Monday, September 19, 2005

Practically Only Losers...

It looks like it will be another sunny and nice day in Berlin. Soon, the different party bodies of the different parties will start meeting to see what to do with the verdict handed down by the voters of Germany yesterday.

Over the first page of the local newspaper Tagesspiegel one can read the giant headline "Deutschland hat Gewälht" - Germany has decided.

I wish that was true. But unfortunately Germany hasn't. They have had an election OK, but they didn't really make a choic.

The redgreen government lost, but the opposition did not win.

And Germany accordingly got an election result where there are distinctly more losers than winners.

The first obvious loser is the German economy, and as a consequence Europe.

There will not be the needed reform break-through that would have come with a coalition between the CDU/CSU and FDP.

The second rather obvious loser is unfortunately Angela Merkel. She did an honest and fair campaign, but could only secure a result that was marginally better than the rather disastrous 1998 result and distinctly worse than the 2002 result.

The third loser - but less than expected - is Gerhard Schröder. As usual, he proved to be an excellent campaigner, but at the end of the day his SPD lost more than any other party, is no longer the largest in the Bundetag and he himself is somewhat unlikely to remaimn chancellor of the country.

The only winner in sight is the liberal FDP party. There is no doubt that they surged in the end due to their very firm opposition to any sort of coalition with the SPD. CDU/CSU voters that definitely did not want any Grand Coalition or anything of this sort went to the FDP.

That's were we are. Now, what to do?

Well, there might still be change. The by-election in Dresden on October 2 could in theory not only decide that seat but matematically also swing a further two.

And that's critical. With 225 seats in the Bundestag for CDU/CSU versus 222 for the SPD is it the CDU/CSU that has the initiative. If there would be the maximum swing coming out of the Dresden vote in two weeks time, there could in theory be a situation where they have equal number of seats.

That would be a further mess in the middle of the mess there already is.

Expect everyone in German politics to descend on Dresden during the next two weeks.

The different parties now have until October 18th to get their act together and agree on a new government. That's when the newly elected Reichstag meets in Berlin. Strictly speaking the entire thing need not be ready by then, but if they are not it would really be profound crisis.

Two governments are possible as things stand this Monday morning in Berlin.

Still a big coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD, although no one is keen. Judging by the words exchanged yesterday, it might be that such a coalition, if it happened, would be without both Schröder and Merkel.

And then the rather unorthodox possibility of CDU/CSU, FDP and the Greens. It might seem far-fatched, but is not impossible. This is what is referred to as the Jamaica coalition - black, green and yellor according to the party colours.

The Greens are anti-collectivist in a way that could fit into a changed approach by the CDU/CSU and the FDP. There are significant hurdles to overcome for such a coalition, and it might severly strain the internal cohesion of several parties, but intellectually it might well be the most interesting of the alternatives now on the table.

But it will all take time, be messy and leave masses of casualties along the road. It will not be good for Germany - and not be good for Europe.

It might be a sunny and clear morning here in Berlin as concerns the weather, but everything else is distinctly unclear.

There will be reason to return to the subject.