September Election Could Move Germany to Right
by Mathias Brucker
All smiles in the CDU
This month may see one of the world's most important elections for the year. Germans will decide on September 27 whether their country--by far the largest economy of Europe--will get a relatively conservative government (with lower taxes and spending and support for the Afghan war) or another "Grand Coalition" of the Conservatives and their current government partners, the Socialists. Not only would spending and taxation remain high, support for the allied cause in Afghanistan would continue to erode. The Conservatives (the CDU) would be under constant pressure to slip further left in order to keep the Social Democrats (the SPD) from going on the attack.
Today the CDU forces seems to be on the path to victory, but the scene was much the same during the 2005 campaign, when the actual election turned out to be so close that a coalition government became necessary. What helped the SPD close the gap in that campaign was a barrage of claims that CDU tax reform was "socially unjust".
A similar thing seems to be happening now. In addition, public support for the Afghan War is dropping
So there are two possible outcomes: the conservative parties (CDU and the Free Democratic Party, the FDP, its smaller ally) will get a majority and form a conservative government. The other possibility is that the same will happen as it did in 2005, and the conservatives won't have a majority of seats in the Bundestag, and neither will the SPD and its Green Party allies. The party making the difference would likely be Germany's fifth party, the post-communist "Linkspartei" (literally, the leftist party). As no one wants a coalition government consisting of three parties, especially with the communists, a Grand Coalition would be the only option.
Ominously, the Linskspartei did pretty well in the state elections that were held last Sunday, whereas conservatives as well as social democrats lost votes. This surely adds momemtum to the leftist party's federal campaign. However, it should not be exaggerated; the left won in the former East as well as the party leader's tiny home state of Saarland, "the Delaware of Germany." Its standing in the far more densely populated western Germany is still small.
A more conservative government in Germany might help slowly to move Germany as well as Europe to the right, but there will be no sizable conservative revival, even then. The German "conservatives" are just too centrist to instill enthusiasm for true conservative reform. Come to think of it, Germany is probably one of the most leftist countries in Europe, with but a few conservative strongholds here and there. The incorporation of formerly communist Eastern Germany really hurt Germany as a whole. It made a conservative country -- and one of the richest in the world, one might add -- much more leftist. Since reunion the German economy has been doing not as well as before, with the country spending some 6% of its GDP on "structural reform" in the former East (more even than the entire American defense budget as a percentage of GDP). Also, many formerly eastern Germans still have communist sympathies and perspectives. Overall, whatever else it accomplished, reunion has damaged the right.
Americans will want to watch the German elections closely. The policies that are adopted after it will bear greatly on the German contribution to world economic recovery and NATO support for the War in Afghanistan.