Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Jamaica on the Saar

by DoDo Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 09:19:17 AM EST

Four weeks before the German federal elections, on 30 August, three much-noted regional elections were held. In two of the three, there were long coalition-forming negotiations between the three left-of-center parties -- but, in both cases, one partner shockingly switched to a coalition with the losers of the election, the conservative CDU, which previously governed both states with absolute majority.

I covered Thuringia in Why Social Democrats are just unfit for power, now some words about Saarland.

Saarland is the smallest non-city state, a coal-and-steel region at the border with France and Luxembourg. It used to be strongly SPD, until the local leader, Oskar Lafontaine, got in conflict with then chancellor Schröder over the latter's Third Wayism. Lafontaine was later instrumental in the formation of the Left Party (as a union of East German post-communists, West German anti-Harz-IV ex-SocDems, and assorted other hard-leftists) and became its leader. And he was also instrumental in getting more than 20% for the Left Party in the 30 August elections.

Unlike in Thuringia, the local SPD had no scruples seeking a coalition with their left flank. However, it wasn't them who had the options: it was the party coming in last, the Greens, who were free to give either SPD+Left Party or CDU+FDP the majority. And this past weekend, they decided for the latter. With that, a heretofore theoretical possibility in Germany's current five-party system, the 'Jamaica Coalition', is to have its premiere.

promoted by nanne


To explain the name: in German political colour-coding, the CDU is black, the (neo)liberal FDP is yellow; with the Greens' obvious colour, you get all three colours of Jamaica's flag.

As for the coalition mathematics, here are the election results:

Party%+/- Seats+/-
Turnout/Total 67.6% +12.151 +/-0
CDU34.5%-13.019-8
SPD24.5%-6.313-5
Left Party21.3%+19.011+10
FDP9.2%+4.05+2
Greens5.9%+0.33+1

As you can see, government majority is 26 seats, and both the right-wing CDU+FDP block and the left-wing SPD+Left Party block have 24 seats.

Why did the local Greens prefer the conservatives?

  • On one hand, the media said they are more conservative than the federal party (I hoped that this is wishful thinking, but that hope turned out to be my own wishful thinking).
  • On the other hand, there is some bad blood between party members: after all, the one MP the Left Party had in the previous parliament was elected as a Green but switched parties.
  • That bad blood is only added to a personal animosity vs. Lafontaine himself, which was enhanced by mutual negative campaigning.
    What gave the final impetus was Oskar Lafontaine's decision last week to abandon federal politics and return to Saarland -- which would have meant that he'd become a virtual deputy prime minister.
  • Finally, the CDU+FDP made a good offer.

The last point should be emphasized: unlike the Thuringia SPD, the Greens are to win a lot from their unnatural partners.

The Greens have been promised two ministries: the education ministry, and an environment-energy-transport super-ministry.

With the first, the Greens will be able to implement their leftist education reform -- what's more, they got a written promise that they can abolish the unpopular university tuition fees introduced by the CDU, which were one of the top themes of the campaign. With the second, they can stop the construction of planned new coal plants in the state, and possibly boost the until now sluggish spread of renewables.

Of course, for a party barely passing the 5% limit that goes against the popular will of electing off the incumbents, the move is still a very risky one. It is still possible that they will destroy themselves like the SPD did in the federal Grand Coalition, or as I expect the Thuringia SPD to do in the upcoming Grand Coalition there.

Display:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 02:42:53 AM EST
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 08:49:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For those not well versed in German: the cartoon is based on an election poster of the Greens aimed against what came to be, a CDU+FDP (black-yellow) coalition, suggesting that they would be for a nuclear comeback with a black-tainted yellow nuclear waste container. The slogan is "BLACK-YELLOW NO THANKS!"; the cartoon changed NO to YES and replaced the radioactivity pictogram with a green palm tree.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...at which point, I should mention a development in one of the other two states that had elections at the same time as the federal one, Schleswig-Holstein. It is to have a CDU+FDP government too (unless a Left Party challenge of the state's seat allocation rules leads to a ruling correcting the situation that black-yellow have a majority of seats with a minority of the vote).

Schleswig-Holstein is the Northernmost state, and surrounds Hamburg. It has the highest wind power penetration. (Consequently?) the local FDP is pro-wind -- so much so that already before the elections, I noted that they were for the closing of the two old scandal-ridden nuclear plants in the state (but supplying mostly Hamburg), Krümmel and Brunsbüttel. Now the FDP reiterated this demand in the coalitoon talks with the CDU.

While the FDP's arguments include one I agree with, that keeping old plants running by itself blocks the further expansion of renewables, others are shifty. They stress that operating company Vattenfall is supposed to be a black sheep among its peers. That's turning into a framing I 'suggested' for the nuclear lobby to use here on ET: ditch these two problematic plants to save the rest (also by transferring rest electricity generation quotas to nuclear plants elsewhere in Germany).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:28:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See today's Salon for the latest Wasp (the yellow black yellowjacket kind) nuclear renewables dithering.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Oct 13th, 2009 at 08:36:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent series - perhaps you should wrap up all the diaries in an overview.

