The national elections have passed. It is big, though not exciting news. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have enough votes to form a coalition government. The American press is representing this as evidence of a trend of European politics moving to the Center-Right portion of the political spectrum, I am not so convinced.
A lot is being made of the fact that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has had its poorest showing in memory. The SDP and the CDU are the two parties which balance the center. The American press makes it sound as if SDP votes have moved rightwards towards the CDU, which is not accurate. Instead, the SDP votes have largely been moving to other left-leaning parties. The Green Party and the Left Party in particular. Germany has five major national parties, the CDU, SDP, FDP, The Greens and The Left.
I’m not going to get into the platforms of these parties. That is not our topic for today. What I think is going on is the fact that most voters are dissatisfied with mainstream politics and direction of Germany. Sound familiar?
- The last election had low voter turnout
- Established politicians have been leaving the SDP and the CDU for other parties or sometimes even running as independents.
What I believe to be happening is dissatisfaction with Germany’s slow crawl towards globalization and greater integration with the world economy. The sacred cow of the Mittelstand (small and medium sized business) is being sacrificed to new EU government policies which impose new regulations that make life harder for the Mittelstand. For example, new sanitization standards for dairy products have put small dairy farms out of production. They are unable to pay for the equipment and policies that are required. At the same time, local consumers do not support these normalization of standards across the EU as it means local traditional cheese making (for example) goes extinct except at the personal hobby level. Who wins? Large food conglomerates such as Kraft and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Transnational standards are most easily affordable by transnational companies.
The FDP and its pro-business stance does address some of these issues, as they are seen likely to try to help the Mittelstand and their legions of employees. However, many of their other policies are seen much more sceptically… tax breaks at a time when revenues cannot cover spending sounds, no offense here, American.
The SDP has lost the confidence of many voters because it was (and is) among the biggest boosters of Germany’s integration with globalization and the EU. The prevailing perception is that only larger companies and rich individuals have benefited.
It boils down to the view that the SDP put Germany in a vulnerable position and the CDU/FDP alliance can fight to salvage what is left. The voters have their priorities. Is it a shift in voting philosophy in the public? Chatting away over beer in German pubs indicates this is not the issue, instead, in the words of a famous politician, “It’s the economy, stupid.”