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Will Schroeder get his early elections?

by Jerome a Paris Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 04:02:54 AM EST

Schroeder set for confidence vote

Germany's parliament is due to hold a vote of confidence in the government, which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wants to lose to trigger new elections. Mr Schroeder called for the vote after his Social Democratic Party suffered a bad defeat in a key state poll in May.

He says bringing the election forward by a year is necessary to secure a mandate for his tough economic reforms.

An early election, which needs approval from the president, could hand power to the more popular Christian Democrats.

If Mr Schroeder loses Friday's vote as he hopes to, it will be up to President Horst Koehler to decide whether there are sufficient grounds to call an early election.

Some experts have questioned whether Mr Schroeder's move is constitutional.

I have more info in French which I would need to translate but won't have the time to this morning. I hope that our German members (and others!) will pitch in with more information and comments.

Deutsche Welle has more informations:
Schröder Hoping to Lose Confidence Vote
The Troubled Red-Green Legacy
Dossier: Germany's Early Election

Interesting for the next election:
German Leftist Movement Gaining Ground

Finally an opinion from the Spiegel:
Gerhard Schroeder, the Great Manipulator
(there's also an counter opinion to that article but unfortunately it's only available in German)

by Affenkopf (affenkopf at gmail dot com) on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 05:31:16 AM EST
Thanks for the links!

So what should we think of Lafontaine's new stunt?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 06:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hard from the American viewpoint to disentangle the various European political parties. From what I read over here, it sounds like France may have a conservative leader (Sarkozy) soon, and Germany also (Merkel). That would leave Blair as the remaining "liberal" (by US terminology) among the big three EU countries. Is Europe headed for a period of conservative leadership?

Or am I misunderstanding this...

by asdf on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 06:15:14 AM EST
Except that Blair seems to be more to the right than the other two, in terms af actual policies...

Chirac is a former communist, and he's always been a populist/paternalist.

See this column in last week's FT about Merkel:

Wolfgang Munchau: Germany's potential liberator

Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, is the dead man walking of European politics. Germany's economy has been depressed for five years, with unemployment now at 12 per cent. His opportunistic anti-American election campaign in 2002 damaged traditionally good relations with the US. His instinctive corporatism and lack of leadership have greatly contributed to the European Union's present crisis. His one important political decision, the labour and welfare reforms launched in 2003, backfired because he could not explain them. Rarely in modern European politics has political failure been so profound and visible.

Tony Blair, the prime minister, and other leaders are right to look beyond Mr Schröder towards Angela Merkel, head of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union, as Germany's next leader. Her poll lead is unlikely to be overturned. The only question is whether the CDU-Christian Social Union grouping will win an absolute majority (probably not).

She stands for a more liberal, more transatlantic Germany. But it would be a mistake for US and UK policy strategists to get ahead of themselves in assessing the consequences of a Merkel victory. She will probably not turn against Jacques Chirac, the French president. Nor will she entertain the idea of a strategic Anglo-German alliance. So what should we expect?

Like many opposition leaders, she is much clearer on domestic than foreign policy. She is often compared to Baroness Thatcher, the former British prime minister. There are some striking similarities. They are scientists, unusual for top politicians in either country. Lady Thatcher is an Oxford-educated chemist. Ms Merkel holds a PhD in physical chemistry and has published in journals such as Molecular Physics and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The daughter of a Protestant priest, Ms Merkel grew up in Brandenburg, east Germany. Unlike most of her peers in the CDU, her political life started with German unification. She pays lip service to Germany's social market economy but often argues outside its framework. She is one of a rare breed of German politicians capable of using the word "freedom" without embarrassment.

But Thatcherites should not count her as an honorary member. Ms Merkel never tires of pointing out that Lady Thatcher opposed German unification, which has been the raison d'être of Ms Merkel's political life.

Unlike Mr Blair, Ms Merkel opposes Turkish membership of the European Union. Her views on this are said to have hardened since the No votes in the French and Dutch referendums on the European constitution. It is also an issue on which she is at odds with the US. But she will accept the commitments that the EU has made to Romania and Bulgaria and she also supports EU enlargement to the western Balkans.

