seats it might well be enough.

    most Germans agree with you that coalitions are preferable to absolute majorities

    Ordinarily absolutely so. We are not living in ordinary times. The desire to see all power in one hand has reawakened.

    In addition to that, I fully expect to see both the SPD and the Greens rally somewhat from their absolute nadir at present in the lead-up to the elections.

    Why? They are eagerly fragmenting at present.

  8. @ Oliver
    I share BerlinBear’s opinion concerning a rise of SPD and Greens, so while I can’t give you his reasons, I can give you mine:
    The CDU/CSU is IMHO currently mainly riding on voter dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs AND resentment to Hartz IV. Those supporting them for the first reason will stay, but those voicing their support for them because of Hartz IV will likely change their minds once it dawns on them that the pill they’re about to vote for is even more bitter than Hartz IV.
    On top of that, I believe the prospect of a female chancellor will not exactly rally the CDU/CSU base. Previously I thought this would be balanced out by former SPD voters who consider the symbolic value of putting a woman in charge to be worth more than the slight difference between the two major parties (as they see it). The prospect of an absolute majority changes that equation IMHO.

  9. voter dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs AND resentment to Hartz IV.

    True, but this government is deteriorating quickly.

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