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Germany: A Vote in favor of Status-Quo ?

by Geir E Jansen Sun Sep 18th, 2005 at 08:30:30 PM EST

Sunday Germans went to the polls in what seemed to be an election-thriller with no definitive outcome, in general with regard to the question of who should be coalition-partners in the next German government, and in particular to who should take the leading role in the post-election government.

For a long time the black-yellow coalition-alternative of the conservative Christian-Democratic party and the liberal FDP, had a decisive lead in the polls.

But as the election-date came closer, the incumbent chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his red-green coalition of the Social-Democratic party and the party of the Green, closed the gap day by day, until the polls indicated a difference of only a few percent-points one day in advance of the election.

The results of the German election so far are confirming the trend that the two alternative government-coalitions have got more or less the same percent-points of votes, SPD and the Greens 42,3 %, and CDU/CSU and FDP 45 %, no one with a clear parliamentary majority (at 21.30 PM GMT), German television-channel ZDF reports.

The big surprise seem to be the poor result of the CDU/CSU, having such a clear lead, for so long in the different opinion-polls, 15-20 % at the most.

The winners seem to be the liberal FDP with 10 %, and the newly established Left party with 8,6 %.

The poor election-results for the CDU/CSU, could partly seem to be explained in tactical voting by conservative voters, voting on the liberal FDP, to try to prevent a possible "grand coalition" between the CDU/CSU and the SPD.

On the other side the drop in percent-points for the SPD, could partly be explained by the establishment of the Left party, who to a great extend have taken votes away from the SPD.

The overall picture seem to be a snap-shot of a political status-quo between the two alternative government-coalitions since the last election in 2002, only with a leak of votes to parties on the same side in a left-right perspective, both CDU/CSU and SPD got 38,5 % in 2002.


On the condition that this will be the final result, after every vote in every constituency have been counted, the message from the German voters seems to be one favouring political status-quo.

Forming a governing majority coalition of parties that feels comfortable being political partners though, seems to be the great challenge if this is to become the final election-result.

A variety of different government-coalitions have been on the agenda as the election-results indicates no desicive outcome, with a "grand coalition" between CDU/CSU and SPD, and a "traffic-light"-coalition between the SPD, Greens, and FDP as the most likely coalition-alternatives.

The statements from the different party-leaders though, have given no indication or clue to what kind of coalition-alternatives that will prevail, since FDP have ruled out a "traffic-light"-coalition, and the SPD have ruled out a grand coalition between SDP and CDU/CSU.

The most likely alternative with regard to the question of government, could show to be that the red-green coalition-government of Gerhard Schroeder continues as a minority-government, leaving it up to the Left party to decide between a left-of centre minority-government, or a right-of centre minority-government.

At the moment, 23.15 PM GMT, nothing seems certain, other than an election-result with no clear outcome.


This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.

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First, Schroeder has not ruled out an "elephant wedding" coalition with the CDU/CSU. More properly speaking, he did before the elections - now he's just saying he wants to remain chancellor.

Second, the SPD has absolutely and categorically ruled out a minority government "tolerated" by the Linke. That's not an option at all.

Basically, there are four options on the table:

  • an SPD-CDU/CSU coalition led by the SPD
  • an SPD-CDU/CSU coalition led by the CDU
  • an SPD-FDP-Green "traffic-lights" coalition
  • a CDU/CSU-FDP-Green "Jamaican" coalition

FDP and Greens have ruled out the latter two options, and since both parties stand more to loose than to gain from either solution, neither is likely.

So the most likely options are the first two. Which of these comes through just simply depends on which party garners the strongest faction in the Bundestag, which won't be decided for another two weeks, until Dresden 160 votes.

It's also quite possible that an eventual SPD-CDU/CSU coalition would elect neither Schroeder nor Merkel Chancellor, but somebody else from either party. If the SPD comes up tops, that might be Wolfgang Clement, currently economy secretary. If the CDU/CSU prevails, it might be Stoiber or - my worst fear - Roland Koch, asshat Ministerpraesident of the state of Hessia.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)

by brainwave on Sun Sep 18th, 2005 at 10:22:26 PM EST
Interesting comment, especially the last bit about possible new names from the different parties to lead a grand-coalition-government.

