Monday, September 19, 2005

Parliamentary Comparison Day

Oh, and conservatives need to SHUT UP about the German electoral result. It was disastrous for them.

What, why, darling Angela Merkel won the highest percentage of the vote? Well, while that’s a nice symbol, in parliamentary systems that often doesn’t mean much.

The narrative before the election: Gerhardt Schroeder was the Social Democratic Chancellor who ran on pro-EU, anti-American sentiment combined with promises of labor reforms (in the free market direction). In the previous two elections the Social Democrats allied with the Greens were enough to form a majority. Schroeder started implementing market reforms, and there was carping and he lost a lot of popularity because of the short-term costs.

Now clearly, if the Socialist chancellor has been deemed too laissez-faire by the electorate, the conservative intelligentsia should not rejoice. But as in any polity, a decline in popularity by the opponent means you hope you can seize power, and implement your own reforms… which are more extreme than the ones that caused his downfall in the first place.

And this weekend, Germany had their election under these weird circumstances. Of course, the two conservative parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Democrats didn’t get a majority.

CDU/CSU 19,219,094 40.9%

SPD 18,079,859 38.4%

FDP 2,200,915 4.7%

Left/PDS 3,733,390 7.9%

Green 2,532,353 5.3%

So there’s much deal-making to be done. Schroeder is being intransigent and refuses to form a coalition where he isn’t the leader (this may seem somewhat asshatish, but in the wake of elections political leaders have strong motivations to declare victory and emphasize a narrative of their victory and of their opponents pathetic stubbornness). And Merkel because of her popular vote, doesn’t want to form a coalition where she isn’t the leader either.

The problem any mathematically literate person will see is, if neither the two left parties has more than 50% nor the two right parties, then who’s the remaining few percentage points? What small wacko party holds the balance of power.

Oh, the Communists.

So we previously had SD/Green alliance that was slowly pushing reform through. Now, Germany is likely to have SD/Green/Commie* alliance, that would be so beholden to communists that the reforms are over.

Which I feel just goes to show, opposing the will of the electorate is dangerous. Doing tricky things to accomplish policy goals the public doesn’t like and trying to use the politics of personality (particularly, of your opponents unpopularity) or other manipulations, can have ways of making sure you never get your desired goals either. (Right now I think a lot of conservatives wish Bush had run on a platform of conservatism instead of a platform of John Kerry was a wuss in Vietnam.)

And now, unless either the Freedom Dems or Merkel is willing to grit their teeth and smile for the next four years, Europe’s economic engine will be under the veto authority of Communists.

* Not that I hate any Communist party out of hand, especially if it actually represents the will of some people and isn’t a top-down authority like in China. However, the East German Communist party is generally just focused on pork for East Germany, full of retrogrades from the Soviet era, and is pretty corrupt to boot.

Links: Logan:
Ezra comparing Schroeder's hutzpah to Bush demanding the keys to the White House in mid-November 2000:


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