I moved into my new room yesterday evening. I’m feeling enormously relieved. However, I haven’t met all of my housemates yet. I’m a bit nervous about how we will get along. Therefore, I have decided to blog extensively on tomorrow’s general election to calm myself. I have a penchant for all things political, so it would be a crime not to write about it.
Frankfurt is covered in posters: some of smiling politicians gazing into the middle-distance, and other posters with eye-catching slogans. Having been involved in politics in the UK (another disclaimer: I am a member of the UK Labour Party, but I’ll try to keep partisanship to a minimum in these blogs) the difference in campaigning style is markedly different. Some of it is pretty cool. I love Vespa mopeds and I practically squealed with delight when I saw an SPD campaigning Vespa-Van.
Plenty of activists are handing out sweets and freebies – which seems juvenile to me. There are stalls, bands, public rallies and demonstrations. I have also stumbled across two rallies on two different occasions; so I have had the privilege to see both Merkel and Steinbrück speak in person. I giggled a little too loudly before Merkel’s rally as they had a live band playing the song ‘Price Tag’ by Jessie J, but they had changed ‘Price Tag’ to ‘Reichstag’ (meaning ‘Parliament’). The most bizarre campaign method I saw came from the SPD: an outdoor ten-pin bowling alley with gnomes with Hitler faces. The idea being that it is against nationalism and racism. Make of that what you will….
The situation now
Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats (CDU) is hoping to be re-elected. Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democrats (SPD) is hoping to replace Chancellor Merkel. The whole system of German politics (much like other European countries with Proportional Representation systems) is geared towards coalitions. At one point both Steinbrück and Merkel were in government together in a grand coalition. So the divides between left and right are (arguably) more nuanced than the UK. There’s a feeling that neither CDU or SPD will win outright. Therefore, it’s more like a split between two teams: the CDU and the FDP (Liberal party) versus the SPD and Greens. However, there is a potential problem. The FDP’s share of the vote has dropped dramatically so whether they can help push Merkel to a majority is unclear. Likewise, the SPD isn’t polling too strongly and, unless the SPD and Greens do better than expected, they might not get a majority.
What happens next?
It wouldn’t be fun to blog about an election without predicting an outcome. Here’s what I think: we’ll be seeing a lot more of ‘Mutti’ (the affectionate name CDU activists give to Merkel – which means ‘mummy’) perhaps in another grand coalition. She is seen as a safe pair of hands, and has a record to be moderately proud of: a growing economy, falling unemployment and cementing Germany’s vital role in Europe. Many Germans see her tough austerity stance in relation to the Euro crisis as sensible. On the other hand, Peer Steinbrück is rather uncharismatic (he may be on ‘my side’, but I saw him in person and he really is not that impressive) and he doesn’t have the same experience as Merkel. In my opinion, he was wrong in his campaign focus. He should have emphasised the fall in living standards across Germany.
How will this effect the UK and Europe?
I don’t foresee much change. The approach to the Euro crisis will remain largely the same, no matter who wins. An SPD-Green coalition might ease austerity a little, but not radically.
I’ve realised that I’ve tried to establish myself as some sort of expert in this blog. I’m really not! So if you have any different predictions or disagreements, please comment.