Under Ms Merkel, Germany would maintain its close relationship with Mr Chirac, but this relationship would become less exclusive. In particular, I would expect Germany to return to a diplomacy it perfected in the past - forging strategic relationships with smaller EU countries. Again, this is different from Mr Blair, who is not known for his respect for little European states and their leaders.

But the make-or-break issue of her government will be economic reform. For the first two years of her term, support from the liberal Free Democrats should allow her a majority in both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, the two chambers of parliament. A stable "double majority" is quite rare in German politics and is a window of opportunity to launch unpopular reforms, especially in the labour market. When Mr Schröder came to power he also had a double majority but did not use it. When Ms Merkel said last week that Germany's social and welfare system was no longer sacrosanct, she signalled that she might, after all, go for radical reform.

We should not take this reform programme for granted. There is vigorous opposition within Ms Merkel's party to some proposals, such as fundamental reform of health insurance, relaxation of hiring and firing laws and abolishing the wage cartel between employers and trade unions. I suspect Germany will also abandon its ridiculous restrictions on shopping hours.

Ms Merkel's liberalism ends with immigration. There is no chance that, under her government, Germany would open up its labour market to immigrants from the new EU member states ahead of time. Nor should one expect Ms Merkel to back Mr Blair's position on the British rebate in the EU budget and his decision to link debate of the rebate with reform of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy. There is considerable support for the CAP from sections of the CDU and especially the CSU, its Bavarian sister party. Unlike Britain, Germany will not go back on its commitment to France to let the CAP run until 2013.

Ms Merkel is a liberal, a transatlanticist and a pro-European and does not easily fit existing categories in the European debate. I would expect much better relations with Britain and the US but the change would be more one of style than substance. What makes a Merkel government potentially exciting is the chance of genuine economic reform. It would allow her to lead the Franco-German alliance - and with it the EU as a whole - in a new direction.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 06:51:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That helps; thank you. Can you point to a comparable overview of Sarkozy?
by asdf on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 09:25:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep...I too found this very informative and helpful...and if it turns out to be anywhere accurate, Merkel could be a catalyst for some interesting changes in the EU. Lets see...

Thanks, J!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 09:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While Mr. Munchau obviously knows his facts, he clearly has no hesitation about spinning them. Two things in particular stick in my craw.

Before I get to them, however, non-European readers should be aware that Munchau is using the word "liberal" in the German sense, which is very heavy on laisser-faire, free market economy - what most of us here mean by the term.

His opportunistic anti-American election campaign in 2002 damaged traditionally good relations with the US.

Schröder's "opportunistic Antiamericanism" consisted of saying, loudly and clearly, that Germany would not participate in any military expedition in Iraq (and his opponent just waffled). The W-ites of course were pissed, and churlish. But it won him the election. And I still think he was right.

...relaxation of hiring and firing laws abolishing the wage cartel between employers and trade unions.

Wage cartel? Excuse me, that's just good old-fashioned collective bargaining, practiced on an industry level. Incidently, this collective bargaining system is one of the reasons that for decades Germany had one of the lowest rates of work days lost to strikes in the world.

As for the "hiring and firing laws", German labor law recognizes - and seeks to redress - the power imbalances betweem employer and employee, including with respect to dismissals (if the company has a works council, that body is also entitled to review hirings for fairness - but that is subject for another diary).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 11:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand. I thought Ireland was one of the poster children for the success of free-market reforms. But Ireland has depended on National Wage Agreements as one of the main elements of economic policy. Surely that makes them a good thing ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 11:52:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She is one of a rare breed of German politicians capable of using the word "freedom" without embarrassment.

I wouldn't think she is a rare breed, but she has had rare experiences that lead her to not shy away from admitting that "freedom" is nothing she takes for granted like most of all other German politicians. She was aware of the fact that it was a risk and a privilege during her childhood to speak freely about politics with in her home while living under a communist regime.

So far she has shown no interest in cheap political rhetoric or conservative propaganda, one aspect that makes her more acceptable to voters who would tend to vote the FDP (Liberals) or SPD.

I think the US conservatives  have tremendous interest in her to win and pamper her with charming attention (a rare thing among Conservatives of the US, who usually seize all the situations to show they don't care). My hunch is that she doesn't fall for typical US conservative double talk and propaganda.

