by Frank Schnittger
Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 07:42:25 AM EST
I don't follow German politics, and there is very little coverage of them in the media that I frequent, but it seems to me that the German election due on Sept. 22nd. could be pivotal for all of Europe. On the one hand we have Frau Merkel who seems to bestride the political stage like a giant and who leads her nearest rival, Peer Steinbrück, by a margin of 60 to 30% as the public's choice for Chancellor. On the other hand, we have a rag tag of parties without a coherent ideology or unifying principle.
And yet I have a sense that Merkel could lose. I would be interested in gaming out the possible outcomes, and above all, in informing myself of the possible policy implications, because Germany seems to be the key player in determining EU and Eurozone policy at the present time. With Ireland still under the heal of the Troika, the German election outcome will have more influence on Ireland's immediate political and economic future than any Irish election could or would.
According to recent opinion polls the standing of the parties is approximately as follows:
The key to me seems to be whether the FDP can surmount the 5% minimum required for parliamentary representation. Paradoxically, Merkel's popularity might make that more difficult. If they fail, she has lost her current and natural coalition partner and is down to c. 40% of the poll. The FDP always seem to be in trouble coming up to recent elections, and they always seem to make in in the end thanks to some CDU leaning voters voting tactically for them to keep them in the game. But if everybody expects them to make it, the reverse could also happen!
The most popular option for government is a Grand Coalition of the CDU/CSU with the SPD. But with Merkel so dominant, the SPD and Peer Steinbrück might be less than keen to play second fiddle this time around and so might seek to cobble together an alternative coalition with the Greens and even, shock horror, with Die Linke. Even if the FDP do achieve the 5% minimum, an SPD/Green/linke coalition currently stands at 47% of the vote compared to 45% for the current CDU/CSU/FDP coalition. But are Die Linke still off limits for Government participation in Germany?
The Pirate, Alternative for Germany (AfD), and right wing neo-nazis parties are unlikely to reach the 5% minimum required for parliamentary representation, but will they take some votes away from the mainstream parties and thus effect the overall outcome? I wouldn't be too hopeful that an SPD led coalition would be all that radically different from a Merkel led coalition, but at least a few different policy options might hove into public discourse. Or would they end up being more conservative than the conservatives themselves, and would a dominant and confident Merkel have more freedom of action for radical policy departures from the current status quo?
I would welcome the participation of those with more knowledge of German politics to help educate us on what the political and policy outcomes could be. Can we expect more of the same austerity economics after the election, or are there the rumblings of change in the German body politic, and how will this effect the rest of Europe?