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Countdown Germany: Day -37

by jandsm Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 03:35:24 AM EST

German politics is still largely in the summer break, leaving the giant infrastructure of national media with very few things to report about. Thus, when anything happens it gets ten times the normal amount of coverage. Every year the Germans speculate who will fill the so-called "Sommerloch" (summer hole). This year, Edmund Stoiber filled a big part of it, by questioning the German Unification, embarrassing his party, infuriating a part of Germany inhabited by more voters than Bavaria - with only 3 sentences.

Ambrose Bierce nailed it nearly a hundred years ago:

Politician: An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Today's stories:

  • Retiring Age: 70?
  • The South-North Divide
  • New Polls: The right stays ahead
  • The pope at the horizon
  • Fun

Retiring Age: 70

Showing off why the Social Democrats are at 25-28 in the polls, Christel Riemann-Hanewinkel the secretary of state in the German ministry for social affairs supported an initiative by the head of the Deutsches Insititut für Weltwirtschaft (DIW - German Institute for World Economics - one of Germany's power houses in economics) Klaus Zimmermann to raise the Retiring age in Germany to 70. [link]

This was of course immediately denounced by her minister, the strange Ulla Schmidt who is already disgraced with the voters after she introduced a 10 Euro fee every patient has to pay in cash when he/she visits a doctor. She apparently learned the lesson. But through her denouncement, she made breathed life into the story for another news cycle.

The story is not very much in the newspapers. But it adds to already existing debates on how much longer people should work. I am not going to comment on the substance of this initiative, yet but I believe among older voters little things like this will add up to a substantial disaffection.

The North-South Divide

Edmund Stoiber's comments have already been very much commented on. Especially [here]

Last night, Angela Merkel was in a live 50 minute interview on the ZDF television. The impressive Maybritt Illner questioned her really hard on her relationship with Stoiber. It became apparent how complicated Mrs. Merkels situation became: She cannot distance herself too openly from Mr. Stoiber because she needs him and his party to be successful in Bavaria and she cannot be defend the East vigorously, because that would portray her as an Eastern candidate which would cost significant votes to a very Western chancellor. At the same time, she had to do something.

From my point of view, she did a good job. Particularly when she commented on Mr. Stoiber's remark: "We don't have everywhere population parts as intelligent as here in Bavaria.". She smiled and said: "We have an unequal distribution of intelligence in Germany, but I doubt it is distributed along regional patterns". bang German humor works with dual or triple meanings and with very small changes of intonation making it actually untranslatable (and giving this country the undeserved reputation of not being funny). Mrs. Merkel basically said: Mr. Stoiber is a stupid idiot, but there is nothing I intend to do about that before the elections.

The Spiegel sums up her reaction and also has an article in English[link] on Mrs. Merkel, who is a strange person, but as one of her former opponents once added: "If you underestimate Angela Merkel, you have already lost."

To draw a conclusion: what we are seeing here is a consequence of the big North South divide in the German political and general culture. Bavaria and some parts of Baden-Württemberg form a distinctive entity - different from the rest and it is usually shocking to have a closer look at it.

New poll

The new poll by Infratest-Dimap has the CDU/CSU at 42 percent, the SPD at 29, the LINKE/PDS at 10 (-1), the Greens at 9 (+1), the FDP at 6 percent. [link].

This looks like a tie. But it isn't: You need to check the projection for the seats won directly at Election.de (click on "Wahlkreisprognose") giving the CDU 222 seats and the SPD 66. Through the complicated laws of the mixture of direct seats and proportional representation, if a party wins more seats in a state than it would have deserved by the percentage of votes it got, are added to the Bundestag as additional seats (Überhangmandate). This means, at the current point of time, you have to add roughly 2 percent to the conservative's poll numbers. Plus, German pollsters usually do not talk about the MoE: It is a three percent for the big parties and 1.5 percent for the small ones. No one knows what the margin of Error is for the Linkspartei, which is an unprecedented political phenomenon.

The pope at the horizon

Benedict XVI is coming to Germany for 4 days in August. He is visiting the catholic Weltjugendtage - an event bringing 1 Mio. people from around the world to Cologne - except those who wanted to come from Africa - because many of them were denied a visa because they were feared to seek asylum -a very Christian gesture.

Anyway, Benedict is coming. When he was still cardinal Ratzinger, he was pretty much disliked by the German Catholic Church, which took a very different approach to counseling women before an abortion. Anyway, there will be political effects by his visit. Unlike the annual gay prides in Cologne [link] which attract between 600.000 and 1.2 million people annually, Benedict descent among mortals will get media coverage.

There are already reports on terror threats against the approximately 1 Mio. visitors and the pope. Anyway, in the next 10 days, the country will see the German pope and there will be a lot of talk about our "Christian roots". This may be positive for the conservatives but a problem for Mrs. Merkel, who is a technically Lutheran divorced woman - and most likely an atheist.

Fun Stuff

Have more fun with Ambrose Bierce:

  • PLAN, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result
  • HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime
  • HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools

Today with "SpellCheck"

Germany's new left upsets the applecart - Helmut Scholz is up for a fight - and the political establishment is running scared

Only a few weeks ago, Angela Merkel's conservative opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) and their allies seemed assured of an easy victory. But the latest polls show the Left party winning up to 60 Bundestag seats, which would make it Germany's third-largest political force.

And it could deny an outright majority to Ms Merkel while further weakening Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's ruling Social Democrats (SPD).

Mr Scholz accepted his party was unlikely to win. But he pledged there would be no backroom deals to keep the SPD and Greens in power.

by Fran on Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 04:00:59 AM EST
A typo - presumably you mean 166 (and not 66) for the SPD seat projection?

I love the Devil's Dictionary. I bought a copy of it, in English, at a ridiculously low price, at a bookstore specialised in foreign literature in Moscow in 1988. (I also bought an amazing number of science books - in French and English - over there. Great stuff)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 08:23:47 AM EST
No, 222 vs 66 is the direct mandates, the difference will be offset by the various list mandates. Look at this direct link.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 08:31:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
jandsm, you get a recommend just for the mere mention of my beloved Ambrose Bierce.  For Biercephiles
by caldonia on Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 09:06:12 AM EST

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