Friday, September 20, 2013

Pre-election English-language press on the German campaign

English-language articles are popping up in anticipation of Sunday's national Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) elections on Sunday.

Sudha David-Wilp and Jessica Bither write in Merkel's Disorganized Opposition Creates Coalition Uncertainty GMF Blog 09/20/2013 provide both news on the "horse race" and political analysis, such as:

Meanwhile, the SPD – now in its 150th anniversary year – is loath to enter into a grand coalition with the CDU. SPD Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck has said he will have no part of it, and even if the election results point to that possibility it will be hard for his party to contemplate a repeat of the 2005 grand coalition, which culminated in the SPD’s worst post-War electoral showing in 2009. Most German voters are left-of-center, but are fragmented. The SPD has been hemorrhaging supporters, most of them opting not to vote and others joining forces with the LEFT party and the CDU.

If it is to spend another four years in the wilderness, the SPD should start utilizing its talents at the state level and reaching out to the elder statesmen in its party for advice. The Social Democrats have to challenge Merkel for highjacking core aspects of the social democratic platform – such as minimum wage – and show voters why they are better caretakers in a globalizing labor market. After all, former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s reforms over a decade ago helped Germany to weather the current economic crisis. [my emphasis]
They may be projecting too much sensible strategizing onto the SPD leadership. Peer Steinbrück has campaigned in such a lackluster fashion that it's hard not to think having the SPD be the junior partner in yet another Grand Coalition has been his real goal.

Yes, it likely would be bad for the SPD future prospects. David-Wilp and Bither make a good point that their previous participation in a Grand Coalition headed by Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel "culminated in the SPD's worst post-War electoral showing in 2009." And they haven't made very good use of their role as the largest opposition party since, pretty much cheerfully agreeing to Frau Fritz' disastrous austerity policies for the eurozone crisis countries. He's said he'll resign as Party leader if the SPD doesn't come in first on Sunday. But regardless who the top leader is, if the SPD joins in another Merkel government now and doesn't quickly position itself as a critic of her eurozone policies, it could find itself on the way to competing with the Greens and the Left Party for second place in national elections.

They don't talk much about the Left Party and they don't discuss the possibility of a red-red-green (SPD/Left/Green) coalition, which the SPD and Steinbrück have foolished ruled out anyway.

Marc Jones reports on the election for Reuters in Analysis: Market faith in Merkel overrides German coalition uncertainty 09/20/2013:

Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party would prefer four more years in coalition with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

However, recent polls show her junior partner only just above the five percent threshold for staying in parliament. Should the FDP stumble, Merkel may be forced back into a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD), like her first government of 2005-2009.
But most of the article is about various speculations on how the election results may affect the stock market. Jones notes, "Germans are electing the Bundestag lower house for the first time since the euro zone debt crisis erupted in 2010, and any major protest vote could punch a hole in market confidence that Berlin will do whatever is necessary to keep the euro together." I assume by protest vote, he means a vote for the rightwing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) large enough (5%) to get them seats in the Bundestag.

Paul Hockenos has a piece in Foreign Policy Angie the Revolutionary 09/18/2013 which is so fawning that you may get confused and think you're reading a piece in Politico about an American politician. This cringe-inducing puff piece doesn't get to Frau Fritz' mismanagement of the euro crisis until near the end:

Likewise, Merkel's reaction to the eurocrisis has been anything but proactive -- though enormously successful in the eyes of average Germans. She waited and dithered and waffled as the financial crisis in 2008 turned into the eurocrisis and eventually brought both the common currency and the European Union itself to the brink of collapse. Despite her initial promises to the contrary, Germany made concession after concession to its European partners. The list of flip-flops includes the creation of a permanent bailout fund, a significantly broader mandate for the European Central Bank, and the direct recapitalization of eurozone banks, among others. A third Greek rescue package, which now seems inevitable, would come on top of these back-downs.

Yet at home, Germans see Merkel as tenaciously defending their interests on the European stage. The buzz terms in her campaign ads -- stability, security, continuity -- are cryptic references to the way she has managed the eurocrisis, ensuring prosperity in Germany while bailing out the Southern Europeans and rescuing the European Union. This, at least, is the way many Germans see it. ...

As frustratingly gradual and tempered as Merkel's conservative revolution has been, it has helped make Germany as a whole more modern and, ultimately, more powerful. The German economy's fortunes, called by some a second Wirtschaftswunder, have only augmented this clout.

Yet, this is power that Merkel has yet to wield for any real purpose other than sentencing the Southern Europeans to a future of austerity and mounting debt. In Europe and beyond, statesmen are calling for Merkel to step up to lead Europe out of the economic crisis and become more active on the global stage. Even on topics that don't require force of arms, like global warming, Germany has become almost mute; once a pioneer in clean energy production, Merkel has now backed off, cowed by the implications of its success. Today, Germany's foreign minister travels from one conflict region to another mouthing truisms and promising aid. Merkel has indeed changed Europe -- but in taking Germany off the world stage, cautiousness has not proved to be her greatest virtue. [my emphasis]
Actually, Merkel's policies in the euro crisis have been based on continuing relative German prosperity at the expense of brutal austerity policies and "internal devaluation," i.e., imposing conditions on Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain that it's hard to imagine will be politically supportable in those counties much longer. If - much more likely, when - countries start leaving the eurozone, Germany will face a sharp exchange rate increase that will hammer its export-oriented economy and deliver a major setback to the EU project, if not destroying the EU altogether.

We'll see what the German voters decide on Sunday.

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