Germany’s Social Democrat party has begun counting votes after it held a referendum asking its members whether to join Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new grand coalition. The final count is expected late Saturday. Some 300,000 members of Germany’s second-biggest party submitted postal ballots Thursday to decided whether their party, the Social Democrats (SPD) will join forces with Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), and sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) in a grand coalition. While approval by the party is expected amid SPD leadership confidence that it will win a majority, there were fears that the unprecedented referendum would be flawed by members failing to follow all the voting guidelines Die Welt newspaper online said one-tenth of returned ballots were likely to be declared invalid because they were not accompanied by a legally binding affirmation that the member had not voted twice.Full Article: SPD members finish voting on grand coalition referendum | News | DW.DE | 13.12.2013.
A majority of Social Democrat (SPD) supporters back the deal agreed last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, polls showed on Sunday, signalling grassroots members may vote for the “grand coalition” in a ballot. Two months after Merkel emerged victorious from an election but fell just short of a parliamentary majority, the two sides agreed a 185-page blueprint for a right-left government that still has to be approved by SPD members. The result of the ballot of some 474,000 members is due by December 15 and party leaders hope this will mean a government in Europe’s biggest economy can start work before Christmas. However, an element of doubt hangs over the outcome thanks to deep scepticism among SPD ranks about going into government with Merkel. The SPD is scarred by its worst post-war election result in 2009 after sharing power with Merkel for four years.Full Article: Polls show SPD supporters back German coalition deal before ballot | Reuters.
Bärbel Höhn stopped believing in coincidence long ago. The Green party politician says she rubbed her eyes when she first read of the large donation made by major BMW shareholders to the Christian Democratic Union, the governing party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Less than three weeks after the general election, three members of the Quandt and Klatten families transferred some 690,000 euros ($930,000) to the CDU. As is legally required of any donation over 50,000 euros, the figure was published on the German parliament’s website. The transaction was completely legal, but Höhn is outraged nevertheless, because it came just as Merkel’s government was working to protect the interests of the German auto industry at the European Union. “It does have a bitter after-taste if a major donation of 690,000 euros comes from BMW at the same time as the chancellor is doing everything she can to block a really ambitious CO2 limit for cars,” she said.Full Article: How party donations drive German politics | Germany | DW.DE | 17.10.2013.
Germany: To Form German Coalition, Merkel’s Party May Need to Support a Minimum Wage | New York Times
Germany has long held out against introducing a nationwide minimum wage, and over the weekend Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized her rejection of the idea. But it may be the price she has to pay to build the stable government she has promised voters. Ms. Merkel’s conservatives met Monday for a second round of preliminary talks with the Social Democrats, the center-left party that is demanding a base wage of 8.50 euros an hour, or $11.55, for workers across Germany, Europe’s largest economy. The issue emerged as a central sticking point the two sides must overcome if they are to proceed to the next step of formally trying to build a coalition. The chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union, along with its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, emerged from a Sept. 22 parliamentary election as the clear winners. But the parties fell five seats short of a majority that would have allowed them to govern alone. Their previous partner in government, the pro-business Free Democrats, was ousted from Parliament, leaving Ms. Merkel searching for a new partner. Ms. Merkel’s conservatives have held an initial round of discussions with the Social Democrats, as well as the Greens. Both meetings concluded with a decision to meet again to sound out whether there are enough common points to open formal negotiations over a coalition that would form the next government.Full Article: To Form German Coalition, Merkel’s Party May Need to Support a Minimum Wage - NYTimes.com.
Before the September 22 parliamentary elections, much of the foreign coverage of German politics described Angela Merkel, the incumbent candidate for chancellor, as widely tipped to win reelection. Her broad popularity among German voters seemed to exceed many observers’ ability to understand her appeal, but Merkel’s conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, won a sweeping 41.5% of the vote, appearing to confirm pre-election predictions of success. However, the reporting on her and her opponents’ campaigns often deployed a rather simplified account of the German electoral system that has obscured the actual election outcome. It is true that Merkel won big. Her party even came close to an absolute majority in the Bundestag, which has only ever happened during the tenure of Konrad Adenauer, Germany’s first post-war chancellor and another three-term conservative legend. Merkel and her party were not expecting to reach an absolute majority, so falling short of it was not a loss for her. The disastrous defeat of her coalition partner over the last four years, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), however, will have a real effect on her next term. The FDP’s belly-flop, which resulted in its expulsion from the Bundestag for the first time in post-war history having failed to reach the necessary 5% threshhold, must have been hugely disappointing for Merkel. Then again, during the campaign season there was hushed, and sometimes explicit, speculation about the FDP’s weakness, and what political compromises Merkel would prefer to make if that party did not make it into the Bundestag. Now, Merkel’s CDU and its potential coalition partners have each held internal meetings, and while Merkel’s party is still ostensibly considering whether it would rather govern with the Social Democrats (SPD) or the Greens, it will begin preliminary discussions with the SPD this Friday.Full Article: Black-Red, Black-Green? German party coalitions and the new left majority | openDemocracy.
