The Happy Loser

The US Presidential Elections in 2000 were something to write home about. But, as some people say, it takes Germans to do it right. If you Americans sink, you can skru up an elekshon, ve can do betta, and ve did. Yesterday, September 18, 2005, our people hit the polls and decided who is to be our next Bundeskanzler. Did we? In a way. The sitting Bundeskanzler, Gerd Schröder claimed victory, though he had suffered substantial loss, and the majority of his Social Democratic/Green coalition is history. Angela Merkel, Christian Democratic Union, and her supposed ally Guido Westerwelle, Free Democratic Party, claimed victory as well, admitting they had gained no majority either. Mr. Westerwelle had raked in one of the best results in the history of his F. D. P., but he had also to admit that he had failed to reach his objective, to break the red/green rule.

Thanks to the peculiarities of the German electoral system, Mr. Schröder's SPD will get as many seats as the Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union. The smaller parties represented in our sixteenth Bundestag are F. D. P. with approximately ten percent, the Green/Bündnis 90 with eight per cent and a new group, called "LinkePDS", mostly disgruntled Social Democrats and die-hard communists of the PDS, the former state party of the German Democratic Republic. The latter group is a brand-new formation which was pasted together when Mr. Schröder pulled the emergency brake, framing up a vote of no confidence earlier this year.

It will take weeks to figure a way out of this situation: despite all programmatical similarities, Mr. Schröder on one side and Ms. Merkel and her ally Mr. Stoiber, have built up a profound hostility against each other, which will most probably exclude the most logical thing, at least arithmetically: a grand coalition of the largest parties. We had this before in the sixties, not much of a success, but today, it's theory anyway. They really hate each others' guts.

The tragical figure of the day was Joseph (Joschka) Fischer who saved his Greens from substantial losses and performed miracles in his campaign. He knew only a miracle would save him as a Foreign Secretary, and he looked as if he knew, this miracle is not going to happen.

The so-called traffic light coalition between SPD (red), F. D. P. (yellow) and Greens is not an option either. The leader of the liberal party, Mr. Westerwelle and several other prominent liberals excluded this option right from the start and, though tempted by the stench of power, still stick to their word. They reneged a coalition with the SPD once and helped Helmut Kohl to power, but they will never be considered a worthy ally if they pull this kind of stunt too often.

The so-called reggae coalition of CDU/CSU (black), F. D. P. (yellow) and Greens is not likely to happen either, as Mr. Westerwelle explicitly excluded all members of the doomed red/green administration from his coalition plans. The Greens have gained less percentage than the liberals, so they alone would not give a majority to Ms. Merkel. Thanks to Mr. Westerwelle, a social-liberal coalition as we already had in the late seventies, is not going to happen either.

No point of consideration at all is a coalition with the LinkePDS; they are in the dog-house and openly enjoy it, as they can obstruct anything that is happening in parliament.

The electoral campaign was brief, but not without vigour. When Mr. Schröder pulled the emergency brake, most people would not give him a chance to recover, including yours truly. To be sure: he had lost his majority, but he can go on with the Greens under the condition that the commies hate the Christians more than him – a wild guess, as Oskar Lafontaine, his former co-president of the Social Democratic Party, after leaving the Schröder Administration a few weeks after its start, has turned out to be one of his fiercest enemy. It is quite likely that he, for personal reasons, might vote for Ms. Merkel just to pay back whatever he had to suffer during the co-presidency and his short term as a Secretary of Treasure in Germany in 1998. Today's co-leader in the LinkePDS, Lothart Bisky, an old functionary of the GDR regime, is quite content to throw a monkey wrench or two into whatever gear he can find.

One thing was very peculiar during the entire electoral campaign: It was dominated by tactical flaws, personal insults and open hostility. Especially the opposition sometimes looked as if they were really happy not to win the election. The issue that had cost Ms. Merkel the crucial percentage was most probably her demanding to raise the VAT from 16 to 18 per cent after the election. Other points were scarcely noticed, but her tax issue was well represented in the press. Another mistake was to present a finance expert who publicly claimed he would, in case he had a chance to, simplify the German tax code, most probably the most complicated piece of legislation worldwide, to a degree that a medium-educated Jo Sixpack might understand. He called for abolition of subsidies as well and soon was ordered to shut up.

Ms. Merkel's ally, the Chancellor candidate of 2002, Edmund Stoiber, made sure that his decision, to join politics on a federal level, would be made well after the election. He could play safe, as he is already Prime Minister of the State of Bavaria, where he can enjoy a stable and unchallenged majority of his Christian Social Union.

One of the most confusing things in this election evening was the sad look in the eyes of Angela Merkel, who lost too many votes to win and the happy look of Gerd Schröder, who lost not enough to really lose.

If it weren't so serious, it would be fun to watch all those folks muddlin' themselves out of the mess they worked themselves (and my country) into.

September 20, 2005