Friday, May 12, 2017

Yet another little election in Germany

Count down to Merkel's third reelection.

As the world was watching the predictable election results for the French presidency, the predictable results for the German Land of Schleswig-Holstein went less noticed. 

Just like in Saarland, the German electorate went slightly to the right and less to the hard right than was expected last year.  Again the Social Democrats are the relative losers, but nothing like the loss their Socialist Party sister party just suffered in France. 

If anything is in common among the voters of England, France and Germany it is a loss of support for the traditional moderate left led by Labor, The Socialists and the Social Democrats respectively. 

A similar shift took place in Spain where the left won the election, but could not form a government without the support of the farther left Podemos movement, so their “Socialists” abstained and allowed the right wing Nationalists to form another government. 

In Austria it was a Green who edged the ultra-right out for the presidency. 

Maybe this is a trend, maybe not.  But member parties of the Socialist International have not been winning European elections recently. 

But back to Germany. 

This time the Free Democrats, a center right liberal party usually referred by their German initials FDP, have received over 5% of the popular vote and came back into the Landtag with proportionally assigned seats.  They got 9 seats, so together with the Social Christians 25 seats they come just short of the 37 needed for a majority.  Five seats short. 

That probably means another Red-Yellow-Black coalition, similar to the one that ran Germany before the FDP fell under the 5% needed to qualify on the national level. 

Red is for the Social Democrats who the yellow Free Democrats and black Social Christians would rather not have in the government, and won’t if they get the votes. 

Another real option is the “traffic light coalition” of the Greens, FDP and Social Democrats.  But again, the votes don’t really show that as probable. 

The only reason the Social Christians don’t get a majority of right wing votes is because the of the 6.6% ultra-right votes going to the Alliance for Germany giving them 5 seats.  Now it is not clear that those people would have voted for a moderate right wing.  That has not been the tendency.  Most polls show that the ultra-right wing voters have a contingent of possible hard left voters, and vice versa. 

With its anti-foreigner rhetoric and newly elected hard line national leadership, we should not expect any party in Germany to be willing to form a coalition with the Alliance for Germany. It is starting to look like 7% is their upper limit. 

And the moderate Social Democratic left, the Greens and the Left Party?  The Social Democrats lost a bit dropping to 27%, the Greens held their 13% and the Left Party came up a small bit, but were over a percent too low to qualify for seats.  Together they could never form a government. 

The French newspaper Liberation calls this a personal defeat for Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, and they know a Socialist defeat when they see one, which they did on the same day. 

For some reason, Martin Schulz has not caught on.  This is the man who had such a successful career in the European Parliament that he was drafted to come lead up the federal branch of the party.  He is not sparking enthusiasm and frankly, the left seems caught in a slight slump, just bad enough to keep them out of power. 

We will probably see much more of the same vote spreads in Nordrhein-Westphalia in a week.  That Land is much more industrial, unlike Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein, and should be better ground for the Schulz and the left. 

But maybe not, with the low unemployment and the calming of the tensions around Merkel welcoming a million refugees, the listless showing for the left and the ultra-right will probably continue to favor the Social Christians and their Free Democrat friends. 

Probable outcome is that on September 24th we will get a new government of Germany that looks a lot like the old one, maybe without any need to have the Social Democrats involved. 

As France and Germany lead Europe, especially now that the UK is leaving the Union, this coming election shows that the status quo economic and social policies will have inertia.

With or without the Social Democrats in the governing coalition, expect Merkel in Germany and Macron in France to keep pushing austerity for the common people and fewer rules for the rich ones. 

Europe will be stable, but it will be a private sector dominated Europe.

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