German election ends in stalemate

Preliminary German election results are in. It looks like there may be quite a bit of chaos ahead. None of the feasible 2 party-coalitions coalitions will be able to garner a majority by themselves, and a "big" coalition between conservative CDU and social democrat SPD has been ruled out by Schroeder, who has not conceded defeat.

All of the smaller parties (Liberals, Greens and Left/former communists) have between 8 and 9% of the vote, meaning Bundetag majority is only possible via a three-party coalition. The politically feasible options are either a Conservative-Liberal-Green coalition (interesting possibilities there), a middle of the road Social Democrat-Liberal-Green coalition, or the scary prospect of a Social Democrat-Green-Left (former communist) government.

Of course, Schroeder may still come around and join up with the conservatives after all. But, right now, he has the advantage, as he has more possible coalitions to choose from. CDU would never hook up with the former communists.

Ironically, the two smaller parties, Greens and Liberals are now in a position where they can choose who the next Chancellor is going to be.

Interesting times.

Interesting post, Geck. Always enlightening to hear a resident's take on these sorts of things.

Interesting times indeed. Whatever the political solution will be, it will no doubt be difficult. A couple of the smaller parties have already made comments on not joining some of the coalitions speculated on. I believe it was a leader of the FDP (Liberals) that have stated that they would not join in the "Stop Light Coalition" (I can't find the article at the moment though.)

edit: Here is an article that at least mentions it in passing that both the Greens and the FDP have stated that they would not be "lured into a three-way coalition".

Yeah, I've been watching this one closely for some time. The primary reason I dislike proportional representation is because of what is about to go down in Germany over the next 10 days. Deals with the devil.

From my limited knowledge of Germany's economic woes, I myself probably would have gone with the CDU had I been German. Only for one term of course, but from their economic policies and radical tax reform, I'm sure they would have had some positive effect in that area. I'm suprised but not entirely shocked this happened, especially given the East's continued reliance on the state funding and traditional European social-democratic staple policies of big government, lots of welfare, generous pensions, intervention and more entrepeneurial red-tape then a crimson mummy.
Of course the East coupled with (from what I hear) a total lack of charisma and tact on the part of Merkel has made a complete mess of what could have been a clear cut election win. A strong example to many other European political parties who share similar systems.

Personally I would call a re-run of the elections to sort to try and solve this problem asap. I really dislike the idea of coalition government and a so called "Grand Coalition" would be many times worse still.

Interesting times, quite.

Podunk wrote:

Interesting post, Geck. Always enlightening to hear a resident's take on these sorts of things.

I'm not actually a resident of Germany, Podunk. Austria hasn't been part of Germany for 60-odd years now.

I have to disagree with illum on coalition governments and proportional representation though, having grown up in a country which had them. The proportional representation allows minority views to be heard, but at the same time leads to a more stable way of governing a country, as it usually leads to two-party coalitions forced to deal with each other on a consensual basis. The UK or US two-party system leads to much more see-sawing in policies, with long term planning being more difficult. The two party system makes it easier to push through reforms, the proportional representation system makes it easier to keep them.

The current situation in Germany is extraordinary, and only happened because votes were so exceptionally balanced between the 2 major and three minor parties. It wouldn't even be that bad if the greens and liberals weren't stonewalling in refusing to work with CDU and SPD respectively.

I agree with you in that I also (very reluctantly) hoped to see the CDU in for one term to push forward those reforms and drag Europe out of economic stagnation. It's unfotunate that they managed to bork their campaign and lost the tremendous advantage they had only two months ago.

I still think we'll see a three party coalition, once the liberals or greens see reasonm. I quite like the idea of the so-called "Jamaica" coalition (conservative-liberal-green), as the liberal-green part certainly reflects my own political convictions. I just can't see a grand coalition happening, and a minority government would be unworkable. This would hand the swing votes to the former communists, which I don't think anybody wants.

more stable way of governing a country,

I would agree on your pluses of PR but not this. A disparate federal country perhaps, any other, no.

PR has a record for forming weak and unstable governments in just about every nation it has been tried in, this is my chief reason for disliking it. It was the inherent compromises in the PR system that after all was a direct cause of the Wiemar Republic's constant state of weakness and therefore an indirect cause of Nazism in Germany.

If there is one thing the "First Pass The Post" system can claim credit for, it's a record for forming strong and stable governments, even if it is at the expense of the radical/minority voice. To take Britain as an example, in 317 years since the Glorious Revolution, there has been little in the way of governments literally falling for internal political reasons. The system excels at slow and stable reform.

Ultimately of course both systems suffer from the same weakness, that the parties themselves fail to represent the electorate and people to a greater extent are having difficulty in finding a representative party to give their vote to. I know this is true of many 18-35 year olds in Germany.

P.S. Yeah that coalition could work. But would the Greens be easy bed-fellows, with Fischer's reputation and the CDU's pro-America stance? Hmmm

Good point, and you are right. I was thinking modern day Western Europe. There are plenty of counter-examples, both historic and current, of less-than-stable countries ruled by rolling coalitions with governments falling every other year. I guess the situation depends on the number of parties involved, and just how many fringe interests exist. I personally believe a system which favours a two-party coalition government can work fairly well. Three parties is still possible, if two of them are vaguely aligned, but any more than that and conensus becomes almost impossible to build.

I think the key difference between PR and two-party systems is how they adapt to change. In a two-party system, the political direction of government has to be developed internally within the party before a government is formed. This leads to continually shifting policy lines, as both parties have to adapt and change internally to reflect political issues of the times. Which is why the tory policies now have very little in common with tory policies in 1700, or why Repulicans in the US seem to have gone from being the party of small government to being the party of the "moral majority" (whatever that means).

During elections, people see exactly what they will get in an ideal two party system. On one hand this is easier, as people really get what they vote for. On the other hand, it tends to encourage both parties to cater for a majority of voters only, and largely ignore minority viewpoints. In the worst case, this will lead to both parties adopting a "bread and games" approach, without any concerns for the future (things like government debt or the environment). Sound familiar?

PR has the advantage that it allows those minority viewpoints to still be heard, and to act as a check to the larger parties. Theoretically, small parties can afford to stick to their ideological guns in drawing up their party lines, and consensus has to be reached once the elections are over. Voters never really get what they vote for, but then again, voters also rarely agree with all points in any given party's manifesto.

Forming a new party to address new issues is much easier in a PR system than in a two-party system. The greens have managed to evolve from a fringe movement to viable coalition partners in PR countries like Germany and France in a mere 20 years. In the US and UK, they're still very much fringe movements. I'm a sucker for the underdog, which is why I think PR appeals to me.

In the end, both systems have their flaws and advantages. I'm not going to use the worn-out cliche and quote Churchill, but he had a point.

illum wrote:

P.S. Yeah that coalition could work. But would the Greens be easy bed-fellows, with Fischer's reputation and the CDU's pro-America stance? Hmmm :)

I think Fischer could leave with it, I believe he's a pragmatist when it comes to foreign policy. I'm more worried about the rest of the party.

P.S: As for the point about 18-35 year old feeling very much politically homeless, this reminds me strongly of the whole "voter apathy" debate in the UK during the last General Election.