Jump to content
tanknet.org

And We Are Off To The Races


Recommended Posts

Meanwhile, SPD candidate Steinbrück is on a tour through four European nations seeking to sharpen his profile on EU politics and Euro crisis management, and probably better headlines than at home. Most recently, an "independent" blog has sprung up in his support, run by a PR agency headed by a personal friend of his who is alleged to have been instrumental in the SPD's win in the state of Northrhine-Westphalia three years ago through similiar means already.

 

Well, that was exciting and short. After massive negative feedback from the web community and repeated hacker attacks, the blog was just announced to be shut down and not come back.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 1.6k
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Actually Obama is reported to plan visiting Berlin in June on the 50th anniversary of JFK's famous "Ick been ine Bareleener" speech, doubtlessly in the great tradition of US presidents who have since embarrassed themselves with more badly-prounounced bits of written-down German on such occasions. Angela Merkel will certainly approve; she has been inviting him since his first term, but there was said to be some bad blood over an alleged German refusal to let him speak at the Brandenburg Gate during his European campaign trip - probably nonsense, since the federal government would have had little say about that. Anyway, while he will of course make sure not to interfere in the German campaign and have carefully balanced meetings with the opposition like any foreign visitor in situations like this, it's in the nature of the business that the government is in a better position to bask in the attention.

 

Minister Schavan just resigned over the dissertation affair as was to be expected, pursueing her fight to regain her title in a non-official capacity. Her successor will be previous Lower Saxony Minister of Education Johanna Wanka, so at least one of the outgoing state government gets recycled.

 

Meanwhile the Liberals created another little PC controversy when their Hesse state chairman and minister of integration Jörg-Uwe Hahn mentioned in a byline to an interview about their national leadership quarrels that he was curious to see whether German society had come far enough to accept an Asian-looking vice chancellor like FDP head Philipp Rösler even longer. Of course the opposition cried racism and demanded his resignation too; but while his words could be misunderstood, doing so required a bit of malice, and Rösler has declared he's personal friends with Hahn and the remarks were certainly not directed against himself. Some of the usual watchdog organisations have said that it was in fact good to point out underlying racism in German society.

 

As an aside, it always amuses me how the left camp talks a good talk about diversity, but it is the current conservative-liberal government that is lead by a female East German chancellor, has an Asian-looking vice chancellor, an openly gay foreign minister married to another man, a wheelchair-bound finance minister, a mother of seven as labor minister, and a family minister who commendably got pregnant and had her first kid on the job. The Red-Green old white male contenders would be hard-pressed to top that! :D

Edited by BansheeOne
Link to post
Share on other sites

As an aside, it always amuses me how the left camp talks a good talk about diversity, but it is the current conservative-liberal government that is lead by a female East German chancellor, has an Asian-looking vice chancellor, an openly gay foreign minister married to another man, a wheelchair-bound finance minister, a mother of seven as labor minister, and a family minister who commendably got pregnant and had her first kid on the job. The Red-Green old white male contenders would be hard-pressed to top that! :D

 

Here in the States, the Labor Department is in charge of a different kind of labor...

 

As for the diversity of the left wing, same thing here in the US, particularly in academia and journalism. Our hard-left institutions that accuse the Republicans of racism on a daily/hourly basis tend to be whiter than a tray of printer paper.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi of the Left Party provides for the latest round of political entertainment as the Bundestag lifts his immunity over charges from Hamburg prosecutors that the filed a false affidavit last year in his neverending court proceedings against media reports that he willingly informed on his clients to the Stasi back as a lawyer in East Germany. However, he has a convenient excuse to stay out of public sight for the moment as he broke both shoulders on a ski vacation last week and just underwent surgery. The party is calling it a witch hunt, of course.

 

Meanwhile, the opposition has seized upon another arms deal reported to being decided for Saudi Arabia, involving a couple Lürssen patrol boats. As in the previous instances of rumored Leopard and Boxer orders, SPD and Greens are charging the government is grossly expanding arms exports and supplying known human rights violators in unstable regions, demanding greater transparency and possibly parliamentary participation in decisions, currently made in secret (but regularly leaked) by the Federal Security Council and published only after the fact in annual reports. The government is countering that they are still sticking to the strict export guidelines made by the last Red-Green government, and the latter apparently saw no problems in making the same secret decisions back then, supplying Saudia Arabia with small arms and parts for patrol boats themselves.