I respectfully disagree though, on the point that Sunday's vote can not be interpreted in favour of a status-quo with regard to power-change.

The overall balance in the German Bundestag between the two alternative government-coalitions, a centre-left and a centre-right has not changed, even though votes seem to have shifted from CDU/CSU to FDP, and from SPD to the new Left-party.

After Sunday's election-result, the majority of the representatives in the Bundestag, still are to the left of centre.  

On the basis of this fact, I think it is relevant to point out that the voters have given no message of power-change, rather a message of adjustment of policy, a policy of moderate pace on the reform of the German economy.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 12:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Individual voters cast their ballots in support of either red-green, black-yellow, or none of the above (Linkspartei)  At best a grand coalition is the second choice of a lot of voters. I believe that somebody posted a poll saying 40% wanted it under these conditions.
by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 03:12:59 AM EST
I respectfully disagree, with you that nothing can be read out of the German vote on Sunday.

What exactly can be read out of the vote is of course to be disputed, but the vote did not shift the power-balance from the present coalition to the alternative, so it does not seem to be a vote for change of power, but rather a vote for a perticular kind of policy, a moderate pace of reforming the German economy.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 11:28:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, to be fair, CDU/CSU and FDP have together more seats than SPD and GREEN.

However, that does not mean anything, because they don;t have a majority - and that is why there is the broughhah. If there still were no Links party or they mysteriously disappeared out of parliament, CDU/CSU and FDP would have a majority and would be able to govern. As it stands they cannot, but the fact remains, Percentage wise, losses on the SPD and GREEN site, made them drop below the number of seats the CDU/CSU - FDP has. so there is a shift in power. away from SPD and GREEN - which has to be called voter dissatisfaction with their governance.

The fact that they also did not trust CDU/CSU - FDP, enough, to put them into power clearly, is explaining why we now have so much fun....

by PeWi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 11:39:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The overall balance in the German Bundestag between the two alternative government-coalitions, a centre-left and a centre-right has not changed, even though votes seem to have shifted from CDU/CSU to FDP, and from SPD to the new Left-party.

After Sunday's election-result, the majority of the representatives in the Bundestag, still are to the left of centre.  

On the basis of this fact, I think it is relevant to point out that the voters have given no message of power-change, rather a message of adjustment of policy, a policy of moderate pace on the reform of the German economy.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 12:24:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that there is no mandate for faster reform along black-yellow lines.  I just simply have problems with the whole idea of figuring out what 'the voters' were trying to say.  That only makes sense in landslide victories. In muddled messes like this one my view is that voters will get compromise solutions, not because that is what they want, but because they are hopelessly divided.
by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 02:05:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe both Merkel and Schroeder should both step aside as neither has won. However, no doubt both will continue to claim victory and massage their egos.
by observer393 on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:46:02 AM EST
It could very well seem to be one of the likely solutions to the problems of establishing a stable majority-coalition.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Geir E Jansen on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 08:13:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other side the drop in percent-points for the SPD, could partly be explained by the very establishment of the Left party, who to a great extend have taken votes away from the SPD.

I respectfully disagree :-)

This may appear to be the case if you only compare numbers with 2002 election results, but not if you compare it to poll numbers. As I argued here, the SPD actally increased its support (by 6%, and 8% above the minimum a few weeks later) after Schröder went for new elections and Lafontaine's resignation from the SPD kick-started the formation of the Left Party. This at the same time when the Left Party almost doubled its share over that of its predecessors' poll numbers, and the Greens ended up with the same 8% they polled at four months ago.

My explanation is: after the Left Party forced the SPD and Schröder to campaign with a leftist overtone rather than the same old same old, many voters returned.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 12:49:58 PM EST
Well, I agree with you that the establishment of the Left-party, may have forced the red-green coalition to address issues favoured by left-leaning voters, more focus on social issues, a moderate pace on reforming the economy etc. during the election-campaign, thus slowly increasing their stand in the polls, and closing the gap to the CDU/CSU.

In my article though, I was primarily focusing on the drop in percentage-points from the election of 2002, both for the CDU/CSU and SPD, and the cause to this decrease.
 

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Geir E Jansen on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 08:30:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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