The Länder election that took place in Bavaria, Germany´s second biggest state, last Sunday added flavour to what was previously a dull election campaign on federal level. According to Allensbach Institute, the share of people talking with others about the election rose from 29% to 49% recently. While the Christian Social Union (CSU) – sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – came out on top, chancellor Angela Merkel´s coalition partners the Free Democratic Party (FDP), who had also been part of the governing coalition in Bavaria, received only 3.3% of the votes, thus clearly failing to get over the 5% threshold that dictates whether a party can enter parliament. The liberals now fear they could miss entering the federal parliament next Sunday too. This would make Merkel´s “dream coalition” history. The liberals immediately started to aggressively beg for conservative voters to step in and help them. If successful, this strategy would take voters from the CDU/CSU. Indeed, at the Länder election in Lower-Saxony in January, “pity votes” for the FDP prevented a victory for the CDU. Only 8.6% of Bavarians voted for the Greens on Sunday, which is in line with the negative trend in the polls on the federal level that is lowering the prospects for a Red-Green coalition government. Even the “Free Voters of Bavaria” superseded the Greens – a local organised party with a strong base in Bavaria which plays no role on federal level. It will be interesting to see where the votes for the Free Voters move to next Sunday.Full Article: Policy Network - Opinion.
More than two decades after two far-right youths attacked him there and smashed his glasses, Karamba Diaby hopes to represent the economically ailing east German city of Halle as the first black member of Germany’s parliament. Senegal-born Diaby often felt isolated as a student at Halle University in then-communist, and overwhelmingly white East Germany in the 1980s. Nowadays he feels very much at home but says Germany still needs to do better at integrating foreigners. “There is definitely some catching up to do,” Diaby, a candidate for the main center-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in Sunday’s national election, told Reuters. Diaby, 52, is clearly frustrated that media attention has focused on his skin color, not his politics. “If it’s so sensational that I am running for the Bundestag (lower house), after living here for 27 years, studying here and being politically active, that’s because it has dawned on people that this hasn’t happened before,” he said.Full Article: Senegal-born chemist hopes to be first black German MP | Reuters.
In devotedly pro-European Germany, it is a radical message. In a packed beer hall meeting on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Roland Klaus tells scores of middle-aged, middle-class Germans what they want to hear. In short – no more bailouts. “We’ve got the possibility to stop this madness,” the former financial TV journalist intones. “Germany pays for no more rescue packages.” In an election in which the major parties essentially support Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the euro crisis, and two-thirds of Germans back her euro rescue plans, it is a surprise to find that thousands of Germans want to leave the single currency. The conventional argument is that Germany has come out of the euro crisis better than its partners, and that Merkel has protected German national interests by foisting austerity on the European south. But not everyone sees it that way. And a new party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is seeking to tap into that resentment to get seats in parliament in next Sunday’s election.Full Article: Germany's new anti-euro party could leave election outcome open | World news | theguardian.com.
For months now Europe has been on hold. Time and again it has been said that the big challenges must await the outcome of the German election. Germany is Europe’s indispensable power and no major decision can be taken without it. Yet the election campaign does not reflect that: the politicians seem curiously reluctant to debate Europe’s future and Germany’s role in it. There has been more passion spent in debating whether public canteens should once a week have a non-meat day than in discussing future eurozone bailouts. The opposition has been keener to focus on portraying Germany as a low-wage economy and arguing over the shortage of skilled labour than discussing Europe. On Angela Merkel’s part this is quite deliberate. She is by far the most popular politician in Germany. Her approval ratings at 60% – after eight years in power – are the envy of every other politician in Europe. She is – as her posters remind voters – a safe pair of hands. Her deliberate, cautious, step-by-step style suits the German mood.Full Article: BBC News - Europe 'on hold' over key German election.