 

SPD candidate Steinbrück just doesn't come unstuck and is still being asked hard questions about the now-defunct blog project, the Bundestag administration investigating whether this was a form of illegal campaign funding. The last time he went on the offensive was when he demanded a minimum of two TV debates with Chancellor Merkel during the campaign endgame. Merkel, not exactly being a magnetic character, has only ever agreed to one, and there is no indication this will change. Of course the SPD is probably secretly glad about that due to Steinbrück's lose gun traits. Worse, somebody suggested to put imperial TV personality/game/talkshow host/musical producer Stefan Raab in charge of the debate rather than the usual news anchors to spice it up. Lord protect us.

Link to post
Share on other sites

SCHLAG DEN RAAB mit Angie und Steini!

 

That`s a winning formula for the Grimme Preis.

There got to be room for a jungle or an island in that. Or how about some wok racing?

 

 

 

BansheeOne, keep up the reporting. It really helps to not get confused by the daily news blahblah and every petty "scandal" therein. :)

Edited by Panzermann
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

The slight dent in national polls left by the Lower Saxony state elections has largely buffed out, tough with a rather large spread between pollsters. The Conservatives are still at 39-43, SPD 24-30, Greens 14-15, Liberals 3-6, Left 6-7, Pirates 2-4. The apparent lack of movement is again fueling thoughts about new coalition patterns like the Greens going with the Conservatives (which the Green leadership doesn't want to hear, maintaining they will succeed the current government with the SPD); the realist wing of the Left Party is also making renewed overtures to the Social Democrats (which the latter don't want to hear because they fear CDU/CSU will use it against them).

 

There is a distinct lack of campaign topics until now; the elephant in the room is the Euro crisis, but the problem for the opposition is that Angela Merkel's policy so far is widely popular, and the SPD doesn't dare to speak too loud - at least at home - about the greater European solidarity that is their line. There is some potential in energy cost which are rising due to the planned replacement of nuclear power by renewable energies following the Fukushima angst two years ago; but again the problem for the SPD and Greens is in criticizing the government for the bad execution of something they always wanted to do, but never got around to themselves in the first place.

 

In the absence of major issues fit for exploitation, people are trying smaller ones like arms exports and the plans for acquisition of armed UAVs; even last week's decision by the Constitutional Court that homosexual partners should be allowed to co-adopt kids previously adopted by one partner was given a go, mostly centered around the fact the Conservatives hadn't much to say about it. Already there is speculation that Merkel, who is famous for co-opting controversial issues like in the nuclear power question, might go ahead and push for greater rights for homosexual couples overall, including in taxation, which the Liberals are in favor of anyway.

 

There is similiar movement on the issue of minimum wages, which CDU/CSU however want to leave to unions and employers to negotiate. They are not budging on their plans to grant families who don't make use of the recently established right to daycare for toddlers a compensatory payment though, something the SPD and Greens have derisively termed a "hearth bonus" aimed at keeping mothers in the kitchen, and announced to be rescinded immediately if they should be elected. However, personalities rather than topics are dominating for now, and unfortunately for the opposition it is currently still Gregor Gysi's Stasi connections rather than the main contender for chancellorship Peer Steinbrück in the spotlight.

 

The Left probably didn't do itself a favor by unusually calling a debate over last week's vote of the Bundestag to lift immunity of two of their deputies over charges of blocking a legal demonstration of neonazis in Dresden two years ago; they got promptly told by everbody else that while the cause was commendable, other citizens got charged on the same grounds, and parlamentarians are not above the law when it comes to defying police orders, the decision on consequences to be made by the courts rather than parliament itself.

 

Meanwhile, Bavaria officially decided to hold state elections on 15 September. This will be the final test before the national elections a week later, likely to restore the CSU to an absolute majority in Munich rather than the current Conservative-Liberal coalition like in Berlin; pollsters currently give them 46-48, SPD 19-20, Greens 12-15, Liberals 3, Left 2, Free Voters 8-9, Pirates 3.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Steinbrück strikes again. Just as the Conservatives are embroiled in some public infighting about the homosexual partership issue which the opposition has tried to exploit for their gain, he goes and comments on the outcome of the Italian election with "two clowns have won", referring to Berlusconi and comedian-turned-anti-establishment-leader Beppe Grillo. Again, endearing outspokeness in the wrong place.

