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And the Winner is ... No One
Speculation and obfuscation follow German election
Alexander Krabbe (AlexKrabbe)     Print Article 
Published 2005-09-21 03:39 (KST)   
The gap between pre-election polls and the result
Suddenly silence ran rampant in Berlin's "Konrad Adenauer"-house, known as the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU). Behind frozen faces, thoughts of the first German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, might have spooked the CDU campaign supporters.

Back in the 1950s, the CDU fought for election results above 50 percent. Today the conservative party is the strongest in the parliament again, but contrary to all pre-election polls, only won 35 percent of the votes.

Critical Coalition

Why is it so important for both Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schröder to build a coalition with an absolute majority?

According to German law, it is the parliament that has the right to choose the next chancellor with only an absolute majority. If the chancellor only gets a relative majority after three ballots, then the federal president can decide whether to accept the candidate or not.
The surprisingly good result of about 10 percent for Guido Westerwelle from the lliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) -- the preferred coalition partner of the CDU -- is not enough to build a stable CDU/FDP-government. Front-runner, Angela Merkelof the CDU, clearly favored no other in order to give Germany "the chance of a real new beginning."

Also, the ruling coalition between Social Democrats and Greens cannot be realized. Although the SPD campaign managed to finally gain 34 percent of all votes with the Green Party receiving 8 percent, the coalition does not have a mandate to govern any longer.

The missing gap is filled by the new leftist unity party, called "Linkspartei" and its 8.7 percent vote.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's initiation of elections after the numerous SPD debacles can be said to have surprised many -- and confused the rest.

Gerhard Schröder during the campaign
What makes the German political system so complicated to understand for other nations' citizens is also what makes it so interesting. German democracy is based on the proportional representation election system which prohibits a U.S.-like two party system and thus enables new political drifts with the often inevitable necessity of finding coalitions between different parties.

Both Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, (SPD the Greens and Angela Merkel now have to cope with the surprises generated by the people's vote. Recent polls say around 70 percent of the Germans regard a 'great coalition' of SPD and CDU as the best option.

Serious Differences Between the CDU and SPD

Whoever may lead the new German government, regardless of which parties will form it, he or she faces the burden of at least 5 million unemployed, about 7 million clandestine workers, education and health care problems, the failed integration of a majority of Muslim immigrants and a huge national deficit. Therefore, two completely different political programs clashed during the election campaign. Where the CDU and FDP saw solutions in the weakening of workers' rights and a massive tax recovery for rich people in combination with less environment protection, the SPD demanded a special 50 percent income tax rate for high-end earners and pointed out the leading position of Germany in terms of environmental technology exports.

Angela Merkel
Financial problems within the public health care system should be solved by the SPD proposal of a common health insurance system for all citizens. The contribution should have been coupled with the amount of income and the so-called "private health insurance" would have been abolished. Completely different from this model, the CDU stood for an income independent fixed contribution.

Even in terms of foreign policy, no compromise seems to be possible between the CDU and SPD. Schröder's SPD stands rock-solid for Turkey's EU-ascension, while Merkel's CDU stands adamantly against it.

With the head-to-head results, Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schröder now claim the right of chancellorship for themselves. Observers regard Schroeder's refusal to accept Angela Merkel's leading claim as a strategy to weaken her position by empowering reservations against Merkel's abilities as a woman within her own party. Nevertheless, in the end a great coalition will result without any genuine resistance.


No candidate for any coalition has considered the Linkspartei. Melted into one by the fusion of the west German 'WASG' and the east German 'PDS,' the party now needs four years of consolidation. The compromises necessary for cooperation with other parties would tear the young leftist unity party apart. Behind closed doors, this fear is the real motivation for the party's leaders Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine to negate any government participation in "parties responsible for HARTZ 4," (the welfare cut program).

Guido Westerwelle, FDP chairman
On the other hand, the leaders of the FDP, Dirk Niebel and Guido Westerwelle, consequently ruled out a coalition with the SPD and Greens.

Green politicians in fact have serious doubts about the possibility of overcoming political differences between the parties of a so-called "Jamaica coalition." Again, FDP officials also rule out participation in this coalition version. Indeed, the CDU, however, can imagine negotiating with the Greens as their former arch-enemy. Realistically, a CDU/FPD/Greens coalition has only little chance to come to life. FDP and Greens are direct competitors in the battle for votes. Therefore, it remains hard to imagine both parties working together in one government, although one may argue the same way against a great coalition. Confusing!

Nothing For Sure

The question of who will be the next chancellor of Germany is not the only unknown. Even the results of the election are anything but sure.

In an electoral district of the German city of Dresden, the citizens have to vote two weeks from now due to the death of a candidate from the extreme right. Saxony's state election law rules the whole election process must be restarted when a candidate dies. As a result, about 200,000 Dresden citizens may have a significant effect on whether the CDU or SPD will represent the greatest fraction in the Bundestag, the federal parliament.

As much obfuscation as Germany faces now, it may happen that the country's real problems are fading out of focus for the time being. Without a doubt they will return into public discussion sooner or later. This fresh breeze blown into the German political system has cleared away the feeling of monotony for a short moment before it is suffocated by the domination of a great coalition.

Related Articles
A New Leftist Unity in Germany

©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alexander Krabbe

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