Germany before its fateful elections: 4 new trends

Author : Viktor Savinok

Source : 112 Ukraine

The chances of the "small parties" are still unclear, and most importantly, the number of Germans that would support ultra "Alternative for Germany" is unknown
14:15, 14 April 2017

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One of the key events of the year, parliamentary elections in Germany, promises to be extremely rich in surprises.

Few time ago, Party leader Angela Merkel, and accordingly her fourth chancellery, considered indisputable, but return to the big German policy of Martin Schulz seemed to have broken the plans. However, recent developments suggest that this trend may change soon.

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The chances of the "small parties" are still unclear, and most importantly, the number of Germans that would support ultra "Alternative for Germany" is unknown.

The elections to be held on September 24, but the election schedule will change again and again.

To make forecasts more consonant with the mood of the political elite and most German voters, we would try to bring intermediate results.

Has "Schulz’s effect" ended?

Recent polls conducted April 8, 2017, showed that the power of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU / CSU) again holds leading positions in the ranking of electoral sympathies of German voters, with potentially 36% of the vote.

For nearly two months since the return  to the domestic political arena of the former president of the European Parliament social democrat Martin Schulz, ratings of Angela Merkel’s party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany were on the equal positions (32-33%). Now the situation is like in the last December.

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Several experts tend to believe that the impact on positions was caused by regional Saari campaign, during which the party of Schulz lost 6% compared to the previous result of 2012, and Merkel's Christian Democrats did not have enough votes for absolute majority.

Meanwhile, we should not forget that the Social Democrats lost votes because of their rejection of "grand coalition" with the CDU and hints to block the "left" in the future convocation of Saar Landtag.

Saar Left are not straightforward "players" because they are headed by Oskar Lafontaine, a former Social Democrat and finance minister in the government of Gerhard Schroeder, who left office and the party as his economic program Agenda 2010 and the package of laws on social security Hartz have been criticized. However, Martin Schulz himself likes to criticize social policy, offering different kinds of initiatives related to the proposals of left; for example, about the possible introduction of "unconditional basic income."

However, we should not exaggerate the importance of the Saar campaign the because the federal state is quite small.

Critical point in accessing the chances of the SPD and the CDU would be the race in Schleswig- Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia.

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No less important point is that the recent Schultz’s rhetoric, aimed at moving to the left of Social Democrats ideology, has largely lost its intensity.

Now this can be explained from a purely technical point of view. As head of the party, which is part of the ruling coalition still, Martin Schulz is involved in addressing key policy issues. This means a significant level of responsibility for Schulz’s statement as a candidate for chancellor; he could be called active, but, nevertheless, somewhat quite far from everyday policy-making process.

In addition, the change in rhetoric can be explained also in terms of pragmatism, because, according to Die Welt, the leader of the Social Democrats now entered the phase of active search for partners in the future coalition.

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However, even the option with Merkel’s party, based on the statements of the SPD, is not excluded. This is very different from the mood that prevailed at the end of January and promoted "rejection of grand coalition."

Replacements in the Christian Democrat camp

Last week was marked by significant organizational changes in the election campaign of the CDU.

April 10, it was reported that following the meeting on preparation for the election program of the Christian Democrats, party general secretary Peter Tauber was suspended from the campaign leadership.

According to leaders of the CDU and Tauber’s statement, Peter Altmeier, Former Environment Minister, would lead preparation of the party program.

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Merkel and Altmeier 

Such a step led to actual deprivation of 42-year-old CDU general secretary of the political powers and their direct transfer to the Federal Chancellor. Der Spiegel said that Altmeier is one of the closest people (from the political environment) to Angela Merkel and he takes part in the adoption of most of the political decisions.

According to Die Welt, Merkel’s step of getting rid of the Secretary General Tauber means that the Chancellor is dissatisfied with preparations for the elections and especially the lack of explicit "messages", except the thesis of the "information society".

Currently, there are at least two dilemmas.

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First, Altmeier has a relatively short period of time to determine the strategy in terms of shortage of time, because the election will take place on 24 September.

Secondly, he should consider options for resolving political scandal that unfolded after his appointment as head of the campaign, the CDU, as the SPD and "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" already declared about the inadmissibility of combining public and political posts.

Crisis of the Green

"Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" faced the notable electoral losses. The party that stands for mostly liberal left, now lost more than 1.5% of the vote, mostly in favor of the SPD, whose social and political demands issued are worded more clearly. In general, the current situation of "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" is a conceptual continuation of the crisis, which was given more evident in the last elections to the Bundestag in 2013, when the party lost 2.5% of votes.

There are several reasons. First, the party has high level of factionalism in which one part of the political forces may gravitate towards the Social Democrats, and the other might sympathize with the CDU.

For instance, in Baden-Württemberg government, "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" and the CDU work together, and in Hessen the same coalition is led by the Christian Democrats. Meanwhile, in Berlin and Thuringia coalition of "left" and the Social Democrats operates.

Second, the steps of CDU / CSU-FDP government (2009-2013) and the current cabinet of "grand coalition" to refuse from nuclear power, develop renewable energy, and improve environmental legislation actually disavowed environmental component of the "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen." However, there are no other pressing "clues" in German politics for "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen."

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Third, actual immutability of the leading speakers in the last 6-7 years plays against the party. Within the current campaign "Bündnis 90/Die Grünen" rely on proven leaders, pushing major party campaign co-chairman of the party of Sam Ozdemir and current co-chairman of the faction "Green" in the Bundestag, Katrin Horing Eckhardt.

At the same time, "left turn" in the SPD rhetoric associated with the arrival of senior positions in the party Martin Schulz, marked by losses for the "left" who, according to recent polls, lost 1% of electoral sympathies compared to the elections of 2013.

How about far-right "AfD"?

Public opinion polls currently fixed quite acceptable for the European and Ukrainian observers trend that manifested in the gradual weakening of Eurosceptical and far-right party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD).

If in December 2016 - January 2017 it has obtained more than 10% of votes, the current figure of sympathy for skeptics barely reached 8%, demonstrating a confident downward trend.

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In this process, at least four factors played an important role. First, the government's rhetoric painful migration issues for the society became more rigid. At the same figures from the CDU / CSU and the range of the Social Democrats do not rule out the introduction of legislative restrictions on the number of refugees.

Second, the very dynamics of the migration crisis is favorable; it loses intensity. Moreover outflow of refugees from Germany, voluntarily and forcibly, takes place.

Thirdly, the tougher is the rhetoric of the government concerning violation of democratic principles in Turkey, which also delayed the "protest voters" from Eurosceptics.

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And finally, AfD currently seems to pass the point of no return.

This clearly demonstrates the scandal with Björn Höcke, head of the Thuringian Land branch and member of the party. Last in December 2016, he made a number of highly biased statements regarding the Holocaust, calling, in particular, a memorial to the fallen Jews of Europe, located in the center of Berlin, "a monument of shame in the heart of the German state."

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Björn Höcke

Party leader Frauke Petry instructed lawyers to legally evaluate claims of Björn Höcke. Conclusions of the lawyers presented at the end of March, indicated the possibility of excluding the Thuringian AfD leader from the party.

Die Welt believes that the exclusion of Björn Höcke  can provoke further purification of the AfD ranks. Such a lustration of AfD might turn it into the organization with right ideology, but a party system, breaking the long-term trend in which political forces that are more "right" than CDU / CSU were mostly right-wing and sometimes totalitarian.

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Therefore, the current political situation gives more questions than answers. We cannot give 100% conclusions and prognosis concerning future coalitions and potential decisions of the political forces. So everything we should do is just follow the situation.

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