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.
Germany: Unintended Consequences: The Implications Of The German Coalition Agreement For Europe | Social Europe Journal
German coalition agreement – Commentators have been poring over the 185-page coalition agreement between the German CDU/CSU and the SPD. Germany is the largest economy in the EU and has played a decisive role in recent years in crafting the policies that have sought, to date unsuccessfully, to resolve the economic and financial crisis. What then can Europe hope for from Germany’s next government, based on the text of the coalition agreement? (I skip over the “detail” that the Grand Coalition has to be approved in a vote by all SPD members. There will be considerable opposition, but I cannot see the grassroots rebelling against the party leadership.) Judging only by the sections that explicitly deal with European issues, the short answer is nothing good. Fortunately a number of measures motivated purely by domestic concerns will have favourable knock-on effects on the rest of Europe. Overall, then, the impact ought to be a small positive. The section on Europe bears the title “Strong Europe” and opens with a section on “Germany’s responsibility for Europe” (all translations are mine). Both headings are highly misleading. The policies envisaged will help ensure that Europe will remain enfeebled and Germany’s “responsibility” for Europe limited. Behind the pious language the nine pages can be summarised as saying that the previous and future Chancellor Merkel and her Finance Minister Schäuble will continue to hold the reigns of German policy on Europe firmly in their hands.
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.
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.