German Election—Each-Way Bet
Talk about a seesaw! German polls indicate that the upcoming federal election is going to be a nail-biter.
That the result will lead to another cobbling together of an unwieldy coalition of uncomfortable bedmates seems a foregone conclusion. But who will ally with whom remains an open question.
Chancellor Merkel has gone public with her intentions to dump Germany’s left-of-center Social Democrats in favor of the business-oriented Free Democratic Party (fdp). The fdp’s East German orientation may be more within her comfort zone, as she hails from Germany’s east herself.
The real question is, if more of the vote on polling day goes to the Social Democratic Party (sdp) leader, Frank Walter Steinmeier, which parties he will choose to engage with in coalition. If he looks further left and engages the Green Party and the current opposition Left Party (at present a seemingly unlikely proposition), then the most recent polls indicate the combined vote would marginally exceed that of a Christian Democrat/Christian Socialist/fdp alliance.
German coalitions are renowned for establishing unlikely alliances. Few have really lasted the distance that Chancellor Merkel’s present group of oft-squabbling partners has.
Recently a couple of contentious issues have caused the polls to seesaw—and lay questions open as to which party would be willing to ally with the other.
The settling of the deal for Canadian/Austrian combine Magna to take over the ailing gmh auto manufacturer Opel would seem to have boosted Chancellor Merkel’s standing. Yet that may well be offset by the two issues that have recently arisen involving the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military force.
Much bad publicity has followed the German initiative in Afghanistan calling in a U.S. Air Force strike that seems to have gone wrong. “Germany’s unpopular mission in Afghanistan, where it has more than 4,200 troops, has been put in the spotlight by a German-ordered September 4 airstrike near Kunduz in which civilians appear to have died,” Associated Press reported.
Deutsche Welle commented, “With just weeks to go before the German general election, the unpopular Afghan conflict has been catapulted into the midst of campaign season.”
Even ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, an sdp member, chimed in to the debate, calling this past weekend for German troops to be withdrawn by 2015.
With Chancellor Merkel calling for a nato team to investigate and report on the incident involving the controversial air strike, this issue promises to remain headline material right up to Germany’s crucial September 27 election.
Almost guaranteeing that German defense and security will be a hot campaign issue was another incident involving the Bundeswehr, reported last week by the team at German-Foreign-Policy.com. Though greatly overshadowed by the earlier incident in Afghanistan, “The German Bundeswehr took its first victim at the Horn of Africa, in the aftermath of the massacre near Kunduz, Afghanistan. When German soldiers opened fire on a fleeing boat, a passenger was mortally wounded. The Bundeswehr had suspected the victim of intending to commit piracy and killed him in the vicinity of the Yemeni port city of Al Mukalla. … It appears out of the question that there will be repercussions for the German soldiers due to the fact that, according to reports, deadly fire was opened, though no concrete threat was posed to anyone.”
This latter incident has highlighted just how German “peace keeping” forces are being used to extend the role of the Bundeswehr into the political arena outside of Germany’s national borders. As German-Foreign-Policy.com observes, the legitimate role of the Bundeswehr has called for deployment of German warships off the Yemeni coast since early 2002, within the framework of the U.S.-led “war on terror” and also in support of the European Union’s anti-piracy campaign. However, “In light of the escalation of the civil war in Yemen, the German Navy, which has now taken its first victim, is now taking on the role of stabilizing pro-Western forces. This no longer corresponds to the official motive of its mission.”
If anti-war elements within Germany begin to tumble to the fact of German elites using the legitimate tasks of the Bundeswehr to escalate German involvement in the politics of other nations in the interests of German hegemony, the result could be quite a political hot potato for all sides in the run-up to the September election.
Given the unpredictable nature of the German political mind, the next two weeks promise to be a roller-coaster ride for the five main competing parties in this tremendously significant German election.
Read our editor in chief’s personal in the October edition of the Trumpet for an eye-opening account of just how significant this 2009 election in Germany truly is.