Skin of His Teeth


Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s victory in the recent German elections is described as having been gained with a “wafer thin” margin. Had it not been for the support of Joschka Fischer’s Green Party, in coalition with Schröder’s Social Democrats, the center-left politician would have lost out to the right-wing combination of the Christian Union and Free Democrats, led by Edmund Stoiber.

The Greens’ 55-seat win in the election simply tipped the balance to the retention of the governing coalition in Germany—for the moment.

Stoiber has promised to be robust in opposition, yet he will be up against Germany’s most popular politician at present, the professorial-looking Joschka Fischer.

Fischer made his name in the coalition by promoting himself as Germany’s, if not Europe’s, peacemaker. He brokered the Balkan Stability Pact. He took Germany to the fore in the Middle East peace process, and he managed a prime diplomatic coup by successfully lobbying to have the peace process on Afghanistan hosted in Berlin, the newly regenerated capital of Germany.

Fischer has come a long way since the time he harbored a member of the Baader-Memhoff terrorist group in his flat in his younger days. In appearance he seems benign. In speech, smooth and diplomatically convincing. Although Chancellor Schröder did appear at one stage to be marginalizing Fischer when details of his youthful past were plastered across the pages of German dailies, he is shrewd enough to know that his immediate future depends on maintaining a decent semblance of friendship with Fischer.

On the other hand, Fischer will be expecting to gain some kudos for his party tipping the balance of the German vote to grant Schröder his wafer-thin victory.

Watch for this coalition government to use Fischer’s peacemaking diplomacy, particularly in the Middle East. A successfully run foreign policy may serve to divert the German electorate’s attention away from more worrying economic troubles at home.