Dec 152019
 

A coalition to keep out the AfD

Back in the distant past of 2016, the rise of the AfD in Germany’s eastern states and the fragmentation of the party system began to force the formation of awkward coalitions. In Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD captured about a quarter of the vote and so brought together a ‘Kenya Coalition’ (CDU / SPD / Greens). As menages a trois go, it was not a happy arrangement, but somehow the coalition rumbled on. But the AfD remained a problem. Like in other eastern states, some in the CDU (mostly second and third tier politicians) would be much happier in a coalition with the radical right than with two left-ish parties. Many others and the federal CDU quite rightfully think that this would be political suicide. And so there was was the occasional wink-and-nod, and a lot of kerfuffle and shenanigans, but not much else.

A neo-Nazi in the local CDU

While we were all obsessing about the UK General election, a scandal broke in the eastern periphery. Robert Möritz, a young and relatively recent member of the CDU turned out to be a member of ‘Uniter’, an association of former soldiers, and special forces and police officers that has been linked to the right-wing extremist ‘prepper’ scene. On closer inspection, it also emerged that Möritz was a steward at a neo-Nazi march, is a fan of neo-Nazi bands and sports a massive ‘black sun’ tattoo (a combination of swastikas, infamously linked to the SS) (if you read German or know how to run Google translate, here are all the gory details) 👇

All of this undisputed. Möritz apparently removed some posts from his accounts, claimed youthful innocence and said he had moved on. His local association said they were happy with that.

Could a fourth-tier politician be the end of the coalition in Saxony-Anhalt?

A neo-Nazi scandal could bring down the 'Kenya Coalition' in Saxony-Anhalt 1

Not all news are good news

As far as I can tell, Möritz is a member of some advisory assembly at the very local level. It strikes me as unlikely that he has any juice within the CDU, or that anyone would think he was worth wasting political capital on. On the other hand, the potential political fallout is massive. The normal reaction would have been to investigate the matter, with a view to chugging the guy out (legally complicated but doable).But when the story broke, the state-level CDU leadership did not pull the plug. They were happy with the way the local guys had dealt with it, period. Incredulous silence all around, then the Greens piped up and asked, quite literally, ‘How many MORE swastikas do you have in your ranks’. Excellent question. To which the state leadership responded by … 🥁 … demanding an apology and threatening to end the coalition.Cue emergency delivery of mil-grade tranquillisers to CDU HQ back in Berlin and head-scratching all around. What is this all about? Internal CDU power struggle? Testing the waters? The state CDU forcing early elections or a year of minority government to warm up for the campaign? I have now idea. But this is how we in Germany spend the weekend after the day after the night before.

Oct 282019
 

Mit Dietmar Neuerer vom Handelsblatt habe ich ausführlich über die das Ergebnis der Thüringen-Wahl und die wahrscheinlichen Konsequenzen für die deutsche Politik gesprochen. In der Online-Ausgabe gibt es das Gespräch im vollen Wortlaut.

May 022019
 

Mit dem Handelsblatt habe ich über Umfragewerte, Themensetzungen und den idealen Zeitpunkt, für eine Amtsübergabe von Merkel an AKK gesprochen.

Jun 182018
 
Four links on the Great German Refugee/Immigration Crisis Carnival 2

I know that definitions are so 1996, but here are some that bear repeating:

Migrant
“A person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national” (UN Convention on the rights of Migrants)
Refugee
“someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence” (UNHCR)
Asylum seeker
someone who applies “to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance (UNHCR)

In short, asylum seekers are refugees who apply for formal recognition. If this status is granted, they may or may not become migrants. Words matter. Having said that, here are some links:

Sep 052016
 

The result of yesterday’s regional election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (aka Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for the initiated or Meck-Pomm for the impatient) was not a surprise, but still a shock to many. I wrote a short article for the LSE’s EUROPP blog.

Angela Merkel’s CDU came third behind the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the German Social Democrats (SPD) in elections in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania on 4 September. Kai Arzheimer writes that wh…

Head over to EUROPP – The AfD’s second place in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania illustrates the challenge facing Merkel in 2017 for the full article.

Mar 132016
 

A mere three hours after the event, it’s obviously too early to write something coherent about the three state elections that were held in Germany today. So let’s try it anyway:Ballot - Vote

  1. For the time being, Germany has a viable Radical Right Populist Party. A result of ~24% in the Eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt is a bit of a shock, but no huge surprise. The real clincher are the (low) double digit figures in the Western states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg. In the latter, the AfD is stronger than the SPD.
  2. The AfD cannibalised all the smaller right-wing parties including the NPD.
  3. This was not (just) a referendum on Merkel and her policies. While the issue dominated the campaigns, personalities and state-level factors were important. And the two CDU leaders who toyed with a (very tame) rebellion against Merkel did not gain from it.
  4. The volatility is shocking. Period
  5. German states have parliamentary systems, but popular minister presidents exerted an almost presidential effect. The contrast could not be more striking: In Baden-Württemberg, Kretschmann’s Greens are the strongest party (in itself something that is hard to believe), whereas their junior partner, the SPD, is heading for single-digit territory. One key reason is Kretschmann’s enormous popularity. In neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz, minister president Dreyer has always been more popular than both her opponent and her SPD. But the latter steadily recovered in the polls over the last couple of weeks pull ahead of the CDU to become the strongest party with a respectable result. The Greens, on the other hand, lost two thirds of their support and might still end up without parliamentary representation. Being the smaller party in a coalition run by a popular minister president is not an attractive proposition these days.
  6. Turnout is up, yet it’s the non-established AfD that benefits from it. As a rule of thumb, right-wing outfits in Germany have always performed best in low-turnout, second-order elections. But this time, exit polls suggest that at least in the East, former non-voters gave the AfD a huge boost.
  7. And the Liberals are back.
Dec 102015
 

So far, Germany’s mainstream parties have resisted the temptation to construct a link between the current mass migration of refugees from the middle east and the growing (?) risk of islamist terror attacks in Europe. In a piece I wrote for Policy Network, I take a long(ish) hard look at the respective positions of Merkel’s CDU and Seehofer’s CSU. Click here for the full story.

