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German Elections 2013

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#1 BansheeOne

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 0927 AM

So the German Social Democrats have finally nominated their chancellor candidate for the September 2013 national elections within the hour after the usual long dithering with a "troika" of three top contenders. They settled on former Grand Coalition minister of finances and previous state prime minister of Northrhine-Westphalia, Peer Steinbrück. This was really apparent for some time; the other choices would have been SPD national chairman Sigmar Gabriel who's rather prone to foot-in-mouth disease, and former Grand Coalition foreign minister and vice-chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The latter would actually not make a bad chancellor IMO, as he's the fact-oriented hard-working organizer type; but he has not exactly a magnetic personality, and of course somebody acceptable to conservative-liberal types is not necessarily somebody who would rouse the center-left voter base. As former vice-chancellor to Angela Merkel, he stands too much for being a junior partner in a Grand Coalition, which the SPD tries to avoid repeating despite poll numbers to the contrary; and he lost to Merkel once in 2009 already.

Not that Steinbrück is too different in that respect, funnily enough; he is considered too pro-business by the party's left wing, though he scored with them by shilling plans for tighter banking regulations over the last week. OTOH, he pissed off a lot of pro-market liberals as finance minister when he tried bullying Switzerland over their banking laws sheltering German tax evaders, famously comparing the Swiss to indians who needed to be set to right by the cavalry.

Presiding over the descent of the Northrhine-Westphalian State Bank in his previous office of state prime minister is also likely to be used against him, as are timely revelations that as federal minister of finances he tried to win German Railways and German Mail - majority state-owned businesses under his responsibility - as million-Euro sponsors for a chess contest in his hometown under official letterheads.

Anyway, barring unforseen developments, the SPD is not likely to lead the next government. Despite, or maybe because the ongoing Euro crisis, Merkel's Christian Democrats have been leading them in the polls by a steady six to twelve points; the chancellor's hard stance on austerity towards the EU's problem partners is obviously popular with the electorate, while the SPD could only lose trying to critizise the government line as lacking of European solidarity and demanding common European bonds in contravention of the EU treaty prohibiting member states to share their debts. They got off that eventually and went over to critizise the government whenever they were forced to soften their stance a little and move in their direction ...

CDU/CSU however have the problem that their pro-market liberal junior partner, the Free Democrats, almost self-destructed during the term by playing opposition in government, bad PR and internal quarrelling. They currently cannot be counted on to make the five percent threshold of votes necessary to enter parliament, though they have recovered somewhat from their all-time low at three. OTOH, the traditional opposing camp of SPD and the Greens has not had a majority of its own in the polls for some time either, despite the latter having done very well in the nuclear angst after the Fukushima disaster; they actually surpassed the SPD in the Baden-Wurttemberg state elections last year and had the first green prime minister ever voted in, but have dropped back to 13-14 percent on the national level since.

The SPD has excluded a threesome with the Left Party, who managed to make themselves totally impossible in the mid-term even for most left-wingers in the red-green camp between debating about "ways to communism" with former RAF terrorists, condoning the Berlin Wall on the 50th anniversary of its erection, birthday congratulations for Fidel Castro, anti-Zionism including the famous Gaza cruise, supporting the Assad regime, and above all infighting between the moderate Eastern part and the lunatic Westerners - who hadn't even had the benefit of experiencing real-life state socialism, but apparently inflated their numbers to achieve a controlling share of delegates in party gremiums. They are currently scratching the five percent threshold from above, though can be expected to re-enter parliament via direct mandates in safe Eastern districts.

The dark horse remains the Pirate Party, that strange amalgamation of internet libertarianism and welfare statism, demanding transparent government, direct democracy and personal privacy on the one hand, and copyright reform, free downloading from the net and unconditional basic living stipends on the other. They were the new cool kid for some time, activated lots of young and disenchanted voters, were up there with the Greens in the low double-digits for some time and voted into three state parliaments.