Merkel seems to have truly stumbled into politics unintentionally and her hands down, matter of fact attitude to simply "solve problems" in politics the same way she would "solve problems in theoretical chemistry" (sit down, do the homework, calculate the problem and study the results) made her "a good pal or companion" to many male politicians.

I am convinced that nothing much in her political development was planned in the beginning. Kohl used her well and she served him like any scientist would serve to "solve a problem that she cares passionately about", but I don't believe she is something, what a paternalistic, loving father would call "my (little) girl". She has her own head and is stubborn, but can hide it well, if needed.

I think one shouldn't be too sure what she will be about. Some slips in her speech today, which caused the Bundestag to break out in laughter twice, might just plainly show it more clearly than anything else.

Mostly tense and not too secure about herself in her speeches, she made two "telling" rhetorical slips today. When Merkel wanted to talk about the coalition of CDU (Christian Democratic Union -right conservative), CSU (Christian Social Union - most right conservatives) and the FDP (Liberals), she slipped and spoke about the coalition of CDU, CSU and SPD, which of course was met with much laughter. On top of that she confirmed the capacity of the red-green coalition to govern the country well, when she in fact wanted to confirm the INCAPACITY of the red-green coalition to govern. Apparently something in her subconsciousness didn't allow her to say what she was supposed to say.

May be this is THE Freudian slip more telling than one might want to admit. I have heard her speaking in front of an US audience and found her nuanced in a way that Americans don't recognise, but also pretty insecure. She might have a lot to learn, which she is capable of doing given her "scientific" approach to everything and her "ego and willpower".

The Germans might not have shown any "readiness" to vote for a woman as head of government, but for some reasons one forgets with Merkel that she is a woman. She is definitely NOT a Thatcher-like lady. I fear she is not much of a cosmopolitan and has had little interest in foreign, international affairs aside from US-German, German-EU and German-Russian relations.

by mimi on Sat Jul 2nd, 2005 at 01:31:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I am wondering, what will the place of the CSU be in the Merkel government. Usually when there is the CDU the CSU is near by. I have not so many doubts about Merkel, but would feel uncomfortable if Stoiber would be part of the new government.

If I recollect correctly the CSU is called the sister party of the CDU, but is actually from Bavaria and much more to the right than the CDU.

by Fran on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 09:56:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the BBC


"German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has lost a confidence vote in parliament as he intended, paving the way for its dissolution and early elections."

So now what? And can anyone tell us about Merkel?

There is this quote:
"Above all, voters appear to be fed up with the government's inability to bring down Germany's high unemployment rate of 11.3% - some 4.7 million people, according to the latest figures."

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 07:38:12 AM EST

The regional election success for the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in North Rhine-Westphalia could be a springboard for party leader Angela Merkel.

Ms Merkel is likely to be the candidate to challenge German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Germany's next general election, which means she may have a good chance of becoming the country's first female chancellor.

Angela Merkel first came to prominence five years ago during a CDU party slush fund scandal.

She had strongly denied allegations that bribes were paid for the supply of tanks to Saudi Arabia, describing them as "totally absurd".

But, as the crisis deepened and the full scale of former chancellor Helmut Kohl's role in it became apparent, she was the first former Kohl ally to publicly break with the man who brought her into the cabinet.

All very nice but what does she stand for. Fortunately we have a one of her minions to parse Europe's new Iron Maiden

Ulrich Klinkert, her deputy when she headed the Environment Ministry in the mid-1990s, said she was a highly competent professional, but comparisons to the 'Iron Lady' were wide of the mark.

"It's too easy to say she is Germany's Margaret Thatcher - she is a little bit Margaret Thatcher and a little bit Tony Blair," he said.

Politically, she occupies more centrist ground on social issues such as abortion and legal rights for gay couples.

Her campaign is thought likely to focus on increasing the pace of reforming taxes, pensions and health - something her rival Mr Schroeder has tried to address in his Agenda 2010 for labour and social changes.

So, whilst she is a milksnatcher, she is not a completely callous milksnatcher*.

My guess is that we are going to hear a lot of European newspapers comparing Ms Merkel to Margaret Thatcher. There is one similarity: It would seem that both Thatcher and Merkel are going, or did, rise to power on the back of a failure of their country's left to modernise themselves.

The rest of the article can be found here

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 08:49:26 AM EST

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