Wahl Watching

September 2, 2009

Excuse my awful pun: The German word for election is ‘Wahl’. I thought I might post on the federal election campaign over there seeing as I have neglected it for a couple of weeks.

As for how the parties stand in the polls: The smaller parties (FDP, Green and Left) are all looking pretty much the same – between fourteen and ten percent each. The SPD is still looking pretty dismal, but has risen from its all-time low of 20 to 22%. The CDU/CSU is down from a high of 38% to 36%. So not much movement there really.

This is how the Bundestag would look according to current polling (from Spiegel Online):


However, one development has added a certain element of uncertainty: The poor results of the CDU/CSU in the state elections in Thüringen and Saarland this weekend, where they will probably lose the state premierships.

Of course this has given the SPD some encouragement, but mostly it has just kicked off a wave of speculation on coalition possibilities at the federal level: Will the CDU/CSU prefer another Grand Coalition with the SPD if it cannot form a government with its preferred partner the FDP? Will the SPD be tempted to enter into a (up to now taboo) coalition with the Left Party in the same situation? The list could go on.

There has also been some criticism of how Merkel is campaigning: Not enough criticism of the SPD and Left and not enough real policy debate, say some. Her tactic seems to be to stay the self-confident Stateswoman and win the race to the middle without alienating support from the left.

And what are the big issues of the campaign so far? Well, the two which stick out are Unemployment and Tax Cuts, from the SPD and CDU/CSU respectively.

SPD promises of full employment within ten years have been scoffed at (probably rightly) by the CDU as unachievable – we have seen such promises go unfulfilled by Schröder’s government, they say. The promises of tax cuts from the CDU/CSU have been slammed as unrealistic and unachievable by the man who should know best – current SPD Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück. So it seems like a bit of a stalemate there.

Despite these side-shows the real question is by how much the CDU/CSU will win and whether it will be able to form a government with the FDP. With its poll results very low, and lacking a charismatic Chancellor candidate or mobilising campaign issues, the SPD is still looking very much the underdog.


5 Responses to “Wahl Watching”

  1. Red Rosa Says:

    Maybe everyone in Germany is watching the recession numbers to see if the worst is over. Not much energy left for politics!

    Quite marginal shifts in voting patterns, considering the current economic stresses and strains.

    How are the old GDR states looking, politically and economically? Is there a different attitude to recession over there, and has it been reflected in the polls?

    • comparablog Says:

      Actually a recent study found that real household incomes in East and West are, after years of growing closer together, now drifting apart again. Thus the average household income in East Germany is now only 80% of that in the West, compared to 83% in 1997.

      As for political consequences, one could see this as a reason for the relatively high numbers of votes cast for extremist (The Left Party and NPD on the right) parties in some former East German states.

      However this can have other causes e.g. continuing support for the Left Party as the successor to the ruling East German SED. And support for the neo-Nazi NPD is not uniform across states e.g. it made it into the Landtag in Sachsen but not in Thueringen in recent state elections.

  2. Joe Hendren Says:

    The SPD is campaigning for a small tax rise for high income earners.

    You might be interested in this tracking poll for the federal elections I found.

    I also posted on these results where I concluded the reasons for the SPD refusing to form a coalition with the Left have very little substance, and in essence that the SPD and the Left now need each other, in a similar way to the way Labour needed the Alliance in 1999.


    Hope you don’t mind the link whoring – I only found your post after someone sent me a link in the comments 🙂

    • comparablog Says:

      Thanks for the comment Joe. However your assertion that the Left Party and the SPD are similar in many points is incorrect.

      Take security policy, for example. The Left Party is against deployments of the Bundeswehr overseas in any case, including those sanctioned by the UN. An extreme leftist position. The SPD (and the Greens), in contrast, supported the first German military deployments overseas since WWII, including in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

      Or economic policy. Both parties are against completely unfettered free-market Capitalism (and so is the CDU/CSU!). However the SPD stands for the Social Market Economy which it has helped create since the founding of the Federal Republic. The Left Party, on the other hand, starts its formulations of economic policy with a nice quote from Marx before outlining an extremist, and ambitious, plan to revolutionize not just the German but also the world economic and financial systems.

      These two examples show that the SPD and Left Party differ greatly in key policy areas which, quite apart from personal and historic reasons, preclude their working together in a coalition on the federal level.

  3. Geoffrey Says:

    I think the Left Party is more pragmatic that one might think – I think the real obstacle to co-operation is the animosity between Lafontaine and the Schroeder-ites running the SPD. Watch for a SPD-Left Party coalition in 2013 once the SPD has turned left under Nahles and co. who I assume will take over from Steinmeier fairly soon…

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