 

Italian President Napolitano, currently visiting Germany, promptly cancelled a dinner with Steinbrück planned for tonight which would have lent the candidate a bit of foreign policy glamour. Worse, it undermines the SPD's line that Angela Merkel is making Germany unpopular in Europe with her hard stance on austerity. I could swear this guy is a CDU/CSU sleeper agent.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

CDU/CSU actually managed to ensnare themselves in a bit of an internal quarrel about the homosexual parterships issue; after the first push was for granting more rights than called for by the constitutional court ruling to get rid of the matter for the foreseeable time, national leadership came down on the side of clinging to one of the last remnants of an identifyable conservative core and only allow the warranted co-adoptions. There is still debate on the income tax aspect; it is probably inevitable to arrive eventually since joint filing of couples is already allowed through a backdoor (no pun intended) by state tax authorities as of March last year, but probably not before the September elections.

 

This is really not a topic that concerns the wide public anyway; as mentioned, it is rather indicative of the lack of actual controversies either camp wants to breach. We are currently concentrating on the tax plans of SPD and Greens, which include raising the rate for top incomes and inheritances, as well as the reintroduction of an extra "wealth tax". As to be expected, SPD candidate Steinbrück has a tough job selling that to business, particularly middle-class business which is habitually celebrated as the bedrock of the German economy; especially unfortunate for him since he was always seen as a pro-business man who was chosen over the objections of the party's left wing, and hoped to find support from that clientele.

 

His campaign keeps struggling with itself, too; officially it should be run out of party headquarters under SPD secretary-general Andrea Nahles, but she and Steinbrück are not necessarily close and both rather edgy characters. Steinbrück has had his own team since the beginning, though hastily assembled due to the short-noticed way he was nominated and fraught with bad personnel decisions. An entrepreneur tagged to advise on his online campaign was booted early on after a controversy about his work for the exact type of high-risk investment funds Steinbrück has been attacking for their role in the world financial crisis, and others turned down offers.

 

Today it turned out his campaign manager Heiko Geue had himself put on leave from his post as a Saxony-Anhalt state secretary of finances by a colleague rather than quitting; according to a report by the state parliament adminstration, as a civil officer he should have only been allowed to go on leave if the public interest was greater than the requirements of his service, which they denied; as it is, a new state secretary was named, but Geue can always return into the state's service or retire on the state's cost. We will see how much traction that gets. Anyway, it's telling that the SPD recently announced they would put more effort into coordinating Steinbrück's campaign ...

 

Little change in national polls, with CDU/CSU at 40-41, SPD 25-28, Greens 14-17, Liberals 4-5, Left 6-8. The Pirates can probably be discounted at this point, with 2-3 percent six months before the elections. There is even some speculation about the possibility of a minority government since everybody has ruled out any coalition that would have a majority in parliament with current numbers, but I stand by my prediction that ultimately the SPD will enter a new Grand Coalition with CDU/CSU, though without Steinbrück.

 

The CDU/FDP state government of Hesse also decided to have elections slightly early, on the same day as the Bundestag, obviously hoping to profit from the national trend. There are no current polls for the state, but back in December Hesse numbers looked similiar to Lower Saxony with CDU 36, SPD 31, Greens 18, FDP 4, Left 5, Pirates 3; with those results they would lose to a red-green coalition, so they have their work cut out.

 

Also, Stefan Raab actually made it to the TV debate - he will represent the Sat 1/ProSieben group along with more professional anchors from ARD, ZDF and RTL. I guess that means everybody prepares for just a single Merkel-Steinbrück duel as the chancellor has predictably not shown any intent to participate in more.

