Angela Merkel Re-Elected As Geman Chancellor

Monday, September 28, 2009

Angela Merkel emerged as German Chancellor (Kanzlerin) yesterday. She'll now lead a coalition of her CDU-CSU (Christan Democratic Union-Christian Social Union) party with the FDP (Free Democratic Party, Freie Demokratische Partei). This "officially" ends the Grand Coalition that put Merkel in power back in 2005 between the CDU-CSU and SPD (Social Democratic Party, Sozialdemokratische Partei).

SPD Chancellor Candidate- Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Merkel and her CDU/CSU party alliance received 33.7% "unofficially" according the Associated Press account linked to below, that along with a coalition of the FDP will give her a majority of seats in the German Parliament (Bundestag) without the Grand Coalition that has existed since 2005 with the SPD. Needless to say this is big for Merkel and the CDU/CSU. The results are likely to be analyzed every way under the sun but they no doubt will show the German voters' unhappiness with the Grand Coalition that has existed since 2005.

Many traditional SPD voters felt that the party had moved too much to the right as part of the Grand Coalition with Merkel and the CDU/CSU. Much of the SPD's power base has eroded over the last few years. Gerhard Schröder (SPD) beat Edmund Stoiber (CDU/CSU) in 2002 and had enough votes in the German parliament by forming a coalition with the Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). Oskar Lafontaine (a former prominent and storied SPD memember) decided in 2005 that the SPD didn't fit him any longer and joined the WASG (Labour and Social Justice Electoral Alternative). The PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) and successor of SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the ruling party of East Germany till 1989) gained popularity with German voters in 2005. In the 2005 election the PDS and WASG both drew traditional voters away from the SPD. Since there wasn't enough seats in the Budestag based on historical alliances (the SPD and the Greens and the CDU/CSU and the FDP) talks started between the SPD and CDU/CSU. Resulting in Merkel becoming the first women German Chancellor.

The election results are encouraging for the FDP, often referred to as being "liberal" and "pro business", as they're likely to get more cabinet positions and have more influence on the emerging government. They're seen to be backing more radical tax cuts and pro market reforms.

The election results are also encouraging for the Die Linke (the Left), which today is a coalition of PDS and WASG that joined forces in 2007, got 12% of the vote (again unofficial). This is something that has to really bother SPD leadership as they plan for the future. Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceeded fairly early yesterday, indicating that he would now wear the mantle of opposition leader.

Being an American observer in the German elections, I can't help but look at things through my American experiences and background. I tend to look at the CDU/CSU as being more like the American Republican Party, while the SPD is more like the American Democratic Party. While all the parties will state that they're different than the others, I find that the major parties are too similar and maybe don't really reflect the "average" voter (whatever that might be now a days) that well. I have said to some of my German friends before that if you voted for say the Greens, wouldn't you be disappointed that they then form a coalition with the SPD? The response was a pragmatic that by voting for the Greens, you give them more seats in the Budestag and they can have more influence on policy and votes coming out of the government, which is a lot different than the all or nothing view of the American system.

If there wasn't such widespread belief that the SPD have left its members behind, you would think that they would have been able to capitalize on the financial crisis and take control of the government in Berlin. There is a lesson to be learned by politicians and government leaders everywhere, the framing of that lesson will be colored in kinds of ways, no doubt. It'll be interesting to see the official numbers and see how the candidates did in the different areas. Only time will tell what the parties learn from this election (if they learn anything at all).

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Photo credits: Angela Merkel (2008)-2.jpg courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 0918.jpg courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.