Maybe unavoidably for an attractive new movement inviting broad participation though, they also attracted lots of nutters from every fringe, and collision between ideals and reality has now set in. They are now in the same poll range as the Left, though it's still likely they will enter the Bundestag next year. In that case, another Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD is the most realistic outcome, as a coalition of three including the Pirates would be risky for all involved. But a lot can happen in a year.

My boss is running again BTW, though mostly out of spite because local party leaders tried to pre-empt her decision and push her out while she was away on a trip to South America. Ironically, the local paper hostile to her burned the main pretender by trying to create a momentum and publishing statements made to them on background, and she has another nomination all but sure. Regardless, this will be my last campaign for the time being, as I decided when I took the job five years ago that I would do the last and the current term, then look for change, being over 40 in a profession you don't pursue to pension age anyway.
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#2 TonyE

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1051 AM

(sniff) I miss Egon Krenz (sniff)
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#3 Dave Clark

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1605 PM

Good analysis, Banshee, thanks.

My own opinion is that Steinbrück is a strong candidate - assuming he can keep the SPD behind him (the Jusos are alreay shouting the odds!) It's probably a good thing for him that the sponsorship affair (actually very minor) is already out in the open.

I happened to catch his speech at the SPD Zukunft conference on 3Sat this afternoon and was quite impressed.

Amusing to see that some elements of the FDP are already making noises about traffic-light coalitions - the way they have imploded I would be somewhat surprised to see them get over the 5% hurdle. As for the Pirates, a lot of their support will probably disappear back to the Greens.

And "King Kurt" leaves the political stage after 16 years as minister-president of Rhineland-Palatinate. Ostensibly due to bad health but not helped by the Nurnburgring Affair.

Edited by Dave Clark, 28 September 2012 - 1609 PM.

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#4 Simon Tan

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1625 PM

What Nurburgring Affair for us non-Vaterland dwellers......?
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#5 Dave Clark

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1654 PM

What Nurburgring Affair for us non-Vaterland dwellers......?


The SPD government of Rhineland-Palatinate decided that the Nurnburgring would be more attractive with a large pleasure park. Shortly after it was built Nurnburgring GmbH declared itself bankrupt and the 330 million Euro credit had to be covered from the state budget ie with taxpayers money.
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#6 Simon Tan

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1657 PM

So who owns the Ring? It's always in use.....can hardly be losing money....unless you pisss it away on stupid shit. Sabina Schmidt and the Transit van......
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#7 BansheeOne

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1729 PM

Since 2010, there have actually been two Nürburgring companies: The original Nürburgring GmbH is owned by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (90 percent) and Ahrweiler County (ten percent). It owns the property, but leases it for use to the Nürburgring Automotive GmbH which is owned in equal shares by the Lindner Hotel AG and real estate developer Mediinvest. The former has filed for bankrupcy, while the latter will keep operating as before (there is the separate issue that the state decided to quit the contract with Nürburgring Automotive over a disagreement about lease payments back in February, but this is currently in the mills of the court system).
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#8 Simon Tan

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 1832 PM

Brilliant. Not. I would have definitely gone timeshare to autocompanies.
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#9 X-Files

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 0015 AM

You guys got problems

http://www.liveleak....=fb1_1289637056

http://www.thelocal....0729-13357.html
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#10 Mike Steele

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 1057 AM

You guys got problems

http://www.liveleak....=fb1_1289637056

http://www.thelocal....0729-13357.html


Yes they do.
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#11 X-Files

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 1144 AM

Seriously, Euro-pals, this is why those of Sam go apeshit about legal immigration and citizenship classes and why (to us) things like respecting our flag are indicators of greater truths.

We *want* the new folks coming to America to appreciate, embrace and make even mo' better what we have here, not to turn it into a New World version of their old shithole.

Also acknowledged that we need to pound the same appreciations, embracements and desires into some (most?) of our current citizenry.

Posted Image

Edited by X-Files, 30 September 2012 - 1146 AM.

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#12 Mike Steele

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 1154 AM

Seriously, Euro-pals, this is why those of Sam go apeshit about legal immigration and citizenship classes and why (to us) things like respecting our flag are indicators of greater truths.

