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  1. So the German Social Democrats have finally nominated their chancellor candidate for the September 2013 national elections within the hour after the usual long dithering with a "troika" of three top contenders. They settled on former Grand Coalition minister of finances and previous state prime minister of Northrhine-Westphalia, Peer Steinbr├╝ck. This was really apparent for some time; the other choices would have been SPD national chairman Sigmar Gabriel who's rather prone to foot-in-mouth disease, and former Grand Coalition foreign minister and vice-chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The latter would actually not make a bad chancellor IMO, as he's the fact-oriented hard-working organizer type; but he has not exactly a magnetic personality, and of course somebody acceptable to conservative-liberal types is not necessarily somebody who would rouse the center-left voter base. As former vice-chancellor to Angela Merkel, he stands too much for being a junior partner in a Grand Coalition, which the SPD tries to avoid repeating despite poll numbers to the contrary; and he lost to Merkel once in 2009 already. Not that Steinbr├╝ck is too different in that respect, funnily enough; he is considered too pro-business by the party's left wing, though he scored with them by shilling plans for tighter banking regulations over the last week. OTOH, he pissed off a lot of pro-market liberals as finance minister when he tried bullying Switzerland over their banking laws sheltering German tax evaders, famously comparing the Swiss to indians who needed to be set to right by the cavalry. Presiding over the descent of the Northrhine-Westphalian State Bank in his previous office of state prime minister is also likely to be used against him, as are timely revelations that as federal minister of finances he tried to win German Railways and German Mail - majority state-owned businesses under his responsibility - as million-Euro sponsors for a chess contest in his hometown under official letterheads. Anyway, barring unforseen developments, the SPD is not likely to lead the next government. Despite, or maybe because the ongoing Euro crisis, Merkel's Christian Democrats have been leading them in the polls by a steady six to twelve points; the chancellor's hard stance on austerity towards the EU's problem partners is obviously popular with the electorate, while the SPD could only lose trying to critizise the government line as lacking of European solidarity and demanding common European bonds in contravention of the EU treaty prohibiting member states to share their debts. They got off that eventually and went over to critizise the government whenever they were forced to soften their stance a little and move in their direction ... CDU/CSU however have the problem that their pro-market liberal junior partner, the Free Democrats, almost self-destructed during the term by playing opposition in government, bad PR and internal quarrelling. They currently cannot be counted on to make the five percent threshold of votes necessary to enter parliament, though they have recovered somewhat from their all-time low at three. OTOH, the traditional opposing camp of SPD and the Greens has not had a majority of its own in the polls for some time either, despite the latter having done very well in the nuclear angst after the Fukushima disaster; they actually surpassed the SPD in the Baden-Wurttemberg state elections last year and had the first green prime minister ever voted in, but have dropped back to 13-14 percent on the national level since. The SPD has excluded a threesome with the Left Party, who managed to make themselves totally impossible in the mid-term even for most left-wingers in the red-green camp between debating about "ways to communism" with former RAF terrorists, condoning the Berlin Wall on the 50th anniversary of its erection, birthday congratulations for Fidel Castro, anti-Zionism including the famous Gaza cruise, supporting the Assad regime, and above all infighting between the moderate Eastern part and the lunatic Westerners - who hadn't even had the benefit of experiencing real-life state socialism, but apparently inflated their numbers to achieve a controlling share of delegates in party gremiums. They are currently scratching the five percent threshold from above, though can be expected to re-enter parliament via direct mandates in safe Eastern districts. The dark horse remains the Pirate Party, that strange amalgamation of internet libertarianism and welfare statism, demanding transparent government, direct democracy and personal privacy on the one hand, and copyright reform, free downloading from the net and unconditional basic living stipends on the other. They were the new cool kid for some time, activated lots of young and disenchanted voters, were up there with the Greens in the low double-digits for some time and voted into three state parliaments. Maybe unavoidably for an attractive new movement inviting broad participation though, they also attracted lots of nutters from every fringe, and collision between ideals and reality has now set in. They are now in the same poll range as the Left, though it's still likely they will enter the Bundestag next year. In that case, another Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD is the most realistic outcome, as a coalition of three including the Pirates would be risky for all involved. But a lot can happen in a year. My boss is running again BTW, though mostly out of spite because local party leaders tried to pre-empt her decision and push her out while she was away on a trip to South America. Ironically, the local paper hostile to her burned the main pretender by trying to create a momentum and publishing statements made to them on background, and she has another nomination all but sure. Regardless, this will be my last campaign for the time being, as I decided when I took the job five years ago that I would do the last and the current term, then look for change, being over 40 in a profession you don't pursue to pension age anyway.
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