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Countdown Germany: Day -35 [UPDATED]

by Saturday Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 07:35:48 AM EST

Since jandsm can not proceed with his election countdown today, I am going to try to fill the gap until he comes back.

Countdown Germany: Day -35. Reflections on a slow news Sunday

Despite the official campaign kickoff of chancellor Schröder yesterday, today is a rather slow news Sunday. Currently both big parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) because of a considerable lack of inspiration and the conservatives (CDU/CSU) because of dissension about the political strategy, are not able to set an agenda: This year's race rather looks like a convulsion than an election campaign. Meanwhile, the High Court, which has to decide whether the dissolving of the Bundestag was constitutional, seems to be in favor of allowing new elections.

Today's topics:

  • Campaign kickoff of a different kind: CDU/CSU
  • President Bush: Still Schröder's best canvasser?
  • Where have the issues gone?
  • What Germans talk about today.

[UPDATE: 21.50 CEST] Ok, afternoon brought interesting news: There will be a TV discussion between Stoiber and Left Party candidate Oskar Lafontaine. This looks like a major affront against CDU-candidate Angela Merkel who will now be regarded as not being able to tackle her political opponents on her own. Up to now, there has been no comment by Mrs. Merkel. But I can hardly believe that she gave her blessing to Stoiber's move. Again: The rift among Germany's conservatives continues to grow.

Campaign kickoff of a different kind: CDU/CSU

What first looked like a "normal" gaffe by Bavaria's prime minister Edmund Stoiber (CSU), now developed into the first main "theme" of the election campaigns' hot phase. Media coverage focuses on Stoiber's remarks about East German voters being dull and frustrated, culminating in a statement that compared them to "stupid calves". Polemicising against the political preference of a large part of the East German electorate for the new Left Party, Stoiber aimed at solidifying support for his party in Bavaria.
Concentrating on his regional electorate in the south, Stoiber (along with Baden-Württemberg's prime Minister Günther Oettinger) reveals a stunning indifference towards the strategy of his partner party CDU and chancellorship candidate Angela Merkel.
It seems that the north/south-cleavage in the CDU/CSU has opened wide: As has become public today, the CDU/CSU strategy meeting last Wednesday ended in a clash between Stoiber and Lower-Saxony prime minister Christian Wulff over the campaign strategy. While Wulff wants to conduct a "governmental" campaign, Stoiber demands a more aggressive approach against the Left Party, whose rise in poll numbers threatens a possible conservative majority. In the strategy meeting, Merkel was not able to solve the conflict. Since Stoiber is unwilling to retract his statement, the conflict among the conservatives should continue to supply chancellor Gerhard Schröder with decent campaign ammunition.

President Bush: Still Schröder's best canvasser?

Yesterday Schröder started his campaign in Hanover with a well-known motif: He criticised President Bush's adherence to military options towards Iran. But since the last elections in 2002 when his opposition against the war in Iraq saved him his job, the situation has changed considerably: This time, Germany's conservatives can refer to the joint European commitment to a diplomatic solution - in 2002, they were not able to distance themselves from Bush's war. They will not make the the same mistake again. Consequently, the war theme will most probably be at the periphery of this year's election campaign. That Schröder made it the central point of his kickoff speech indicates, in fact, the Social Democrats' lack of political inspiration.

Where have the issues gone?

Germany's deficit is exploding. So does the oil price, threatening the already appalingly slow economic growth. More than five Million people are jobless and have to cope with severe cuts in the unemployment benefits. The federal system desperately needs reform to end the continuing political stasis.
All these issues are amazingly absent from TV news and newspapers these days. The parties have severe difficulties to set political agendas. The political system as we knew it shows clear signs of exhaustion, and the political landscape is about to change for good. The most obvious sign is the rise of the new Left Party. So watch out for this year's elections, they will be of big historical importance - despite the lack of political issues.

What Germans talk about today

Isn't it a sign of political sanity that people are talking about football rather than politics this weekend?

Bayer Leverkusen - Bayern München    2:5
Bor. Mönchengladbach - VfL Wolfsburg 1:1
Borussia Dortmund - FC Schalke 04    1:2
Hertha BSC - Eintracht Frankfurt     2:0
Kaiserslautern - MSV Duisburg        5:3
Nürnberg - Hannover 96               1:1
Arminia Bielefeld - Hamburger SV     0:2

Jandsm, you got 3 out of 7 right. Better luck next time :)

Have a nice Sunday afternoon!

You beat me to it Saturday, by 5mins well I post it as a comment then...

I had hope that the chalice would bypass me, but, since half the day already passed and nobody stepped up I will give you my summary of what is happening in Germany.

First of all - and I know how strange this will sound for a German and how peculiar it might be for others that it is strange for a German to say such a thing - our prayers are with you jandsm and your family at this time.

So I thought I have a bit on religiosity in Germany, plus two hundred grams of Stoiber and Merkel, then some uplifting Fischer and as a bonus dollop a birthday congratulation and a poem:"ottos mops"

I had a discussion about religiosity in Germany with a Pakistani dissident yesterday. She would the overall percentage of Christians - being part of either the Catholic or Protestant Church in Germany - was still 65%. That the overall percentage is so low, is mainly because the membership in the East was 20% in 1989.
but the interesting information for me is that the overall percentage of Service attendance has not dropped and is pretty stable. Only 4% of it members attend a service regularly. Even on Christmas it is only 34%.
So you might ask, why are all these people still in the Church pay Churchtax. (Which by the way is a direct consequence of the secularization in its original strife, after Napoleon conquered most parts of Germany.)
I don't know, but I do know, that because of that the German Churches are most secularized. - We can discuss this further, if there is interest in that.