So, summarizing, all those three notable regional elections had Die Linke on the rise, and for all three Die Linke has been ultimately shunned in coalition formation? Still, it's not all bad when a fresh party can first mature a bit in opposition.

For Saarland, it sounds the Greens bargained well and got some key ministries that fits their profile, considering. Surely an area to keep watching how they manage...

by Nomad on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 03:57:55 AM EST
So, summarizing, all those three notable regional elections had Die Linke on the rise, and for all three Die Linke has been ultimately shunned in coalition formation?

No, the third on 30 August was Saxony, where the CDU remained dominant, but could replace the SPD with the FDP as coalition partner (foreshadowing what happened in the federal elections).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 07:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you write on the one about Saxony as well? I'm curious how well Die Linke (and the Greens) did in the Saxony region...
by Nomad on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 09:17:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We had an open thread on these three elections. The greens gained a bit in the parliament in Saxony. More notable was that they got into the parliament in Thuringia. They're getting closer to regaining representation across all states (only Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern left to take).

The left party held stable in Saxony and Thuringia, they only had gains in Saarland.

After these state elections, there were two more on the day of the federal elections -- in Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein. In Brandenburg the greens (and FDP) got into the parliament, and the left held steady. In Schleswig-Holstein the left got into parliament and the greens gained a lot - but their gains were proportional to the SPD's losses.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 10:21:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The greens ... getting closer to regaining representation across all states (only Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern left to take).

Same for Left Party: Bavaria, Baden-Württenberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Northrhine-Westphalia.

Same for FDP: Hamburg.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 12:24:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cohn-Bendit über Saarland-Grüne: "Der Ulrich ist ein Mafioso" - taz.de  Cohn-Bendit about Saarland Greens: "The Ulrich is a Mafioso" - taz.de
Saarlands Grünen-Chef Hubert Ulrich halte ich seit langem für eine zweifelhafte Persönlichkeit. Er ist ein Mafioso.For some time now, I think of Saarland Greens boss Hubert Ulrich as a dubious personality. He's a mafioso.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:10:17 PM EST
Beyond criticising the Saarland Greens heavily, Cohn-Bendit suggests thsat the real prize is the most populous state, Northrhine-Westphalia, which is next to hold elections. And says Greens and Left Party must do everything to prevent black-yellow.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:11:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's pretty harsh language for a party "colleague" - and a bit unexpected from Cohn-Bendit who's usually seen (at least in France) as more centrist these days (and thus presumably not so hostile to alliances on the right).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:29:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He explains it: he says half the party members come from the Hubert Ulrich's election district, which he sees as an unhealthy situation (a "party tailored for himself") you normally see in places like Sicily.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cohn-Bendit's analysis is killer in this interview.  Respect.  (Sorry can't translate key points right now.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Oct 13th, 2009 at 08:43:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oooooh, found one even better!

Just finished reading the best op-ed on the Saarland Jamaica so far, one doing away with the notion that personal animosities were the real reason for the Greens' decision -- rather than the excuse.

The op-ed finishes with a possibly intentional slip by Merkel a year ago which I missed. At some party conference, she began to address her once big inner-party adversary, the Hessen state PM, as "Mr. Roland Kotz... ehhh, Koch..." [Kotz = vomit]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:47:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that was funny.



"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Oct 13th, 2009 at 02:09:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sehr lustig.
by rifek on Mon Nov 9th, 2009 at 12:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, for a party barely passing the 5% limit that goes against the popular will of electing off the incumbents, the move is still a very risky one. It is still possible that they will destroy themselves like the SPD did in the federal Grand Coalition, or as I expect the Thuringia SPD to do in the upcoming Grand Coalition there.

One of the things that did the SPD in was their failure to draw lines in the sand. If the Greens are smart, they will be willing to pull the plug on that coalition if the trefoil parties try to embrace them to death.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 05:19:42 PM EST
DoDo:

With the first, the Greens will be able to implement their leftist education reform

This will mean longer learning together before segregation to different types of school which I agree is a good thing. IIRC also this needs a change in the constitution with a 2/3 majority so it would not be possible with red-red-green.
And whether this is leftist? Again this in my view outdated one dimensional categorising.

Of course, for a party barely passing the 5% limit that goes against the popular will of electing off the incumbents,

Democracy is about majority and trying to achieve what you promised your voters before the election. I think the Saar greens must decide for themselves.

 the move is still a very risky one.

The alternative would also be a great risk. So I wish them well in exploring the Jamaica option in a state sandbox.

Schau in mich, Harno (Green in Baden-Württemberg since 1980)

Make it as simple as possible but not simpler (Albert Einstein)

by harnoes on Fri Oct 16th, 2009 at 04:36:17 AM EST
And whether this is leftist? Again this in my view outdated one dimensional categorising.

Well, it may be, but I know few right-wingers not advocating some form of selection by -- ability? merit? --, and that early.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Oct 16th, 2009 at 06:58:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Greens keep sowing the wind, but so far they've allied only with the left, which won't make it reap the whirlwind.  They will find the right to be far less tolerant of their eccentricities.
by rifek on Mon Nov 9th, 2009 at 12:04:55 AM EST
Eccentricities?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 9th, 2009 at 04:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]