Edited by BansheeOne
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

We are about to come out of the Easter break, where nothing much happened over the last two weeks. There was a slight dent in the Conservatives' poll numbers for no apparent reason; my personal interpretation is that the Social Democrats are immediately doing better once their candidate shuts up. Steinbrück has in fact become a lot quieter and more cautious in his statements over the last months; the conservative press tried to make some hay from his remarks on joint European defense which could be construed as advocating the abolition of the German Navy, and currently a suggestion that schools should allow gender-segregated sports classes to acommodate Muslim sensibilities, but that's a far cry from the monumental bloopers he committed earlier.

 

By now, things are pretty much back to normal with CDU/CSU at 39-41, SPD 24-27, Greens 14-15, Liberals 4-5, Left 7-8. A poll of yesterday showed that Merkel leads Steinbrück by a whooping 35 points in a hypothetical direct runoff, 60 to 25 percent; even 34 percent of SPD sympathizers consider her to be the better chancellor!

 

 

 

 

The SPD's unchanged main problem remains they can't challenge Merkel's popular course in the Euro crisis which blots out anything else, including their supposed main theme of "social justice" (i. e., redistribution of wealth). A rather astute recent commentary stated that under Merkel, CDU/CSU have successfully co-opted almost any topic the left camp has come up with and either made it their own, presented a "light" variant or at least pretended to do something about it, leaving the SPD only tax rises (which is actually rather popular because obviously most people always think it will only refer to those who make more money them themselves) and homosexual marriage (which is a niche issue a vast majority doesn't care about) to promote as their own.

 

Steinbrück's last headlines were that French president Hollande invited him to the Elysée Palace in an apparent payback for Merkel's open support of his predecessor Sarkozy during the last French presidential campaign. I think that's okay, she meddled in French affairs by supporting the losing candidate, so he can meddle back in German affairs by doing the same ... it's not going to do Steinbrück much good anyway, since Hollande is largely seen as a failure one year into his term both at home and abroad due to a dismal economic development; or, as comments on the internet go, "loser meets loser". In fact the Conservatives will be once again be able to point out Steinbrück stands for greater financial support to less successful European partners and less austerity, like Hollande does, too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

The SPD had its program convention on the weekend. Peer Steinbrück held a fiery and engaging speech one would expect from in a candidate who has not made any progress - or rather the opposite - on the campaign trail since his nomination, starting off with "I want to become chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany" to long applause and attacking the government for various shortcomings. The party hopes the event will serve as a turning point for catching up with Merkel. Again.

 

The mix of bad luck and incompetence didn't quite leave them though, as it turned out their campaign slogan of "The We Decides" is already used by, of all things, a temporary employment agency - not exactly an economic area close to Social Democratic values. Of course at this point we are seeing a media pile-on; the mob has detected a possible victim, and in timeless non-partisan fashion little things that would have otherwise gone unreported are jazzed up for effect.

 

After a couple days of coverage and initially stating that their tagline was not copyrighted and the SPD could therefore use it, the company in question magically changed their mind into considering legal action because "being connected to the party was detrimental to their reputation". It didn't help either that when Steinbrück was asked on TV whether somebody shouldn't just have googled the slogan, he snapped "shoulda, coulda, woulda" true to form.

 

Another convention on the weekend saw the official founding of a new party, the Euro-sceptic "Alternative for Germany". Their personnel seems mostly made up of academics, lawyers and economists, their chairman being a professor of economics I found not too charismatic from his televised speech; many were formerly members of the currently ruling coalition parties. They are currently pretty much a single-issue party with the central demand that Germany should quit the Euro, though there are some flowers about more popular votes and similiar.

 

Their leadership optimistically expect to enter the Bundestag in September, possibly with a double-digit result. Pollsters see neither, though apparently 25 percent of voters could "imagine" to give them their vote. However, in the current dead heat of the race, even a miniscule share could take away decisive points from the Conservatives and Liberals, just as two recent polls see the current coalition in reach of a majority for the first time in two years with CDU/CSU 41-42, SPD 26-27, Greens 14-15, Liberals 4-5 and Left 6-8.

 

There have been noises about new "real conservative" parties for some time as the CDU has embraced about every topic of the day under Merkel, but none have taken off so far. The AFD is taken somewhat seriously because of their respectable founding personalities, unlike earlier examples which tended to be on the kooky side. Their impact remains to be seen; the Bundestag will decide on the Cyprus aid this week, so a background for them to make a mark in public debate is provided.