Back to Stoiber - another quote has come out, which caused angry reaction accross the CDU and all across East-Germany. Because: While he said:

"It can't be that the frustated decide about the fate of Germany!"
in East Germany. In West-Germany he said something slightly different :
"Are you (refering to East Germans) stupid, only the most stupid sheep choose their butchers themselves."

This caused quite a storm again so the SPD was able to say they are West-German separatists. Well we will have to see what the overall consequences are.
In my opinion, however populist this statements are, they do touch on a nerve of a lot of people in Germany, who do blame the East and their "ungrateful cousins" for their own economic situation.
Jerome had some good statistics which counters this a while back, but I cannot find that in the moment.

Merkels reaction is to distance herself from these statements, but according to the FAZ she has another problem. Since Friedrich Merz left her side, she does not have anybody who would be recognized as competent - in regard to financial politics. Merz is still seen as the most competent in the CDU - but Merkel and Merz don't speak to each other since 2002 when she beat him to become leader of the CDU in the Bundestag as well as the Leader of the CDU overall.
bad blood, bad politics.
While all this broughha his going on, nobody really notices that Schroeder starts his campaign with some propper Bush bashing in reference to Bush's statement about Iran.

And then there is also Joschka Fischer

It has become more silent about him - most people would like to see him as a foreign minister, but with the SPD?

Well it is Emmanuelle Bearts birthday today. You might say, what does that have to do with Germany. Well she is popular in Germany as well, what other reason does one need.

And to celbrate her birthday a poem by another birthday child this Weekend

ottos mops

ottos mops trotzt
otto: fort mops fort
ottos mops hopst fort
otto: soso

otto holt koks
otto holt obst
otto horcht
otto: mops mops
otto hofft

ottos mops klopft
otto: komm mops komm
ottos mops kommt
ottos mops kotzt
otto: ogottogott

read by the author Ernst Jandl
by PeWi on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 08:05:50 AM EST
Sorry PeWi, I know you said you wanted to fill in for jandsm, but didn't know when. Anyway, four eyes are better than two. Nice comment!
by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 08:31:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Really, not to worry - I think you did a better job in summarizing anyway. But actually it was that slowed it all down
by PeWi on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 08:48:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you Saturday and PeWi for carrying on! (PeWi, is she your girlfriend?)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 08:52:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish.... (looking over should if wife is about.
No, this is the afore mentioned Emmanuel Beart. If you click on the link in my comment, above, you will see a picture series with her..
by PeWi on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 09:00:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for these complementary (and complimentary!) posts. It's always to have two different perspectives on the same events - and we did get some very different comments. May we have this every day!

I'd actually be interested in a discussion on religion from the European perspective. There's too much religion in US politics, way too much (well, of course I'd think that as I think that) there is still too much of it in Europe, but we've learnt to channel it into less disruptive ways. The German institutionalisation of the churches (which is also visible, in a twist of fate, in Alsace-Moselle as these laws came into force when it was part of Germany and were never repealed when it came back into France - so the archbishop of Strasbourg is officially named by the President of France) would certainly be worth a diary of its own...

And please post pictures of Emmanuelle Beart as much as you like!

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 09:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I have more time Jerome, sure. Would need to do some research to get my figures on religiosity up to date. It is more than 10 years ago that I did that at University.
That is indeed interesting in regards to Alsace-Moselle. But as far as I know, none of the German Bishops is named by the President not even formally, pah, where would we get, we (the protestants) are synodal - it is basis-democracie at its best</fake outrage>
but it is indeed interesting and I have to investigate that. But I suspect that changed either 1919 or at the latest 1945 in Germany. Probably 1919 that would explain why it was still usus in Alsace-Moselle.
by PeWi on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 10:26:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been told that many Germans view their church taxes as a historical preservation fee of sorts.  Even if they don't actually attend religious services, they're very proud of their great cathedrals and Baroque village churches.

And here in rural Bavaria, church membership is definitely a societal thing.  One of my friends just finished medical school, and is a bit worried that she wouldn't be able to get a place at a Catholic hospital around here, because she took her religion Abitur test in Ethics instead of Catholicism (she was raised Catholic, but thought the school classes were stupid).

by Texmandie on Mon Aug 15th, 2005 at 08:54:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The German elections are critical for the direction of Europe. They are not decisive; they will not decide the future. They will, however, be a strong pressure on the keel of the EU's and Europe's ship.

Some of us maybe do not feel competent to comment since we don't know the situation very well, but we are reading these posts. Please continue them.

We in southeast Europe are getting some disturbing press reports (maybe soj is as well) that Schoeder has stated that maybe Bulgarian and Romanian accession has to be put off. This does not bode well for us.

by gradinski chai on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 08:18:06 AM EST
In my opinion, Schröder's statements concerning EU-enlargement are of secondary importance. Although he gained in the polls over the last two weeks, it is still highly improbable that he remains chancellor. But you are right in assuming that Germany is about to change course in its EU policy when governed by a CDU/CSU coalition: towards a slowing-down of East European integration and especially towards preventing a Turkish membership.
The rejection of the European Constitution in France also has repercussions in Germany: People became less enthusiastic about the EU in general and much more critical of EU enlargement in particular. Therefore, demanding a slowing down of the pace of enlargement could become an important part of the conservatives' campaign. But in order to do so, they will first have to agree on a campaign strategy and stop making bad news.
I would also differentiate between Bulgaria and Romania. Romanian membership can be delayed much more easily than Bulgarian membership: A qualified majority of EU membership states can postpone a Rumanian membership, but in case of Bulgaria, unanimity would be necessary.
by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Aug 14th, 2005 at 09:05:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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