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German Election Conclusion

10.10.2005

It seems that after the guts of three weeks negotiation and posturing, the German Bundestag looks set to get a chancellor. The victor, drum roll please... Angela Merkel. We all recall the mixed messaage sent out by the German Electorate after initial polls suggested landslide support for a woman portrayed as a neo-thatcherite.
The electorate seemed unsettled by the comfort which Ms. Merkel's shadow cabinet showed with neo-liberal activism and ideas such as flat taxes and other various implements of neo-liberal 'reform'. Many in the country agreed with the need for the vaguely defined reform, yet none agreed with prescriptions for a solution, or descriptions of the problem. So the resulting election has been characterised as further evidence of an unsure European entity, struggling with the burden of unemployment and globalisation, unable to transfer export growth into economic health.
So the outcome of weeks of unclear behind the scenes machinations has been the expected Grand Coalition between centre-right CDU/CSU and centre-left SPD. (EU Observer, BBC)
In terms of personality politics the outcome is a mixed bag depending on your own ideological hue. The removal of the green party from government is a blow to those who saw their presence in government as an example to the whole green movement and instrumental in pushing the environmental agenda.
Elsewhere, the absence of Fischer looks set to be accompanied by the absence of his chancellor, Schroeder is reported to not be among the cabinet members, however he negotiated a hard bargain, the SPD will have 8 ministers against the 6 from CDU/CSU.
For a minority party that is some return on a disappointing election performance.
Consider the report from EU Observer;

" The SPD has secured key ministries such as the foreign affairs and labour market portfolios. The CDU, on the other hand, is said to have secured the interior and economics ministries. "

There looks set to be a lot of boat rocking trouble ahead for those in the new german government and that project requires ratification from parties and from Parliament.
Economics looks set to be filled by Edmund Stoiber head of the CSU sister party buy intirgue will surround the post of vice-chancellor and the process of drawing up the problematic programme for government.
As coalition negotiations go, this is a lesson in punching well above your weight. The CDU had it all to lose should talks fall through, the SPD have extracted a heavy price for participation in government and what follows will be murky and potentially very unwieldy.
It occurs to me that Blair found a large majority harder to manage than a small one, the logic here could play also over in germany. Left leaning SPDers will be apalled at some of the plans for government and the same may be true for those on the right of the CDU. The fallout from this government may run deeper into the german party system than we care to consider.
Should the result of this government be a fracturing of the 'big-tent' of left and right, the stability of a german system, so central to the EU's health, may fracture. The Linkspartei and Greens alongside the Liberals and neo-nazis are waiting to pick up dissatisfied swings away from a center that achieves little of clarity.
This is all conjecture at this point, but it could certainly happen.
The further fragmenting of a party system in germany could further muddy the question of how the EU as a whole responds to economic issues.
The other big deal is that many in the UK and Sarkozys France will look on dismayed as the SPD still hold sway in Germany and a new sweep of 'reformist' leaders falls at the first hurdle. Shock treatment for the EU, so desired by the UK, looks set to be stillborn.
As I say, all conjecture, but more fun than reality at times.
RR

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