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German Elections: Parliament dissolved, Election Campaigns In Full Swing

by hesk Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 07:54:40 AM EST

As has been widely expected, German President Köhler dissolved the Bundestag (German parliament) yesterday and scheduled early elections to take place on September 18, 2005.

At least two Members of the Bundestag and some smaller parties have announced that they will sue before the highest court in the next week alleging that early elections are unconstitutional.  However, in the current political climate it is very unlikely that they will be successful -- all major political parties support early elections as do 78% of the population.

While the election campaigns have been on the back-burner since May 22, yesterday's decision has officially kicked off the campaigns.  

So where do we (or rather the Germans) stand right now?  If the Germans went to the polls this Sunday, this would be the result:

(The current coalition consists of the red (SPD) and the green (well, Greens) bars.  Black is the CDU (currently the conservative opposition), yellow is the FDP (mostly market liberals) and the pink bar is the new and much-talked-about Left Party.)

To add some substance to these numbers: The SPD has been hovering at 27% for the last couple of weeks, while the CDU has dropped from 48% in the last month but has been stable this week.  The Greens and the FDP are virtually unchanged, while the Left Party has been steadily increasing its share.  (Source, thanks to DoDo for the link.)

Together the CDU and the FDP have 49% of the vote while the other parties in the Bundestag have 48%.  The missing 3% are explained by the 5% hurdle every party must pass to gain seats in the Bundestag.  The CDU and FDP have thus a narrow majority.

There's been a lot of interest in the Left Party, so let's take a closer look.  The following graph shows where the voters for the Left Party are coming from:

The first two bars are unsurprising.  A majority are disgruntled SPD voters and the PDS base.  Widely speculated, but worth noting nonetheless, is the high percentage of former non-voters (the grey bar in the graph).  The Left Party currently draws more than 1 million Germans who stayed home in the last election.  Also worth noting is the swing of 7% CDU voters in the graph.  (These kind of voters are a mystery to me, I'd appreciate your insights.)

According to the analysis of the pollsters, the Left Party is doing so well, because of its clear image: 45% of all Germans think that the Left Party represents the interests of the poor and 52% think that it particularly represents the East part of Germany.  (source)

However, in my view the numbers of the Left Party are inflated right now.  First of all, the campaigns have been reluctant so far, since there was a lot of uncertainty before yesterday.  Secondly, adding to that the Left Party has received a lot of the media's attention, since the emergence of new political party is a major event in any case.  At least one article in the FAZ (major center-right newspaper) argues that the current focus of the media is a bit much, though.

Finally, I think that the current success of the Left Party is driven by the "come back" of their two protagonists and the name recognition they bring with them.  The next graph is telling.  It shows the stark, but unsurprising, difference in the performance of the Left Party in the East vs. the West.  The bar to the right shows the potential in the Western state Saarland -- where Oscar Lafontaine is coming from.

The poll I've quoted is from infratest-dimap and was commisioned by the ARD Tagesschau which is the news show on public television in Germany.

For poll junkies: The poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday using a sample of 1000 people.

Also, if you know some blogs that cover the election, I'd appreciate if you'd post a link, because I've lost my list of blogs recently.

If time permits I'll post an overview of the major issues in the election and where the parties stand next week.

by hesk on Fri Jul 22nd, 2005 at 07:01:53 AM EST
Hesk, excellent summary, thank you! (and have appreciated your input on other German issue discussions too!). Please keep us posted...hopefully, you will find your lost links. T feel that this election is very significant, not only for Germany, but for Europe too, as it could give us an indication of where the people are these days.

"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 22nd, 2005 at 08:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup, helps set the direction for the EU for the next few critical years.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 22nd, 2005 at 08:05:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have two guesses:

  1. East German voters. In East Germany (just like in the rest of the formerly communist Eastern EU), voting habits aren't as solidified, the reason someone votes for one party might depend on changing issues.

  2. Socially conservative, lower middle class people who were fired or fear they will be, and who feel betrayed by the CDU giving up on the welfare state of Ludwig Erhart.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jul 22nd, 2005 at 06:22:57 PM EST
BTW, hesk, where do you think will the inevitable loss of voters from this buzz-supplied 12% go during the campaign?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jul 22nd, 2005 at 06:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be surprised if the SPD would stay at 27%. It would seriously shake up the political landscape here.  They have already incorperated some of the Left Party's position into their program, e.g. a special tax on the rich.

On the other hand, I figure that the CDU will draw some of the protest voters away (or back).

Don't feel like speculating, though.

by hesk on Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 09:44:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point about East German voting habits.  

My suspicion is that the swing is largely caused by protest voters in the West.  The PDS wasn't really an alternative there in the last election. so they voted CDU simply to vote against the party in power.  Now that the WASG has emerged and has a stronger opposition appeal than the CDU they switch to the Left Party.

by hesk on Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 09:38:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
have thre been any announcements about alliance on the left?


What do the greens say about WASG/Linkspartei?

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 24th, 2005 at 07:22:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlin - SPD Head Franz Müntefering rules out a coalition with the alliance of Linkspartei and Wahlalternative WASG following parliamentary elections in  September. "On the federal level, we do not want to form a coalition with the PDS under any circumstances whatsoever (there have been state-level red-red coalitions in the east). And not with the PDS and their interns from the West either," said Müntefering on ZDF (one of the two nationwide TV channels). "That is definite." Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and SPD-Vice Chairman Kurt Beck had previously rejected any form of cooparation with the left-wing alliance. (dpa)(via link; xlation m.o.

The timestamp is 13:03.

I do not expect Oskar Lafontaine to be any more positive, given the long-standing emnity between him and Schröder.

It is slightly reminiscent of the waning years of Weimar. While the Nazis steadily gained ground, the progressive parties constantly proclaimed that "the enemy is on the left".

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

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Jul 24th, 2005 at 08:05:29 AM EST
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Parts of the left wing in the SPD have expressed a preference for a Red-Green-Red coalition over a SPD-CDU (Great) coalition should the numbers not add up to a CDU-FDP or SPD-Green coalition.  One Bundestag member (Schreiner) said that nothing is ruled out and another one (Skarpelis-Sperk) said that "a great coalition strengthens radical elements on the right and the left."  (Spiegel Online, sorry that it's in German)
by hesk on Sun Jul 24th, 2005 at 01:39:47 PM EST
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Well, Joschka Fischer, the unofficial head of the Greens and our vice chancellor, has been ranting a lot about the new Left Party and especially its head Lafontaine.  Today he said in a Spiegel interview "This party may do everything, except govern."  On the whole the Greens haven't protested much about the Left Party and are focussing on their own strategy.  It would be ironic to protest to much, though, considering their own history.

Curiously the unions and their spokes-persons have largely been welcoming the new party to the landscape and Bsirske, head of the largest union ver.di has said that "he's curious how things will develop."  He mentioned the effects on the SPD which has specified its program and the Greens which are profiling themselves more as a modern left party.

(Spiegel, German only)

by hesk on Sun Jul 24th, 2005 at 01:54:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hesk, I've moved this back to the diaries, as it was sliding down the front page, in hopes more will visit, read and comment.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 07:57:50 AM EST

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