Germany in the 21st Century Part IV

According to prozipcodes, the Länder of the North and East, culturally predominantly Protestant, voted by a majority for the parties of the left, while those of the so-called sun belt Central-Southern Germans voted Christian Democrat. Another fact that will certainly have significant consequences in the political future not only of Bavaria but of the entire country is the defeat suffered by the CSU, which lost the absolute majority obtaining ‘only’ 49.3%. This result which in any ‘normal’ region would be considered extraordinary but which, instead, was understood by the party as a dramatic catastrophe. Within this political formation, certainly atypical in the European panorama (the CSU is a strange ‘centaur’, a bit of a party and a bit of a state), an animated discussion not only on the immediate causes of defeat but especially on its future prospects. The most insistent critical note is that according to which the

With regard to the SPD, according to an analysis by the ‘election research’ group, the defeat is mainly due to the high dissatisfaction with the government’s action and a growing decline in confidence in the competence of the Social Democrats. Only 21% of the interviewees said they were convinced of the SPD’s ability to solve the problem par excellence, namely that of unemployment, while 41% think that the CDU is capable of doing so. In matters of taxation, pensions, health and family policies the SPD is judged to be equal to the CDU.

Looking at the demographic composition of the vote it turns out that the CDU was clearly a winner among the older voters. In fact, among the over-60s, it obtained 43% of the votes, while in the other age groups the SPD has an advantage, which among young people has obtained approval over 40%. Among workers, as well as among the unemployed, the loss of consensus of the SPD is about 6% higher than the average. On these voters, Linkspartei built its success, obtaining 25% of the unemployed, surpassing the CDU, to which only 20% went. The Christian Democratic union suffered above-average losses among men, while the SPD among women.

From the overall analysis of the vote it appears that, similarly to what emerged from the 2004 American presidential elections, Germany appears to be a country literally split into two opposing and incommunicable fields. This inevitably raises the question if we are not faced with a political trend that could characterize the dynamics of the democracies of the industrial countries of the West in the coming years.

Future prospects

Everything suggests that dramatic changes in direction in Germany’s international policy choices are to be ruled out: at most there will only be a change in tone as regards the German attitude towards the United States on the one hand and Putin’s Russia. on the other. It’s easy to see why. Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic leadership with her know very well that the vast majority of the country is substantially hostile or otherwise wary of strategic unilateralism followed by the White House and that a choice of militant neo-Atlanticism would inevitably clash with the deep moods of public opinion. They are also aware, beyond the instrumental controversies, that behind the choice of a good neighborhood between Russia and Germany – a policy that, it must be remembered, deeply irritates both Poland and the Baltic countries – there are decisive strategic reasons, starting with Russia’s German energy supply, an objective that the Schröder government has pursued with great determination with the aim of easing Germany’s dependence on the supply of crude from an extremely unstable region such as the Middle East. It is difficult to argue that this strategic option guided by the primacy of the Realpolitik did not have any image costs for Germany of the red-green government. Indeed, having indicated Putin as a ‘sincere democrat’, as Schröder has repeatedly done, despite the bloody repression carried out in Chechnya and the support for the oligarchy that today dominates Russian political life, has resulted in clear contradiction with the priority assigned to the defense of human rights, which the Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer himself had pointed out as one of the elements of innovation that the red-green coalition would introduce with respect to the political tradition followed by German diplomacy.

As regards internal politics, it seems likely that thanks to the grosse Koalition it will finally be possible to put a hand to what is referred to as the ‘mother of all reforms’, that is the revision of the functioning of the federal system: born when Germany was divided into two states, there was still the cold war and the term ‘globalization’ was unknown to the European political lexicon, which today makes governing the country very complicated if not impossible. The most convincing confirmation of this prediction is that the negotiations that led to the large Koalition agreement were conducted for the CSU by Stoiber and for the SPD by President Franz Müntefering,

But there is a result that emerged from the elections that allows, without exaggerating, to speak of an epochal break in the political history of post-World War II Germany. The entry into Parliament of a formation such as that of the Linkspartei-PDS, in fact, does not simply signal a further crowding of the political arena, which makes the parliamentary dialectic a little more complicated and consequently the search for alliances for form a government. In reality we are facing a qualitative leap in the functioning of political-parliamentary life in Germany and the political crisis of that model of social relations and economy which has been called ‘Rhine capitalism’. Even the party system and the parliamentary balance, therefore, could not fail to take into account the changed geopolitical balances, Berliner Republik, that Republic of Berlin that looks a little more like that of Weimar and a little less like that of Bonn.

Germany in the 21st Century 3