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Upcoming German elections - updated with poll!!!

by PeWi Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 08:38:00 AM EST


there might be some elections coming up in Germany in September. I am not quite feeling as if I could contribute something unique, but I could stubble something together, if there is no one else, that want's to do it.

It is potentially a very interesting election. Conservatives are understood to be in government after September, but Angela Merkel is rather bland, and the CSU is known to eat feet. (to put foot in mouth even though they are religiously against swallowing) and the "Linkspartei" might get as much as 11% - overtaking the Conservatives in the Five New Countries.

So, what would you like to know?

Sorry all the links are in German - I will try to be better next time.

What do you want to know
. Party by party account with analysis of the party programms 36%
. Just some comments whenever you can or like 0%
. Go away - I have a major in politics, this is my joint 0%
. Ranting - and plenty of it 9%
. All of the above 54%

Votes: 11
Results | Other Polls
we definitely need more coverage of this topic. any information on the arious partiea, their programmes and what makes hadline in Germany would be great.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 09:31:48 AM EST
Here's a short timeline of what has happened so far and what is expected to happen next.

  • 22.9.2002: Last general election for the Bundestag (upper house) in Germany with the major parties SPD (Social Democrats) and CDU (Christian Democtratic Union - the conservative party) tied at 38,5%.  The Social Democrats and the Greens have together a slight majority of 306 seats (out of 603 total) so they were able to continue their coalition.
  • Since then the CDU were able to win almost every local election, gaining lots of seats in the Bundesrat (lower house) which strongly hinders the ruling coalition to advance its agenda.
  • 22.5.2005: Election in Nordrhein-Westphalen, the largest state in Germany which has been a traditional SPD stronghold.  The SPD-Green coalition tanked and the CDU was able to form a coalition with the FDP (Free Democrats) for the first time in 40 years there.
  • On the same evening the head of the SPD Müntefering announced that Chancellor Schröder is seeking to ask the Vertrauensfrage (Vote of Confidence) in order to facilitate early elections in the fall of this year.

Here's how it works: The Chancellor asks for a vote of confidence in the Bundestag.  If the vote fails, he can ask our President to dissolve the Bundestag, which he has to do within 21 days.  After that, there have to be new elections in the next 60 days to elect a new Bundestag.  This has been done twice in the past in 1960-something and in 1983.  Our highest court has put some restrictions on this practice to ensure that it is not abused, however the Chancellor and the President still have leeway in making the decision.

  • 1.7.2005: Chancellor Schröder loses the vote of confidence as expected.  (It was expected, because the entire administration, which also hold seats in the Bundestag abstained.)  Schröder then asked our President Köhler to dissolve the Bundestag.

  • It is expected that Köhler will follow Schröder's request and dissolve the Bundestag.  This means that he has 3 more days to do so.  However, it has been announced that a couple of parties/individuals will sue before our highest court alleging that what Schröder has done is unconstitutional.  The court has the power to stop the process alltogether, but I doubt that this will happen.

  • If the Bundestag is in fact dissolved, then there will propably be new elections on 18.9.2005.
by hesk on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 10:46:02 AM EST
Nordrhein-Westphalen is not the largest state in Germany, but the most populous.
by hesk on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 10:58:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks hesk, very good summary of events so far.
I knew I only had to threaten so write something and others would come out of the woodworks.
by PeWi on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 10:59:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, great summary, Hesk, very helpful, thank you. Okay...now some questions (let's see, where to start...):

  1. What is Schroeder going to do, to try and get re-elected...as i doubt he is just going to sit and watch he (and his party) get ousted without a fight?

  2. Also, there was a recent announcement by the gal who everyone is already predicting will win (oh drat, what's her name...Merkin?), where she is making promises to change some tax codes to "improve the economy" (sounds like the Bush "tax cut" deal to me), only to have someone else speak out and say that this approach was fiscally unworkable and irresponsible.

So, maybe one of you can expound on this a little further: what are the proposed fiscal changes? Who was it that challenged her? Do you think he's correct in saying its bad policy? And what are the political/economic discussions going now, after all this has gone on?

Obviously, the big question is: where is Germany heading to next?

(Sorry I'm so vague, with names, etc....)

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

by whataboutbob on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 01:10:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll gladly throw in my €0.02:

  1. Of course he's going to try and win the election, but even so he'll still be in deep doodoo. The Bundesrat (the council of the federal states) is squarely in the hands of the other party and will thus block him on virtually every important legislative initiative.

  2. Your inability to remember the woman's name (Angela Merkel) is more a testimony to her charisma than to your memory. Snark aside, their platform includes an increase in the VAT from 16% to 18%, to be applied to lower the cost of unemployment insurance. The Liberal (read: "Free Market") party, the prospective junior partner in the coalition, has objected most strenuously to this plank.