We *want* the new folks coming to America to appreciate, embrace and make even mo' better what we have here, not to turn it into a New World version of their old shithole.

Also acknowledged that we need to pound the same appreciations, embracements and desires into some (most?) of our current citizenry.

Posted Image

Amen Brother! Amen.
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#13 shep854

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 2045 PM

Hopefully the Germans can pull themselves back with relatively little trauma. In the meantime, small glimmers of hope...
http://www.msnbc.msn...te#.UGj0OZjA-RM

German Jewish leader deters anti-Semitic attack with gun

"Kramer then pointed to a gun he is allowed to carry for his personal protection to deter the man from attacking him."
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#14 BansheeOne

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Posted 01 October 2012 - 0504 AM

Was initially reported as Kramer pointing the gun at the offender rather than pointing it out to him (I also see the MSNBC report is curiously missing that the attackers of the rabbi in the previous incident were described by the victim as probably of Arabic descent). Anyway it seems there is some substance to it, because unfortunately my first reaction was to wonder if his account was true; Kramer is the type of convert who comes across as trying to prove his adopted faith too hard, and has had to be reigned in by the rest of the Central Council on previous occasions.

He seems somewhat motivated by off-faith partisan politics too, as he once demanded the resignation of then-prime minister of Lower Saxony Christian Wulff over decrying a "pogrom sentiment against managers" during the economic crisis a few years ago. However, when a leftist mob stormed a university building in Berlin in protest of cuts in education shortly afterwards, smashing windows, starting fires, humiliating a group of managers having a seminar there by chance and happening to destroy an exhibition on the fate of Jews businesses during the Nazi time in the process, all he had to say was "well, we shouldn't always jump to conclusions about anti-Semitism in every incident".

Overall, immigration policy has unurprisingly been fraught with competing ideological biases. For a long time, the position on the left was "admit all the poor downtrodden masses, but don't force our evil Western ways on them like having to speak German, because they are enriching our culture by bringing theirs with them". Conservatives OTOH were denying that Germany is a country of immigration in the face of millions of immigrants, and kept pretending the "guest workers" from Southern Europe and Turkey they invited in the 50s and 60s to make up for a lack of domestic workforce would eventually return even while their grandchildren were growing up here.

At the same time, the latter made lots of folks from Eastern Europe and the former USSR who might or might not have had German ancestry instant citizens under the old blood-based citizenship law in the 90s. The children coming with them in particular rarely had any knowledge of German culture and language anymore, considered Russia or the newly-formed ex-Soviet nations their home, and showed much the same problems as other immigrant groups: lack of integration, alcohol, drugs, crime and overall violence, much of it perpetrated within the group. It didn't help that fUSSR qualifications from drivers licences up to medical degrees were not recognized in Germany.

By now, both camps have somewhat woken up to reality, recognizing the development of parallel societies on the one hand and the lack of skilled labor in a society of declining domestic demographics on the other. The Red-Green government had changed the citizenship law to a place-of-birth basis in 2000, which cut off much of Eastern immigration (though the influx of Jews from the fUSSR mentioned in the MSNBC report, based upon a different motivation, still continues) while the left has grudgingly come to recognize that knowing the laws and language of the land might be a good thing for integration; issues like female gender mutilation and honor killings created a certain ideological dissonance for them.

Legal immigrants now undergo mandatory courses teaching appropriate knowledge, finishing with tests about German history and politics. Those seem to do a good job overall; the Serbian husband of my new SIL's sister had improved considerably in fluency when I talked to him at the wedding again after having met him for the first time a couple months earlier. Some cities now turn the reception of citizenship into celebratory act, which conservatives say should become the rule and probably be coupled with an oath on the US model.

A debate keeps going on about dual citizenship; currently kids of immigrants have to decide until age 23 for either German or the nationality of their parents. This is problematic on constitutional grounds, and the left would like to have the obligation to chose abolished, while conservatives want to limit dual citizenship as much as possible. Another debate is on having an actual immigration law; both sides say it would be a good thing, but conservatives want something like the Australian or Canadian model aimed at admitting only those who can contribute something to society, while the left doesn't want to look at immigrants only under economic aspects.