 

The trumped-up topic of the week however seems to be affirmative action for women. This is not strictly a partisan issue as CDU Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen is in favor of a legal requirement for big companies to have a fixed female minimum quota on their boards, while her younger colleague Kristina Schröder from the family and women's affairs ministry of the same party merely wants them to set quotas for themselves, as adopted by a party congress; many female conservative MPs are for some kind of regulation while the Liberals are overwhelmingly against any.

 

The opposition has launched a law proposal for a fixed 40 percent minimum quota over the Bundesrat, the chamber of states, which will be voted upon in the Bundestag on Thursday. In the absence of a definitive proposal of their own, the coalition would usually vote no, but the opposition has basically called upon conservative women to rebel against their leadership, promising a reduced 30 percent quota which many of the possible defectors supported in a trans-partisan declaration in December 2011.

 

The coalition leadership is nervous enough to have announced stern talks with MPs considered unreliable (including a couple men). One proponent, CDU/CSU parliamentary spokeswoman for family and women's affairs Dorothee Bär has already announced she will have other urgent business on the day of the vote. Minister von der Leyen is keenly expected to declare herself shortly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

22 September. There is no "hot" campaign yet with market-place speeches, posters and TV ads; this will start after the summer break. But as usual it's hard to declare a clear beginning. Basically things started when the SPD nominated Steinbrück as their candidate on 1 October - which took too much dithering according to some experts, but was really ahead of the party's schedule, forced by the only credible competitor declaring internally he wouldn't run.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The trumped-up topic of the week however seems to be affirmative action for women. This is not strictly a partisan issue as CDU Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen is in favor of a legal requirement for big companies to have a fixed female minimum quota on their boards, while her younger colleague Kristina Schröder from the family and women's affairs ministry of the same party merely wants them to set quotas for themselves, as adopted by a party congress; many female conservative MPs are for some kind of regulation while the Liberals are overwhelmingly against any.

 

Bad ideas are always bi-partisan, I see.... ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

The women's revolt was called off after the CDU/CSU leadership's offer to enter a 30 percent quota from 2020 as a plank into the campaign program. The Greens even introduced a motion demanding the exact same into the debate, hoping to still win enough votes from the government coalition; but the lines held firm, generating much cries of "gender treason" from the opposition. OTOH, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen may have used up all her political capital by her threat to vote with the opposition, leading to predictable hostiliy in the Conservative group.

 

Some say she has been carefully sharpening her public profile to eventually succeed Chancellor Merkel - there was a recent book by the editor-in-chief of conservative tabloid "Bild" claiming that Merkel would resign in the middle of the next term to secure transition of power for the party, not an unusual move in the German states. However, that's pretty obvious bullshit for anybody who knows Merkel; while she is known to have stated privately she isn't going to be carried out of office like her CDU predecessor Helmut Kohl, she immediately denied this. But I would be surprised if von der Leyen is even still a minister after the election, no matter what the result.

 

Three polls taken after the Social Democrats' convention a week ago show absolutely no upswing for them; the new Euro-sceptic Alternative for Germany is actually given 3-4 percent. However, while they are cutting into the conservative electorate, they also seem to gobble up much of the usual protest vote which previously went to the Pirates - or the Left, which is the only party to have voted straight against Euro aids in the Bundestag, though for entirely different ideological reasons, namely saving banks from capitalist adventures with the money of the poor downtrodden masses while foisting German austerity on the needy southern nations. Current numbers are CDU/CSU 39-41, SPD 26-27, Greens 14, FDP 4-5, Left 6-8.

 

A general word on pollsters. The most acknowledged ones are those of the two national public TV channels, Infratest Dimap for ARD and Forschungsgruppe Wahlen (Research Group Elections) for ZDF. The latter is considered the most conservative - not politically but methodically, quite adverse to believe in big or quick changes.

 

On the other end of the spectrum would be Forsa, which used to be the SPD's home pollster - until their boss Manfred Güllner had some sort of falling-out with them. Since then, the Social Democrats have somehow been scoring about 3-5 points less in Forsa polls than others, with the balance spread around other parties in quite big weekly jumps. Güllner is commonly joked about in politics to throw his dice every Tuesday, but it's quite a successful business model as Forsa's differing results get quoted frequently in the media.

