You may have missed that there was an election in Germany over the weekend. Apparently, the ruling SPD (34.3%) was barely edged by the opposition CDU-CSU (35.2%). The CDU-CSU was hoping for a clear victory. But a late surge by the SPD eliminated the early lead the CDU-CSU had enjoyed. The current chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) is refusing to concede defeat. Given the overall results he may be right.
Here is the total picture:
CDU-CSU = 35.2% (225 seats)
SPD = 34.3% (222 seats)
Free Democrats = 9.8% (61 seats)
Left Party = 8.7% (54 seats)
Greens = 8.1% (51 seats)
So here is the reason behind Schroeder's statistician like claim of victory with a 1 percent deficit. The CDU-CSU (Christian Democrats, a heavily Catholic, Christian conservative party with factions ranging from "compassionate conservative" to "Mel Gibson") has been in coalition mostly with the Free Democrats (a secular, classical Liberal party favoring business and markets). There was once a CDU-CSU coalition with the SPD and there has been speculation of such a "Grand Coalition" in this situation.
Now, here is the situation on the left. The SPD (Social Democrats, a center left party with ties to labor unions) has been ruling in coalition with the Greens (a "new left" environmentalist party) for years. In addition, the SPD has been in local collations (on city councils etc) with the Left Party (used to the Party of Democratic Socialism which used to be the old East German communist party - SED).
HOWEVER! The German constitution REQUIRES A MAJORITY GOVERNMENT. This is important because if this election result happened in a country like Denmark, the CDU-CSU would be the clear winner. But in Germany the majority requirement means that there three options:
1) A CDU-CSU/SPD "Grand Coalition" with 69.5% of the seats.
2) An SPD/Green/Left coalition with 50.1% of the seats.
3) An SPD/FDP/Green coalition (Trafic Light Coalition: Red, Yellow, Green) with 52.2% of the seats.
The BBC is reporting a fourth option, a Christian-Liberal coalition (CDU-CSU/FDP). This is a traditional coalition in Germany. The problem is the BBC forgot to check the German constitution especially with regard to the majority government requirement. CDU-CSU/FDP coalition would only have 45% of the seats. Oops!
The FDP has been in coalition with the SPD and I believe has even worked with the Greens at the local level. But the FDP is a party much like the Libertarians here in the USA. They may not like working with the Greens on the national stage. But they've been out of government for a long time after being in nearly every government since World War II so...
So you see the problem. While the CDU-CSU won the plurality of the votes, the left over all won the majority. That means that, unless the FDP comes out and says they'll work with the Greens, Scrhoeder is in the drivers' seat. He can choose which coalition he wants: a left coalition with the Greens and the former East German Communists, or a Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats. Schroeder has been an advocate of reforms that were often opposed by the Left Party. The CDU-CSU has been taking the position that Schroeder hasn't gone far enough. From a policy point of view, the Grand Coalition makes the most sense. But would Schroeder give up his position as chancellor to get such a coalition?
Let the games begin!!
Monday, September 19, 2005
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:51 AM