The Upcoming Elections in Germany, The Sick Man of Europe

Michael Naumann looks at the upcoming German elections in OpenDemocracy, one which the SPD is most likely to lose.

“After the shock of the SPD’s election defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia, Schröder attempted to restart his stuttering governmental motor by calling for a vote of confidence in the Bundestag. In what seems like voluntary political suicide, at least four members of Schröder’s cabinet or his SPD contingent have either to abstain or tell their boss that he has lost their confidence. Only by ‘losing’ does Schröder have a chance of ‘succeeding’ in his aim of fighting a premature general election.

It looks like a constitutional gimmick – and it may in fact be unconstitutional. The final decision to call for re-elections rests with Germany’s president, Horst Köhler, a man installed by the majority votes of the conservative members of an assembly made up of representatives from the Bundestag and all Länder parliaments. It is the only political power of relevance the president possesses. He may in fact decide, that in reality, Schröder’s majority in the Bundestag is stable, which would prolong the government’s life until scheduled elections in September 2006.

Against this constitutional reality is a psychological one: the vast majority of Germans seem already to be getting used to the prospect of the CDU’s candidate for chancellor, Angela Merkel, becoming Germany’s first female head of government by the end of 2005. The likelihood is a short campaign of four to five weeks, with voting in mid-September.”