Duel or Duet?

September 15, 2009

This week we saw the much-anticipated TV debate between CDU/CSU leader and Chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Frank Walter Steinmeier from the SPD. It was hoped that this would bring out the fighting spirit in both of them, or at least one of them. However it was, alas, a flop.

Concerned more with patting themselves on the back for their fine work during their grand coalition of the past four years than attacking each others’ policies, the two candidates avoided direct criticism of each other. Even during the debate, the frustrated TV presenters were calling it ‘more of a duet than a duel’.

Both major parties are, predictably, calling the debate a victory for themselves; voters see it as a draw. If anything, Steinmeier surprised viewers – however one can assume their expectations were low. He was rated in polls after the debate as ‘more convincing’.

Apparently, the Greens/FDP/Left Party TV debate was much more entertaining, but I haven’t looked at it yet.

Always good for a laugh, the tabloid paper Bild led an article on the duel with a hilarious pun playing on an Obama campaign slogan: ‘Yes We Gähn’ (Yes We Yawn).

Public enthusiasm for the election so far has been low, and German comedian Harpe Kerkeling has made good mileage out of his satire based on a fictional Chancellor candidate, Horst Schlemmer who is ‘liberal, conservative, and left’ (His election slogan is another interpretation of Obama: Yes Weekend!).

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2 Responses to “Duel or Duet?”

  1. Geoffrey Says:

    Good post as always.

    I watched the debate on Sunday – I certainly agree that it wasn’t the most exciting affair, but compared to the superficial and ad-laden debates served up in NZ campaigns, I know what I would rather have!

    According to the polls taken during the debate Steinmeier actually had a slight advantage over Merkel as the “winner”, although a majority thought it was a draw. I suspect this was more down to the fact that the expectations were so low of Steinmeier (a technocrat) that he actually ended up doing not too badly.

    The best part was when one of the interviewers said to Steinmeier something like “You’ve said you would coalesce with the Left Party over your dead body – well they’ve been a few dead bodies in the SPD haven’t there?!” – Steinmeier is indeed the third SPD leader since the 2005 election!

    I think the SPD has probably done enough to avoid a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition – combined they are only just reaching 50% in the polls now (down from 55% or so a few weeks ago), which means a new Grand Coalition is on the cards.

    • comparablog Says:

      I have to admit that I suspect the same Geoffrey – the FDP and CDU/CSU are both on a (very slight) downward trend and just scraping to the 50% mark.

      Also, Merkel’s refusal to criticise Steinmeier Sunday night made me think that she was retaining an option to work with the SPD; Steinmeier’s non-criticisms can be interpreted as a hope that the two will have to work together.

      Note also that today Finance Minister Steinbrueck commented that the SPD’s goal is to prevent a CDU/FDP coalition; therfore the SPD’s goal is another Grand Coalition. He was forced to take these comments back, but that the SPD leadership is hoping for another Grand Coalition is pretty clear.

      This makes one wonder whether the SPD really should go into another Grand Coalition. Look at how it has ended up after this one: directionless, divided and without clear leadership talent. Another Grand Coalition could actually harm the party more than help it; perhaps what it needs is some time out of the spotlight and pressure of government to sort out its internal personal and policy battles.

      Giving the present leadership, which can only be regarded as a complete and utter failure, Ministerial positions would only cement their standing in the party for years to come and prevent such healthy development.


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