FWIW, I think it's not a bad idea; Germany's current VAT rate is among the lowest in Europe, so there is scope for such a move. Beyond that, one of their tenets is that unemployment is so high because of the social benefits, which are financed through payroll deductions and matching employee contributions (instead of primarily through tax revenues, as in Skandinavia). These deductions+contributions (unemployment, old-age, health, long-term care) together are equivalent to > 40% of income.

Beyond that, they have not announced any specific changes to the tax code or to social programs (although one might expect something fairly radical here once they get into office.) They have declared that they want to make it easier to get rid of workers.

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 Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 01:46:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As dvx has already replied, the CDU (which Angela Merkel is heading) have suggested to increase the VAT from 16% to 18%.  This is actually in their recently passed election manifesto, so it seems like it's a done deal.

The most vocal opponent to this increase is Guido Westerwelle, head of the FDP (Free Democrats or Market Liberals), who has said that there will be no tax increases with them in the administration.  He argues that this is unecessary and would stiffle consumer activity, thus hurting the economy.  Now, since it is very likely that the CDU will form a coalition with the FDP it seems that there is a conflict waiting to happen.

It is, however, very interesting that a lot of people in the FDP agree with the increase and the Westerwelle hasn't commented on the recently passed manifesto (he's on vacation, but that hasn't stopped him to comment before).  So my take is that all this talk is to position the FDP as the party that won't do tax increases, which is a very popular position in Germany, but will cave in the end.

As for the increase itself, I think it is sound policy if it goes along with radical slashing of unnecessary subsidies.  The problem in Germany is that the state is practically broke.  I think I read in a recent Spiegel that we pay 25% of the budget as interest for loans, but that number seems awfully large, so I might be wrong.

Also, it is important to remember that while the CDU wants to increase the VAT it wants to decrease other taxes.  I'll try to get a better picture of their manifesto, before I'll comment on that.

by hesk on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 03:51:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the thing I'm most curious about...and most concerned about...is what will be the new direction of the German government, if in fact Merkel is elected? Will Germany stay European focused, or will it try to move closer to the US and the British? Probably hard to tell at this point, but what are your thoughts about this?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 07:17:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel is in France today, for what is described as a quasi-State visit. She will meet Chirac, Villepin and Sarkozy. The CDU is keen to show that she will also have a good relationship with France. They put themselves in the footsteps of Kohl: nothing can happen in Europe will happen without France and Germanu on board, but good relations with others are important. Expect a less anti-American tone, but no substantial change within Europe. Neither Merkel nor Sarkozy will radically alter their countries' diplomacies and they will work with each other as a prority.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 10:19:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Jerome...that's helpful, and a relief, to hear. I know, I shouldn't be so worried about it...but after all these articles I'm starting to read that shows the ideological attacks of the American Neo-Cons on Europe, I just hope the "political elites" here don't cave in. There's a lot good going on...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 11:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Increasing VAT while decreasing other taxes is likely to be socially regressive in its impact.  The consumption tax affects everyone in the society.  I concede that I'm not aware of whether German VAT is applied to food or other necessities such as clothing, utilities and rents.  But assuming at least some of these are caught, those people who have low, and particularly also fixed, incomes will find a higher proportion of their income is eaten up by the increased VAT on necessities compared to the proportion of high income earners' incomes.  

A few questions: will pensions be adjusted to compensate for the VAT increase under the CDU plan?  What about self-funded retirees - ie those living from interest/dividends on accumulated capital?  The value of their savings and purchasing power is instantly devalued.  Will the increased VAT fund cuts in business taxes or income tax? - more regressive still!

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 11:44:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right that decreasing other taxes while increasing the VAT can be socially regressive in its impact but there are a few things to consider:

  • I think that rent isn't covered by the VAT at all and most Germans live in rented appartments.  Same with medical insurance, IIRC.

  • Food and some other basic necessities are taxed with a reduced rate of 7% which will not change.

In my case that means that the VAT increase only affects about a third of my expenses, and I'm a student, so I don't particularly qualify as rich.
by hesk on Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 10:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
minor correction - Land translates as state or province in English.
But thanks for nice intro. At some point I guess I should try to do the same for the upcoming Polish elections unless there are any other Poles floating around here who would care to do so.
by MarekNYC on Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 01:17:07 PM EST
They know how to get that NASCAR vote. Unfortunately they are openly talking about reducing the taxes on upper income earners, and increasing the VAT (MWST). I think Germans are a bit too clever to go for these regressive, Reagan/Thatcher style ploys. In the end we may regard Schroeder as shrewd to have thrown his unpopularity in the faces of the opposition, to make them come up with an  alternative.  IMHO, he is not yet doomed.
by Cache on Wed Jul 20th, 2005 at 03:00:06 AM EST

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