The Bundestag Now (Then that is, pre-election)

August 6, 2009

We have already seen which parties are represented in the Bundestag at the moment, but I will give a brief run-down of how many seats they have and the current state of things as background to the election on September 27.

Bundestag

At the moment we have the interesting situation that the two main parties, SPD and CDU are both in government in a Grand Coalition. Make no mistake: this was not their preferred option going into the last election, but it had to happen.

The situation between the main parties following the election was a stalemate. The SPD could have governed with the Greens and the Left Party, but has a no-coalition policy with the Left Party for a couple of reasons: Its history as the successor to the SED; Its extreme leftist policies; It is led by a prominent ex-SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine, who defected and is now widely unpopular in the party.

The CDU/CSU could not govern alone with the liberal FDP and declined to form a so-called ‘Jamaica Coalition’ with the Greens and the FDP (Party colour yellow).

So CDU/CSU and SPD formed a Grand Coaltion, under Chancellorship of Angela Merkel, which has functioned not too badly for the last four years – in that it has not fallen apart.

However this electoral term has seen the implosion of the junior coaltion partner, the SPD. Already wrought by fractional conflict during the Chancellorship of Gerhard Schroeder, the SPD pulled off an amazing feat pulling equal with the CDU/CSU at the election in 2005. However, Schroeder resigned from the Bundestag after not becoming Chancellor again after the election and since then we have seen 4 SPD Party Leaders in quick succession.

These changes in leadership are symptomatic of the problems that have plagued the party: Declining membership and support in core areas (such as North-Rhine Westphalia) and groups (such as the union movement); An ideological split and current lack of direction, to a certain extent caused by the Left Party; Lack of prominent and popular SPD Ministers in the government, and the contrasting popularity of Merkel. The list could go on.

The Party’s Chancellor candidate is now Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and it is polling very badly, as this graphic shows:

Bundestag Poll (Spiegel) 30.7.09

According to current polling, the CDU/CSU (black) could form a coalition government with the FDP (Yellow), their first-choice coalition partner. After a recent scandal the SPD had fallen to around twenty percent in polling, some seventeen percent behind CDU/CSU.

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