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Countdown Germany: Day -36

by jandsm Sat Aug 13th, 2005 at 04:42:56 AM EST

Today, the chancellor Gerhard Schröder starts the Social Democrats campaign for the still uncertain election on September 18, 2005. The chancellor, accompanied by the party chairman, Franz Müntefehring comes to Hanover today for the central opening event of the campaign. 1 km away from this epicenter of German politics, I am sitting eating breakfast and, looking through the window, have to tell you that the chancellor at least lost is luck with the weather. It is a cloudy and gray stereotypical lower-saxon winter-day out there. I intend to understand this as a metaphor.

Just a few things today:

  • Federal Election Commission on the legality of the Linkspartei
  • Stoiber still in trouble
  • Holger Pfahls goes to jail in Germany's biggest 'corruption' scandal - or maybe not.
  • What really matters today

The Federal Election Commission on the Linkspartei

As much as the Election itself, the LINKSPARTEI is still in a legal limbo: German election law is complicated due to federalism and the mixture of Westminster democracy and proportional representation. Every party submits a list of candidates for every single state. I.e. Gerhard Schröder is only on the ballot in Lower Saxony and not in Bavaria. The two big parties win most of the directly elected seats, while the smaller parties rely on their lists. Additionally, the German election law prohibits cooperation or a combined list of two parties. This would be seen as an illegal attempt to get over the 5 percent - line: the minimum of votes a party needs to get to send members into the Bundestag at all.

The LINKSPARTEI is legally the former PDS. Technically the PDS renamed itself and opened its list to members of other parties. Then at the party conferences on the state level, lists were elected and - incedently :-) - WASG members found themselves in good spots (though not everyone was happy). This is because it would not have been possible to create a new party in such a small period of time and it would have berobbed the LINKSPARTEI of the PDS' financial resources.

Still, legal experts argue these list are illegal and the admission of the lists isn't certain yet in all 16 states. The Bundeswahlleiter yesterday denied a report by the ARD that he and his colleagues on the Länder-level will recommend the acceptance of the LINKSPARTEI. The state election commissions have the final word at August 19 and the Federal election commission will make her decision on legal protests on August 25.

In the absence of political substance in the campaign so far, it is promising to follow the technical details this time a little closer.


In the CDU/CSU, people are comparing the reaction of Edmund Stoibers comments on the "frustrated" 14 million Easterners, who "should not again decide who becomes chancellor" as well as his remark on the lack of intelligence outside Bavaria to the Tsunami: One week after he made the comments a huge wave hits the CDU/CSU and the result is shock and silence.

Not very much new on this story. Mrs. Merkel apparently made a phone call to Mr. Stoiber telling him she considered his remarks "unhelpful" (which would be close the European record in understatement). At the same time, Stoiber is supported in his remarks by the relatively new prime minister of Baden-Württemberg, Günther Oettinger. Oettinger may develop into a huge liability for his party. He faces elections in April and he has still not consolidated his rule in BaWü after is 'coup' against his old mentor Erwin Teufel.

Stoiber is at his worst, when he gets nervous: Wait for his next mistake to happen soon.

Holger Pfahls goes to jail - briefly

Holger Pfahls is a former director of the "Bundesverfassungsschutz" - the German equivalent to a domestic NSA and a former secretary of state in the defense ministry under Helmut Kohl. In the last role he accepted 3.8 million marks during a weapon deal (tanks to Saudi-Arabia). This became known during the party finance scandal of the CDU that destroyed Helmut Kohl.

Dramatically, he fled in 1999 from the police and lived in hiding for 4 years until he was arrested in Paris in 2004. He has now been sentenced to 2 years and three month in prison - but not for corruption. With Helmut Kohl and others as witnesses to the court, he was successfully able to argue he took the 3.8 million and did nothing for it. Kohl tested he wanted to sell the tanks anyway - as part of a deal with James Baker to keep German troops out of Iraq war 1. Additionally he called Pfahls (his own deputy defense secretary) unimportant and said - correctly - that Pfahls was part of the Franz Josef Strauss clan. Strauss was a notoriously amoral Bavarian prime minister.

Anyway, Mr. Pfahls will have served more the half of his sentence in September because the time he has spend in prison after is arrest will be included in the sentence. One more month and he will be free - and rich.

What really matters..

You do not have to share my passion but today is the second day of the Bundesliga season 2005/06. The matches:

  • Bayer04 Leverkusen - Bayern Munich (my guess: 2:2)
  • Gladach - Wolfsburg (1-2)
  • Hertha Berlin - Frankfurt (2-0)
  • Dortmund - Schalke (0-1)
  • Kaiserslautern - Duisburg (0-2)
  • Nürnberg - Hannover 96 (1-3)
  • Bielefeld - Hamburg (0-2)
  • Stuttgart - Köln (1-1)
  • Mainz - Bremen (1-2)

Have a great weekend

Due to some tragic events in my family, I am leaving Hanover for the rest of the weekends. Can anyone take over tomorrow? I'll be back on monday.
by jandsm on Sat Aug 13th, 2005 at 04:44:50 AM EST
My sincere condolences, whatever it is that has happened.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sat Aug 13th, 2005 at 08:41:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I add my condolensces and best wishes to you and your family too, jandsm. Your diaries and presence here at Euro Trib have been great, by the way, and I have learned a lot from you in a short time. I'm sure some other folks in Germany will pitch in while you are away.

"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 Aug 13th, 2005 at 09:09:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
May comfort travel with you.  We'll keep the light on, jandsm.
by caldonia on Sat Aug 13th, 2005 at 09:39:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Sunday is usually a slow news day, so I might give it a try. but if someone else wants to step up....
I also feel that as an Auslandsdeutscher since quite a while - others will have their finger much closer to the pulse.
P.S: All the best to you and your family jandsm.
by PeWi on Sat Aug 13th, 2005 at 06:08:21 AM EST
I gave it a try and covered this really slow news day (even for a Sunday). Here's Day -35.
by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 07:48:24 AM EST

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