 

The rest of the big pollsters - Allensbach, Emnid, GMS and newcomer INSA - are somewhere in between. Allensbach pioneered polling in Germany, but are doing only monthly polls and seem to have a slight bias favoring the Liberals, though late founder Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann was often considered to be close to the CDU. Allensbach numbers still appear to include a bit of her emphasis on intuition, but in this fast-paced day and age, they have fallen a little by the wayside.

Link to post
Share on other sites

[. . .]

 

Some say she has been carefully sharpening her public profile to eventually succeed Chancellor Merkel - there was a recent book by the editor-in-chief of conservative tabloid "Bild" claiming that Merkel would resign in the middle of the next term to secure transition of power for the party, not an unusual move in the German states. However, that's pretty obvious bullshit for anybody who knows Merkel; while she is known to have stated privately she isn't going to be carried out of office like her CDU predecessor Helmut Kohl, she immediately denied this. But I would be surprised if von der Leyen is even still a minister after the election, no matter what the result.

 

[. . .]

 

Yep, Merkel has a habit of chopping ministers legs off at the knee if they displease her! And the resignation story made me weep - with laughter.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

The Greens decided on their campaign program last weekend, including unpredendented tax hikes over the strenuous objection of their "realist" wing centered around their only state minister president, Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg who warned of the impact on the economy. The proposals include raising the rate in the top income bracket - which apparently starts at 60,000 Euro per year for the Greens - plus eventually doing away with the split for married couples, doubling the inheritence tax, raising the rate on capital gains, an additional wealth tax for millionaires and including income from capital and rents in calculation of health insurance fees.

 

It was met with a disastrous echo in media, though demoscopists maintain the Greens could actually win some votes with this against the background of a long-lasting public debate on just taxes and tax evasion that recently culminated in the case of Uli Hoeneß, former national soccer player and now president of Bayern München, who indicted himself for money stashed away in Switzerland. Getting at untaxed German money in Swiss banks (as well as other tax havens) has long been a bone of contention between both countries as well as between political camps in Germany, SPD candidate Steinbrück having notoriously compared the Swiss with indians who ought to be scared of "the Seventh Cavalry at Yuma" in his time as the finance minister of the Grand Coalition.

 

German states governed by SPD and Greens have repeatedly bought illegally leaked data about German customers of Swiss banks, which CDU/CSU and Liberals rejected as buying stolen goods with public money. The federal government negotiated an agreement with Switzerland instead which would allow German money to be taxed at a generic rate. The opposition declared that insufficient and blocked it in the chamber of states, so the issue remains unresolved and available to campaign with. Some on the left dream of instating a global tax obligation for German citizens on the US model, and point out that the American government put a lot more pressure on Switzerland to get a more favorable agreement to report on its citizens' Swiss money. Funnily they seem to be the same who else like to decry how the US throws its weight around with smaller nations.

 

Anyway, the problem of tax evasion is hardly solved by raising taxes even more. The Greens are confident their plans will be applauded by their own clientele which is mostly upper-income academics and public servants with a healthy dose of social guilt, but I doubt they will win more voters for the opposition camp overall; even the positive-minded pollsters cautioned that any gains they make might be at the expense of the SPD, which has a similiar but less radical program when it comes to taxes. The first poll taken after the Green convention surely points that way, with CDU/CSU at 40, SPD 26, Greens 15, FDP 4, Left 7 and the Euro-sceptic AFD at 3 percent.

 

Tax policy is surely emerging as the one topic which might be sufficiently controversial to exploit in the national election campaigns. We are trying to drive home the fact that the "rich" according to the Red-Green definition would actually include a lot of the higher middle class, employees in middle management, smaller entrepreneurs and self-employed, that it would be poison to the German economy which currently carries the EU, that internal revenue is already at an all-time high of 600 billion and we don't have an intake, but a spending problem - "with or without Uli Hoeneß", as I wrote into my boss' May Day speech.

