Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Sprechen Sie "Deadlock"?

It looks like the German people get their own shot at what the United States went through back in 2000. Both the Christian Democrats Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats Gerhard Schroeder are claiming victory -- or at least, refusing to concede.

National Review's Jim Geraghty has a very good

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund has his take

And a UK paper's blog view is

For fans of the earlier election, we will stipulate that Merkel has more votes -- though not enough to form a majority with the libertarian FDP (aka Free Democrats). Meanwhile, Schroeder can't get a majority with just his seven-year partners, the Greens -- unless he wants to add on the even further-left, um, Left Party. What is disturbing is that there seems to be a true majority of left-of-center parties. Though that coalition could be disastrous for Germany (including Schroeder's limited market and fiscal reforms).

In any event, I reached out to a few German friends to get their thoughts.

Asked about his thoughts on either a "grand coalition" (between CDU and SDU) or a three-way coalition of various parties, my banker buddy Matthias (no fan of the SPD) said despairingly, "We should leave Germany as fast as possible - any ideas?"

My entrepreneurial consultant buddy Jan -- a proud member of the Free Democrats was more optimistic (as he should be given that FDP did quite well for itself):

I [went to the FDP election party] and had a good time, though feelings were mixed. Same situation as last time, you go to a party expecting an outcome where Merkel and [FDP Chair Guido] Westerwelle would head the new government and then, they let us down.

My country deserves better than what we are getting now. A fight over who may form a new government. In the end [Merkel] will be chancellor I am quite sure, but it will be messy and an CDU SPD government will not be stable.

Schröder is totally out of his mind when he proclaims, that he is still needed. He is not. It’s time for him to go. Fast.
Goodness knows, every country -- particularly a German one -- needs to have a man named Guido in their government. Guido Westerwelle? That's a name out of central casting!!

Anyway, Gudrun, a journalist with one of the larger German magazines, gave me the most comprehensive take:

I am not a Berlin correspondent so take this as my personal opinion. Besides - the so-called experts were all wrong in predicting the results. The problem is, there is definitely a mood for political change, but the Christian Democrats made it quite difficult to identify them as a driving factor for change. I personally couldn't believe that they would be more dynamic than during the chancelorr Kohl-period, a period of real stagnation, although the problems - demography, globalisation, external debts etc. - were exactly the same.
Especially in the last days Angela Merkel gave again the impression of a reluctant person, deciding something and drawing back moments later.

Besides she is standing for nothing - she missed to impart a real vision to the Germans. Just to say "life should be better" isn't enough - my [cleaning]woman would have expressed this better ... This is why the voters said "no" to red/green but at the same time didn't say "yes" to black/yellow.
[A major problem is that one can see from] the polls the Geman population is also divided in those who want social [entitlements] and those who prefer a performance-oriented society.

Grand coalition - well, difficult question which could only be answered in different scenarios. Grand coalition will -- in my opinion -- only be the last option. It's highly unpopular although it would have an advantage this time: Such a government could govern with vast majorities in the
Bundestag/parliament and in the Bundesrat/federal chamber.

If the Greens stay loyal to the Social Democrats and insist on keeping their foreign minister Fischer (hard to imagine that they will give up this poste), the Christian Democrats (according to the rules, I think they should lead the coalition talks) will negotiate with the Social Democrats. But a coalition with Merkel as chancelor and Schröder as vice-chancelor is not imaginable and also not a constellation without him at all -- only thanks to him the party had less losses than expected.

So the door could be open for the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals [AKA FDP/Free Democrats]... The Liberals still have to be convinced to cooperate with Schröder (at the moment they insist in saying that in this case they would prefer the oppositional role). But as you know: When they get the right offers - some nice little jobs, for example the ministry of economics, the ministry of finance, the foreign ministry - things might be different.

Okay, I hope I got you confused enough...

Us, confused? Hah! We had to deal with this for thirty-four days five years ago. I'm sure the Germans can figure it out in half the time.

Or twice, or whatever.

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