 

Dec 072014
 

Various news outlets reported this afternoon that there had been talks, perhaps even agreement between the (state) CDU and the (state) AfD to prevent Ramelow from being elected Minister-President. Obviously, nothing came out of this (neither party put a candidate on the slate), but still: Wither the blessing of the leadership, Merkel has created a cordon sanitaire between CDU and the AfD. Talks with the intention of forming a coalition, or at least gaining AfD support for a CDU minority government would be an act of open rebellion.Thuringia photoPhoto by Tjflex2 More on Thuringia: A CDU-AfD-Pact? 3

Jan 192014
 

CDU-Greens Coalition: No Rush Please, We’re Hessian

A mere four months after the Hessian state election, the new CDU-Greens (aka black-green) coalition has duly confirmed Volker Bouffier as Minister President after one tiny glitch (more on that below). While the guys in Hesse took their time, everyone is now very excited, because a successful CDU-Greens coalition would open up a whole host of possibilities beyond the entrenched 2+(2+1) pattern of party competition in Germany.

Home of the CDU-Greens Coalition: Hessischer Landtag Wiesbaden
Home of the CDU-Greens Coalition: Hessischer Landtag Wiesbadenmuckster / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

It is not, however, exactly a first: From 2008 to 2010, the city state of Hamburg was governed by a black-green coalition, and from 2009, an even more unlikely ‘Jamaica’ (black-green-yellow, i.e. CDU/Green/FDP) coalition governed in the Saarland before it collapsed in 2011. The media’s official excuse for getting overexcited is that Hesse is the first ‘Flächenland’ (‘area state’, i.e. not a city state) where the new coalition format is tested. But the real reason is that Hesse is at the same time the most likely and the most unlikely place for such an experiment.

Why is Hesse Special?

Hesse holds a special place in the heart of every red-blooded German Politics anorak because it is unusual. Although it has a huge rural core and its traditional industries have been in decline for a very long time, it was dominated by the Social democrats for decades. Back in the 1980s, it became the test bed for red-green coalitions when a young Joschka Fischer was sworn in as the first green minister in Germany, wearing his trademark trainers (now kept in a museum).

Then, the tide turned. In 1999, Roland Koch won the election for the CDU and became Minister President, an office he held until he resigned in 2010 in a surprise move to take a job in the industry. Koch survived a major donation scandal as well as various minor scandals, a lost election (after which he hung on as head of a minority cabinet) and an endless string of controversies over his rather aggressive and often (right-wing) populist approach to politics. During his reign, Hesse’s party system became even more polarised and segmented than it had been in the past. And CDU-led government in Hesse seemed all but inevitable.

What’s in a Bunch of Names?

Back in 2008, Koch, proud bearer of a proper German name (which translates as ‘cook’), authorised a series of posters highlighting the fact that two of the opposition parties were indeed led by folks with very foreign-sounding names (Al-Wazir of the Greens and Ypsilanti of the SPD), while the third opposition party (led by someone with a less suspicious name) was labelled as “Communist”. His attitude left a lot of bad blood. Nonetheless, his successor (hint: French-sounding name), though a long-term ally of Koch and widely considered a law & order politician, was able to embark on a series of talks with all political parties after the election, which had given none of the usual proto-coalitions an outright majority.

More importantly, he convinced Al-Wazir, his old political enemy from the days when Bouffier was known (or admired) as the ‘Black Sheriff’ of Hessian Home Affairs, to become his deputy. During the talks, Bouffier emerged as an unexpectedly shrewd political operator who presented his party – in Hesse, the other Länder and perhaps even in Berlin – with a new option beyond the unloved Great Coalition and the outdated CDU/FDP formats. If a CDU-Greens coalition can work in Hesse, it might work just everywhere.

So what was the glitch? In the first ballot, some MPs were given ballot papers listing the candidate’s name as ‘Max Mustermann’ (Sam Specimen), a popular placeholder for document templates. Allegedly, at least one person voted for this familiar character. Consequently, a second ballot had to be held. The current rapprochement not withstanding, names still seem to be a bit of a problem in Hesse.

Dec 112013
 

SPD votes on the coalition agreement

It’ another slow week for German politics, what with the Mandela Memorial, near-civil war in Thailand, the standoff in Ukraine and the South Korean/Japanese Chinese skirmishes. BUT: a small-scale CDU party conference of some 180 delegates has approved unanimously of the CDU/CSU/SPD agreement (a ‘Coalition Treaty’ in German parlance, though it can not be challenged in/enforced by the Constitutional Court). Delegates at a similar CSU conference have done their bit a month ago. Much more interesting is of course the case of the SPD, which put the agreement to a referendum by their 472,000 rank-and-file members.

The all-postal ballot will end tomorrow at midnight, and we will know the result on Saturday. So far, more than 300,000 people have voted. That alone is remarkable.

What if?

Last weekend, a conference of the party’s youth organisation passed a resolution that recommends members should vote against the agreement. The party leadership was less than delighted.

No one knows exactly what the rest of the members think. It’s entirely conceivable that a majority votes against, while it is inconceivable that the current leadership (broadly defined) that negotiated the agreement could survive such an embarrassment. The most likely outcome would be elections in February, though I’m sure that Merkel and the Greens would have another series of fireside chats if push came to shove. And if there were elections, the SPD would tank.

I’m sure the SPD members will bear this twin scenario in mind when they make their choice.