Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Time for Coalition Negotiations – Courting the Opposition

Those boring German elections turned out just about as expected. Except that the complete failure of the Liberal FDP to make the 5% hurdle to enter the Bundestag came as a shock to everybody – especially to the FDP! – thus catapulting those boring elections to EARTHQUAKE status.

We will never know the truth, but I rather assume Angela is not all that surprised by the outcome, either that she won 42% of the vote or that the FDP failed dismally.

Now come arduous negotiations with the SPD who will be playing the coquette flirt to milk as many advantages as possible from the CDU before agreeing to join Angie’s government – as if they weren’t dying to be back in the saddle! Will this lead to a shift to the left in Germany’s politics?

I don’t think so. The last grand coalition from 2005-2009 managed to govern even-handedly at a volatile time. And let’s face it, despite leading German’s conservative party, Angie is not really your dyed-in-the-wool disciple for maintainance of the status quo. It’s true, she has to keep the peace with the real conservatives from the CSU residing in Bavaria. However, coming from the old east Germany, she does not shy away from pushing her party a bit to the left on many issues. And that is good.

With this win Angela Merkel is elevated to the dizzying heights of a three-term chancellorship, only achieved by Konrad Adenauer and her patron Helmut Kohl (from whom she learned the fine art of Sitzfleisch – sitting things out). In the end, pragmatism is the name of her game, not blatant party allegiances.

Coalition negotiations will be tough, but in the end Angela will get the government she wants.

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Today is election day in Germany. and the newspapers have universally declared this to have been a boring campaign. I personally find that refreshing. Quite honestly, boring is better than the hyperbole and mud-slinging of US elections. Are UK ones any better? Probably not, but at least their parliamentary system, as in Germany, limits the campaign to a reasonable length. Is not 6 weeks a wonderfully short time compared to the two-year marathons run by US candidates?

And boring? Why, compared to the last election in 2011 at the end of the Grand Coalition of CDU and SPD, it is outright titillating. In 2011 neither of the major players could criticize the policies of the previous government because both were responsible for what had been accomplished…or not. But most people would agree, it was a very productive four years for Germany. Their cooperation put the country on the right track to work its way out of the recession. I could imagine far worse fates for this Federal Republic than a replay of that coalition.

A new grand coalition is not as yet a done deal. We still must await tonight’s results. But the question is not which party will win the most seats in the Bundestag – every German knows that – but with whom they will have to form a coalition. The polls have now closed. Soon all will be revealed.

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