 

The SPD surely tried to capitalize on Hoeneß' closeness to the Bavarian Conservatives, to the point where they wondered aloud what Bavarian tax authorities knew about his Swiss money when. It's not quite unkown for various CSU state governments to have been helpful to friendly VIPs about tax saving models in the particular Bavarian high society environment which made "amigo" a fixed term in German politics after former minister president Max Streibl had to resign over a corruption scandal in 1993. Conservatives however were quick to point out Hoeneß was one of the unofficial VIP "advisors" for SPD candidate Steinbrück in his time as finance minister, and supported the SPD candidate running as the next mayor of Munich.

 

The same Bavarian ambiente has thrown their state parliament into a current controversy about MPs hiring relatives for high-paid staff jobs; this was apparently completely legal until some years ago, with existing contracts grandfathered in when rules were tightened. CSU parliamentary whip Georg Schmid resigned last week over paying his wife up to 5,500 Euro net income per month over 23 years for not too-clearly-defined work, but again what started out as targeted on the Conservatives has by now spread to cases of SPD and Green MPs. The affair reached the Bundestag when somebody inquired about CSU member Dorothee Bär who married a former staffer; she says the contract was dissolved prior to the act, but regulations forbid employment of fiancés, too, and now people want to know when they got engaged ... sure enough, this week all Bundestag members got a request by national weekly magazine "Focus" from Munich to state whether they are employing any relatives.

 

The CSU doesn't really have much use for this affair ahead of the state elections in September, a week ahead of national polls; but as mentioned it seems to evolve in a nicely non-partisan way, and for now they can hope to regain an absolute majority after the current conservative-liberal coalition, with last numbers being CSU 47-49, SPD 18-20, Greens 13-16, FDP 2-3 and the vaguely conservative Free Voters 8-9 percent. Things look much more problematic for the state government of Hesse which has called elections on the same day as the Bundestag's; the last numbers of CDU 36, SPD 33, Greens 16, FDP 5, Left 4 would lead to a new Red-Green government, further turning the majority in the chamber of states against the current federal government and making another Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD an even more likely choice for Merkel in the next Bundestag.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For once it's not SPD candidate Steinbrück shooting the party in the foot, but national chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who today spoke out for a general 120 kph speed limit on autobahns. Which is about as much of a third rail in German politics as gun control in the US. Steinbrück promptly said he didn't agree, making the Social Democrats look once more like a bunch of uncoordinated yahoos. Where's that old Young Conservatives campaign sticker? Ah.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like the German gov't needs to hire these guys to "claw back" some of those hidden assets;

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds better than our upcoming Provincial election between 2 parties that pretty much everyone hates, almost makes me want to vote for our lone Marxist-Leninist candidate. We used to have the Rhino party who offered up as a platform to change driving from right to left, but gradually. Buses and trucks the first year. People were so fed up, the Rhinos started getting quite a few votes and they quit as people were taking them seriously.

Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO the AfD appears as the single most influential factor that could cost Merkel the chancellorship. The commies aside, there hasn't been a single party in the Bundestag opposing the Euro policies, the embodiment of Merkel's Alternativlosigkeit. At the same time a majority of Germans are highly skeptical about the whole Euro crisis and the politicians' and ECB's responses to it. Until now, there has hardly been an outlet for that anger. The AfD could gobble up just enough disenfranchised CDU and FDP voters (and also a few SPD centrists) to win seats in the Bundestag. If the Lower Saxony elections are of any indicative value, it's probably going to be very close to a stalemate, and the AfD could tip the balance against Merkel.

 

Needless to say, CDU and FDP would not talk about the AfD at all rather than openly campaigning against them in order to avoid drawing attention to their Euro crisis policy. We shall see if that strategy works, in the light of French socialists trying to change the European course towards more deficit spending at Germany's expense.

 

SPD and Greens are working really hard to support Merkel with their talk about tax hikes and speed limits. It's hard to imagine what else they could do to motivate voters to support the others.

Edited by Ssnake
Link to post
Share on other sites

The AfD is to the conservative-liberal camp what the Pirates were to the left camp - not quite enough potential to become a force of their own, but enough to suck away sufficient votes for a traditional coalition to be formed in parliament. They timed their run better than the Pirates who peaked early and now have little chance of entering the Bundestag with 2-4 percent in polls four months before the election, after their public shitstorms demonstrated why too much direct democracy and transparency is a Bad Idea.

