A new government for Christmas

Germany has a new government, and it’s arrived just in time for Christmas. CDU, CSU and SPD will govern under Angela Merkel (CDU) in a Grosse Koalition (Grand Coalition). That Koalitionsvertrag I wrote about in my last post has been approved. The SPD party members have voted it through with a reassuring 75%. After months of wrangling, ministers can now move into their offices, arrange their pot plants and assemble their staffs.

To an outsider, that so many important ministerial positions are filled with SPD politicians is a surprise. Given that Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, CSU, nearly gained enough votes for an absolute majority, you would have thought those two parties would well and truly dominate. Not so. Positions such as Wirtschaft und Energie (Economy and Energy) Auswaertiges (Foreign Minister), Justiz und Verbraucher (Justice and Crime), and Arbeit und Soziales (Work and Social) are in SPD hands.  Continue reading

On the way to a Grand Coalition (election story continued)

As I have written before, Angela Merkel and her right-leaning Christian Democrats (CDU) won the most votes in Germany’s election on 22nd September. 10 weeks have now passed, and still a new government is yet to be formed. From a British perspective, it seems to be taking a very very long time (the current coalition government in Britain was formed in about 5 days in May 2010). But in Germany, this lengthy process of forming a government is far from surprising.

Having failed to win an absolute majority (they got 41.5% of the vote), it was clear back in September that the CDU (along with their Bavarian sister party, CSU) for the sake of stable government would have to form a coalition with another political party. Coalitions are not unusual in Germany; indeed all governments since 1946 having been formed of two or more parties. Past experience of coalition negotiations (the negotiations for the Grand Coalition in 2005, also under Merkel, lasted two months) and the fact that the CDU’s most obvious (and existing coalition) partner, the right-leaing, economic liberals, the FDP, failed to get the prerequisite proportion of votes to have any politicians in parliament, suggested that this time round talks might take even longer. Continue reading

Without a voting card on Election Day

Yesterday – Election Day. I, as an expat, was merely a bystander. But that did not stop a familiar shiver of emotion running up my spine at the sight of people strolling to the local polling station, peacefully coming together to democratically express their hopes and dreams for their country.

Today – it is clear that Angela Merkel and her right-leaning Christian Democrats (CDU) have won, though no-one is quite sure as yet how the governing coalition will be formed. On that, there are commentators in abundance and my half-baked comments won’t bring you much. So instead, I’ll mark this rather remarkable day (or not, as some might argue) in German political history by writing about my personal impressions.  Continue reading

Politicans and Universal Constants

Whenever I am stuck for a topic to write about, I can always get myself fired up by just reading the newspaper.  Today was no exception.   Guido Westerwelle, in particular, is a great topic whether in a blog or at the pub.

Mr Westerwelle is currently the head of the junior coalition partner in the government.  The Freie Demokratische Partei or FDP as it usually referred to.  They are viewed as a combination pro-business and pro-civil rights party.  That would be somewhat analogous to what Americans usually refer to as fiscal libertarianism.

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Earth to FDP!

We are about four months into the new government here in Germany.  As so often seems to be the case in politics and people, the current government seems to have mis-interpreted what the voters wanted to say.

It should not be so surprising, really.  It is difficult to get a good unfiltered view of how voters feel when you live behind a wall of handlers and advisers.  Politicians are still just people and are just as susceptible to wishful thinking as anyone else.  The FDP is on the verge of learning this lesson the hard way.

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The German Election

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.

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Save our Deutsch! Can the German language be saved by a sentence in the Grundgesetz?

If you’re an American expat living in Germany, you’ve heard this debate before — in the U.S.

It’s such a simple little sentence that some people want to insert into the German constitution: “Die Sprache der Bundesrepublik ist Deutsch.” (“The language of the Federal Republic [of Germany] is German.”) Who would have thought that five German words could provoke such a debate? This quote from Berlin’s Tagesspiegel sums it up pretty well: “Die Idee der CDU, die deutsche Sprache im Grundgesetz zu verankern, hat eine heftige Diskussion ausgelöst: Läutet der Beschluss einen ‘Anti-Einwanderer-Wahlkampf’ ein oder die Rettung der deutschen Leitkultur?” (“The CDU’s idea to anchor the German language in the German constitution has set off a vigorous discussion: Does the resolution herald an ‘anti-immigrant campaign’ or the rescue of the German core culture?”)

When the German language gets mixed into German politics, the results are rarely good. Continue reading