Stephanie Surface reports from Bavaria on political homogeneity in Germany in the run-up to September’s critical elections
There are now less than seven weeks to go before the important German Election for the Bundestag (the German Parliament), and only six weeks before the regional Länder Election of the biggest German federal state, Bavaria.
Political posters hang from lamp-posts and billboards on every street corner: smiling faces look benignly on voters. But even the slogans differ only slightly, and most of them are interchangeable. Bavarians find one big hodgepodge of sameness – except for one poster which catches the passer-by’s imagination and brings some humorous relief from the toothy smiles. The poster shows four naked bottoms painted in the colours of the main parties: black (CSU), red (SPD), yellow (FDP) and green (Grüne) with the slogan: “Are you going to vote for these asses?” signed by the free-market and anti-EU Republikanische Partei of Bavaria.
General Election fever hasn’t really caught up with the public so far, as the entire nation seems to be basking in sunshine, or on vacation. The only subject all parties are obsessing over for weeks on end is the spying scandal of the US’ NSA and the involvement of both the German secret service, the BND, and German politicians, in the affair. As most parties were in government at one point or another, everybody tries to blame each other, except for the far-Left Die Linke, who never held government posts in coalitions. They seem to have the moral upper hand, directing schadenfroh at all the others, while pushing back uncomfortable memories from nearly the entire party leadership having had its roots in former communist East Germany, where spying on citizens was a daily occurrence.
Angela Merkel, just back from a climbing expedition in the Alps, seems to be relaxed and carefree, secure in recent opinion polls which show the CDU/CSU with over 40%. Many Germans are still convinced that she safely sailed the big German ship in choppy European waters, and every criticism seems to bounce off her as she delays making hard decisions about the European Union. Germans have jobs, security in their welfare state, and the warm feeling that the mother-figure,”Mutti”, will take care of complicated issues.
Also, many voters are frightened by the prospect of a coalition government of the Greens and the social-democrat SPD that will tax them even more, as both are promising money for even more social programs. Both the Greens and the SPD intend, not only to increase income taxes for the “rich”, meaning people who earn over €80,000 a year, but also to introduce a wealth tax. The Mittelstand, the generic name given to the multitude of small to medium size privately-held companies that comprise backbone of the German economy, are up in arms, as they would suffer most.
The Greens also want to stop the special energy rates granted to companies with high energy use. Since the so-called “energy revolution”, Germany’s electricity prices are going through the roof. Angela Merkel, ever the adaptable politician, took over the Greens’ policies after Fukushima, phasing out nuclear power and trying to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. So far the costs are incalculable, and the transition seems impossible: and in the meantime fossil-fuel coal plants are working to full capacity. Many companies threaten that they would have to leave Germany if they have to pay huge increase in energy prices.
But – all major parties are equally committed in their election manifestos to the Euro project: “European Germany within an Economic- and Solidarity- Union” (Die Grüne): “Social, Responsible Europe” (SPD): “A new start for the European Union” (Die Linke): ” A European Federal Union” (FDP): “Europe will come out of this crisis strengthened” (CDU). It seems that Germany’s entire political class lives in an illusory world about the economic feasibility of the Euro, except for lonely voices in their ranks and some small local Euro-sceptic parties.
The only serious nationwide party, who intelligently asks hard questions in this political dreamland, is Alternativ Für Deutschland (the AfD), which, as regular readers will know, was founded only in April. It has had to struggle very hard to get some kind of party structure and workers on the ground. At the moment it lingers around 3% in the opinion polls, but thinks that it will get stronger on Election Day as many Germans haven’t yet made up their mind who to vote for. The AfD also has high hopes that it can energise some of the non-voters to go to the ballot box in September.
But – if this isn’t enough of a struggle for any newcomer, the AfD has also had to deal with young thugs from the Die Grüne party who, in cahoots with youngsters from the far-Left, attacked election desks in the pedestrian zone of the little town of Göttingen, so that the AfD had finally to get police protection. These troublemakers also tore down election posters, vandalised the AfD’s party pamphlets, and threatened members with violence, claiming that the AfD is a fascist anti-foreigner party and needs to be eliminated. Similar violent recent incidents were also reported in other parts of Germany: but so far little of it has been reported by the state-run German TV channels, nor has there been an official apology from the Green leadership.
So all the major parties seem to have put the Euro question on the back burner for now, and wouldn’t be able attack Merkel the Teflon Chancellor on this issue anyway, as she is doing everything to keep the situation calm before the September General Election.
In the near future, though, Merkel and the rest of the political class can’t avoid the decision whether to have either a full blown European Union or a disorderly and possibly violent break-up of Euro-land. The longer this is delayed, the worse the final outcome will become, not only for the German taxpayer but for the entire German economy.
Stephanie Surface tweets as @suranie