 

The AfD is in about the same range at 2-3, but may have some potential left to build upon; pollsters give them 17-25 percent of sympathetic voters, again similiar to the Pirates when they appeared on the national stage. Their main problem is that they have little in the way of popular personalities as far as I can see, their personnel consisting mostly of older academics, lawyers and some entrepreneurs; there is former German Industry Association president Hans-Olaf Henkel, but he seems to neither be in nor strive for a front-row seat. Their current trio of chairpersons is not too charismatic, and they don't work on the swarm principle like the Pirates.

 

I don't really see them entering the Bundestag in September at this point, their best shot at parliamentary representation being the defection of MPs disgruntled with their previous party like that FDP guy in the Hesse state assembly recently. Like the Pirates, they are pretty much a single-issue party, and will likely vanish again within a couple years like so many vaguely conservative alternative groups before them - STATT Partei, the Schill folks, etc., the exception being the Free Voters in Bavaria who seem to have established themselves somewhat reliably in the state parliament.

 

However, they might very well influence the national outcome in September; the Free Voters cost the CDU decisive votes in Lower Saxony too, despite only scoring about one percent. The AfD is certainly a threat to CDU/CSU and FDP as well as the Left with the latter's half-populist, half-ideological opposition to Euro aids, and to a lesser extent to the SPD; and they are taken serious by all established parties though not giving them publicity is currently the best strategy.

 

Here's the deal: CDU/CSU will remain the strongest group in the next Bundestag, even though they are somewhat down from their recent seven-year high in polls at currently 37-40 percent. A putative Red-Green coalition will probably be slightly stronger together, currently at 39-42. The Left will be definitely in by way of their safe East German districts even if not jumping the five-percent hurdle, but are currently at 6-8 anyway. They will not enter into a threesome with SPD and Greens, mostly because of their lunatic foreign policy ideas.

 

That much is virtually certain, giving no camp a majority of their own and making a Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD under Merkel, but without Steinbrück the most likely outcome. Now come the variables - FDP, Pirates, AfD. I'm pretty sure the Liberals will make it back into the Bundestag, but even so the potential for the current CDU/CSU-FDP coalition tops out at about 42-48, not far ahead of Red-Green. If no other party enters, they would need at least 44; quite possible if Pirates, AfD and various other small groups lock up 10-12 between them and none of them make five individually.

 

However, 44 is not out of reach for Red-Green either, and if the Liberals don't make it, adding as much as another four points to the unsuccessful group, that threshold possibly descends to 42 - which CDU/CSU might reach by themselves, but is at the upper end of their range, particularly if the AfD take away crucial votes from them. So yes, Merkel's reelection is not safe yet. Of course anybody who votes AfD because Merkel's Euro politics are too liberal for them might end up with a Red-Green government which really turns up the faucets for Euro aids and joint bonds; but protest voters rarely think strategically, so it might happen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem I have with that "think strategically" argument is that Merkel has so far crossed pretty much every line that she drew in the sand during the Euro crisis. She made so many concessions, and the entire Bundestag with her, that I simply don't see her change course. There is no other serious party that opposes this course. It's not a question of "it could be worse" - the goddamn plane has already crashed into the mountain.

 

As a thinking man and economist, there's just no way how I could possibly give Merkel (or any of her supporters) my vote. The FDP is Merkel's poodle anyway and has made clear that they will support anything that sails under the flag of "Europe - Think of the children!"

 

Merkel's policy follows no discernible principle except opportunism. She's an excellent tactician with a talent of eliminating all opposition around her. Commendable for a politician, yes, but insufficient for a statesman. The only area where she doesn't act completely opportunistic is when it comes to the financial crisis, and here she's steering a course that will prove disastrous in the long run. All the yapping about austerity is just some bizarre Kabuki show to distract from the fact that all the regulations so far have so many loopholes at Germany's disadvantage. And if the history of the European Union teaches anything, it is that these loopholes will be exploited to the widest extent possible.

The success of her entire campaign hinges on the gamble that no new major financial disaster will surface until September so we can pretend that everything's just fine. But the Magma below is hot as ever and the volcano can blow any time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...