German federal elections are not for the faint-of-heart – or the colour blind. For the first time in decades, when the polls open for 60 million German voters on September 22nd, Europe – and the world – will be watching. The huge level of international attention is down to the cause and effect of the euro crisis. The domino effect in the crisis exposed just how interlinked our European economies and political systems already were. Shifts in Europe’s political tectonic plates are under way, pushing Berlin to the fore and its influence on post-crisis measures that will, in future, bind us even closer together. So what is at stake? At its most basic, Germans will decide whether or not to reward Angela Merkel with a third term for steering a relatively steady economic ship in turbulent waters. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) are busily poking holes in the Merkel crisis recipe: it has resulted in an astronomical bill for bank rescues, they say, leaving less money for education and investment and Germany increasingly a country of haves and have-nots.Full Article: The wildcards of Germany’s general election - Financial Services News | Business News | The Irish Times - Tue, Sep 03, 2013.
If Germany were America, this would be the season of attack ads. But Germany is not America, and attack ads, like Super PACs, are unimaginable here, legally and culturally. There are no deep-pocketed groups who set out to destroy the characters of individual candidates. Even the politicians themselves are remarkably restrained. In part, that is because the two main candidates, chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Peer Steinbrück, worked together (he was her finance minister between 2005-09) and genuinely respect each other. But mainly it is because the Germans really don’t want to go there. If anybody were to get personal and nasty on an American scale, he or she would get society’s red card and be out. This may be the best thing about German democracy. But if you don’t have attack ads, you need something else. So Germany has posters. Lots of them. Everywhere. This week I went to an event at a cute little cinema in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district where Hermann Gröhe, the general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel’s party, introduced the “second wave” of posters, one of which you see above.Full Article: German election diary: Posters everywhere but no attack ads | The Economist.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calendar this past week looked like this: unpack from an Italian vacation, catch up with advisers and kick off a campaign with a small-town rally for an election that will be held in just five weeks. In the United States, the 2016 campaign is well under way, with contenders jostling to give speeches in the battleground state of Iowa. But in Germany, where regulations keep political ads largely off the airwaves, the sleepy federal election campaign fired up only last week, when parties were finally allowed to string up signs on light poles. Merkel’s main challenger, Peer Steinbrueck, also just dusted himself off from a weeklong vacation and has been barnstorming from one half-timbered town square to another, although according to many local observers, the battle remains as lukewarm as any in memory. German candidates typically hit the trail just a few weeks before an election, spend far less than $50 million — pocket change by Obama-Romney standards — and yet draw voter turnout that, while declining, is still well above U.S. levels. “It’s sensible to have a short campaign,” said Heiko Geue, Steinbrueck’s campaign manager, in an interview in his spartan office at the Social Democrats’ red-bedecked Berlin headquarters. “People decide a few days or the day of the election whether they’ll vote and which party to vote for.”Full Article: Frugal German election contrasts sharply with U.S. | The Japan Times.
Will Angela Merkel or Peer Steinbrück win the race? Although the two top candidates are in the media spotlight, German elections are all about political parties rather than individuals. “If you’re not a member of a political party, you have little chance of getting one of those 600 seats in the Bundestag.” That was what a guide to Germany’s lower house of parliament told a young visitor recently. Germany’s basic law stipulates that “Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people.” But many political scientists admit that they do far more than “participate,” they basically decide on who can shape politics in Germany. It is very difficult for any independent candidate without party backing to obtain a seat in parliament. And that is because of the very complex electoral system. 61, 8 million Germans are eligible to vote this year – these are all Germans above the age of 18; three million of them are voting for the first time.Full Article: How do Germans elect their parliament? | German elections | DW.DE | 19.08.2013.
Germans sleep better, Bismarck once said, when they don’t know how sausages and laws are made. A century and a half later, Angela Merkel seems to be modelling an election campaign on the musings of Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”; the modern day chancellor is avoiding detailed discussion of what she would do with a third term and instead emphasising her personal appeal over policy prescriptions. In five weeks’ time Germans will vote in what has been billed as the most important election of the year in Europe, a continent struggling to emerge from years of financial and economic crisis. Yet there is virtually no debate about the major problems facing Germany – from handling its exit from nuclear energy to addressing an ageing population and articulating a vision for the euro zone.Full Article: Angela Merkel and German voter apathy - World | The Star Online.
Don’t consider German elections a done deal just yet. Judging from past experience, there is still room for a shock as polls in Germany have often underestimated the end-results of small parties. “There is big surprise potential,” says BHF Bank in a note to clients, because the anti-euro party Alternative for Germany, or AfD, gets little attention from outside Germany. In a poll conducted by Forsa institute and published Wednesday, 3% of participants said they would vote for the AfD in September 22 elections. The result is well below the 5% threshold needed for parties to enter parliament in Germany. AfD’s results in previous surveys have been similar. However, at election betting platform Prognosys, the AfD is mustering a healthy 6%, BHF points out. Prognosys lets betters place odds on the outcome of the vote.Full Article: German Election Could Still Surprise - Dispatch - WSJ.
Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful politician in the EU stands for re-election for a third term on September 22. She hopes to continue the current coalition of her conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU) with the pro-business liberal democrats (FDP). Competing with her is Peer Steinbrück of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who was also finance minister in Merkel’s government. His preferred coalition partner are the Greens. “Angie,” as Merkel is affectionately known, is hugely popular, but her party less so. Opinion polls now see a neck-and-neck race between Merkel’s coalition and the combined opposition, with recent momentum in favor of the Chancellor. The most likely election day scenarios are (1) the continuation of the current government (we think 50% chance), (2) a grand coalition of the CDU and the SPD with Merkel as Chancellor, as in 2005-2009 (30%) and (3) the scare scenario of SPD and Greens teaming up with the former communist Left Party (10%. The remaining 10% probability we attach collectively to various other coalition scenarios involving the mainstream parties).Full Article: Elections in Germany: A Non-Event for Europe | Sharnoff's Global Views.
Germany cancelled Tuesday a treaty that commits it to hand over surveillance data to France as Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s government seeks to insulate itself from the Edward Snowden disclosures rankling Germans seven weeks before elections. The cancellation is the third in five days. On Friday, similar agreements with the United States and Britain were scrapped in Berlin Foreign Ministry meetings with diplomats from those nations. The agreement related to untakings by West Germany in 1968-69 to provide telecommunications intercepts in cases where the safety of US, British and French troops based on its territory was at risk. Merkel‘s government says it is reviewing the scale of intelligence cooperation with the US National Security Agency after Snowden, who has won temporary asylum in Russia, began revelations two months ago of the PRISM programme to harvest global phone and email metadata. The Foreign Ministry, describing the old West German treaties as administrative agreements, said they were cancelled in exchanges of notes with each of the other three nations. US, British and French troops occupied Germany in 1945, and remain there as allies.Full Article: Germany scraps spy agreements as privacy becomes election issue | EUROPE ONLINE.
Germany, with a population of nearly 82 million, has seen its influence in the European Union grow significantly in recent years as it has weathered the economic storm perhaps better than any other member state. Having recovered from a recession in 2008, the country narrowly dodged a repeat slump at the start of 2013. Now the German economy appears to be on the up, with economic indicators looking solid. Angela Merkel, as current keeper of Germany’s most coveted political position, the chancellorship, has become the figurehead and perceived key decision-maker of the EU’s response the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis. Protestors in the southern economies hit worst by economic stagnation have held up banners decrying the impacts of “Merkel austerity”, the chancellor’s campaign to shave sovereign debt by cutting public spending. But in her home country, analysts say that Merkel is enjoying an unusual spell of popular support due to her handling of the eurozone crisis.Full Article: German elections 2013: Don't mention Europe | EurActiv.
Like much of Germany’s democratic machinery, its voting system is designed to avoid past mistakes. A combination of proportional representation and first-past-the-post majority voting fosters stable coalitions and discourages small fringe parties. When Germans go to the polls on September 22nd, they will elect the members of the Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament. Whichever coalition of parties can muster a majority of members will form the federal government. (Members of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber, are delegates of Germany’s 16 states, or Länder). Germans have two votes. One is for a candidate to represent the local electoral district (of which there are 299), chosen by simple plurality of votes. The second vote is for a party. Any party receiving 5% or more of the total is entitled to seats in the Bundestag, whether any of its candidates have won a district or not. If a party gets more seats through direct election than its share of the overall vote merits, it can keep some of these “overhang” seats. Thanks to a recent change in the electoral law, the other parties then get “compensatory” seats to restore the balance among the parties. These provisions mean the precise number of Bundestag members will not be known until after the election, but it could reach 700.Full Article: Colours of the rainbow | The Economist.
The federal Justice Ministry opened a legal case on Tuesday against Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization, charging that the group, Golos, and its executive director had violated a controversial new law by failing to register as a “foreign agent.” The ministry’s action came a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany publicly chastised Russia over its intimidating treatment of nongovernmental organizations, including a series of recent raids. Ms.Merkel was the first Western leader to challenge President Vladmir V. Putin of Russia on the issue. She made her comments at a news conference in Hanover, Germany where the leaders toured a trade fair. The new law, which requires nonprofit groups that receive financing from abroad to register as foreign agents, was among the most provocative in a passel of Kremlin-supported legislation in recent months that was aimed at tightening restrictions and limiting foreign influence on nonprofit groups.Full Article: Russia Brings Charges Against Election Monitors - NYTimes.com.