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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Upheaval in German Politics

Watching the political landscape in Germany right now makes me shake my head in disbelief. With open mouth. What is happening is an upheaval with no precedence in the last decades, and every single party in the country is an exhibition in incompetence.

Historical Change

Germany’s political scene since the reunification in 1989 was dominated by five major parties. As a party needs five percent of the voters to get into the parliament, smaller parties usually have not much of a chance, as most voters will not risk losing their vote and rather pick one of the parties that will surely get in.

The Social Democrats (SPD) together with the Greens (Grüne) and the Left Party (Die Linke) made up the left block, with the SPD and Grüne regularly going for a coalition. For a while now, the SPD has been losing voters to the Grüne and the Linke due to disillusionment.

On the right side of the parliament, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had a solid voter backing as the largest party in Germany, often in a coalition with the Free Liberals (FDP), the other party in the right-wing block.

This status quo is changing. The FDP is imploding for various reasons, but primarily because they lost their identity due to a series of horrible management decisions and betraying their ideals for the purpose of simply being in power. Polls show them consistently below the magical five percent hurdle, with only a small chance of getting higher again.

On the other side of the parliament, the left block gained a new member with the Pirate Party surprisingly skyrocketing in polls. The interesting part being that most of their voters are disillusioned voters from other parties and other protest voters with no strong party or program affiliation, so easily gained, but just as easily lost.


The reaction to this change in the political landscape is astonishing.

The Social Democrats and Greens are piqued. They seem to resort to direct or indirect attacks, trying to defame the newcomers as incompetent, even inventing all sorts of obviously false claims such as that the Pirate Party has no party program. They do, even though it still needs a lot of work. But don’t mind that, the Pirates are the new-found enemy for them (very leftist of them).

I forgot someone. Oh yeah, the Left Party isn’t doing anything, but that’s normal. Probably being against something somewhere.

On the other side of the parliament, the Christian Democratic Union is busy with infighting. They have been accused of adopting too many leftist topics, but you’d think they would skip copying the traditional infighting. But no. Part of the party is discovering their christian roots and decided to turn one minor recent political issue (the Betreuungsgeld) into their key program, and are defending it to the teeth against major opposition within the party and even huge parts of the population, up to the point of threatening with break-up of a 50 year old alliance that makes up the christian democratic party.

At the same time, the Free Liberal Party is imploding. Through a long series of mismanagement and lack of a coherent image, they lost more and more votes and are now consistently below the 5% margin in most polls. To save themselves, they try to regain face by being hard on their core positions, something they forgot for a long time, but with that, they are putting their government majority with the christian democrats at risk. In a way, the liberals are in their death throes and are pulling the government down with them.

And finally, the Pirates, who go through all sorts of problems of an upstart party. They do have a large program, but it is quite lacking in the details. For many positions, they will tell you that a position hasn’t been decided on yet. And that will take a while, because they have fallen for all the nice ideas of a leftist group about being open to all. The forums and discussion channels are overrun with trolls, and while they try, the free speech above all integrative geek mentality is making coherent action there extremely difficult. And while the party right now has up to 13% of votes, the main pirates are quite aware of their issues, and are mostly hoping to stay above the 5% margin in the long run.

So while “you’re incompetent” seems to be the favorite insult of the established parties against the Pirates, I would go as far as to claim that right now, every single party in Germany looks quite incompetent.


But why?

Because the parties have lost the big picture. Politics is done in patchwork style. Every political decision is done on a very low level, simply to fix the current issue. But there is no major plan on where we are moving. There is no goal except to simply survive a bit longer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about communism solving all the problems of capitalism or whatever other big-big picture solution. I’m talking about the middle level here. What’s the goal with tax politics in general? Where do we want to go? What’s our goal in energy politics, where do we want to end up? What’s the goal state for family politics? For education?

The major parties right now lost those goals. They can only tell you what the next step will be, but they can not tell you where the journey will lead.

Ironically, the Pirates know where the journey should lead to, but they have so far not figured out what the first step on that journey should be.