A related issue is the recruitment of highly-skilled labor from abroad. The current rules are rather narrow (have to prove you cannot fill a slot with a German worker), and businesses would like to have them relaxed. There was much debate about the stereotypical Indian IT specialist considered a desirable choice a couple years ago; conservative state prime minister candidate Jürgen Rüttgers ran on a slogan of "Kinder statt Inder" (children instead of Indians) in Northrhine-Westphalia then, demanding more German babies rather than more immigration.

There is currently talk of an EU "Blue Card" analogous to the US Green Card, to manage influx on the European level. With open borders and rights of residence and work throughout the EU (though limited for a certain time for recently-admitted Eastern European members), lots of young people from the Southern nations in economic crisis are moving to Germany anyway to fill any demand that arises. And of course the high-skills problem is partly one of the domestic education system and its misimprovements, which is a whole other can of worms.

Overall, compared to some other European nations, we're not too bad off in this area. We have our big city immigrant ghettos and parallel societies that don't recognize the authority of German law and its enforcement agencies too, young male immigrants show up disproportionally in crime and violence statistics, and once in a while there is a high-profile case of attacks on ethnic Germans, German minority schools and honor killings (the case in the "Local" report is atypical not just in the attack having been carried out by a girl gang - which is an increasing phenomenon like in the rest of the West - but them being from South America and Italy, not the usual problem demographics, though the victim was a fUSSR immigrant).

9/11 also demonstrated the use of Germany as a base by Muslim extremists, and we have been faced with the development of homegrown terrorism like many other nations. Maybe significantly, the most serious attempt so far other than the shooting of US airmen at Frankfurt International by a Kosovarian two years ago was largely carried by ethnic German converts to Islam. But the larger scene is of course made up of second- or third-generation immigrant kids who feel discriminated against by German society for real or imagined reasons, seek to reaffirm their identity by turning to faith, and are swept up by extremist preachers capitalizing on the disconnect between Islam's self-portrayal as the perfect societal system, and the fact the West effectively rules the world.

OTOH, there are attacks by neo-nazis on immigrants, or the organized anti-Islam movement demonstrating with Muhammad carricatures in front of mosques, provoking violence by militant Salafists (they have announced they will publically show this recent video once the full version becomes available, too). But we have not seen full-scale riots like in the French banlieus, and local protests against the Muhammad video were quite orderly and peaceful - yet. Immigration is lot likely to be a hot topic in the upcoming campain either, because frankly there are more pressing issues.

Edited by BansheeOne, 01 October 2012 - 0818 AM.

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#15 Simon Tan

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Posted 01 October 2012 - 0755 AM

All this contre-salafism just obfuscates the real struggle against the real enemy.....the French.
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#16 BansheeOne

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 0249 AM

First polls after Steinbrück's nomination show a slight bump for both big parties at the expense of the small; CDU/CSU at 37-39 percent, up from 35-38, SPD at 28-31, up from 26-29; Greens 11-12, Left 7-8, Pirates 4-6, Liberals 4-5. Rather insignificant changes seen over all pollsters, though one of the leading institutes shows a two percent rise for the Conservatives within 14 days, and the Pirates below the five percent threshold for the first time they appeared on the national radar, along with the Liberals. If either missed entry into the Bundestag, the basic premise of no classical left or right coalition possible becomes questionable, though at current numbers it holds up as long as the Left makes it; Steinbrück has reaffirmed no partnership with them (or the Liberals, for that matter) in a threesome.

In a tune very familiar from US campaigns, Steinbrück has come under fire for his considerable income from companies and institutions for holding speeches, with folks demanding that he publish his tax returns - not usual in German campaigns. Significantly, the critic originated from the left wing of his own camp who think he's too close to big money and lobbyists, though conservatives gratefully jumped onto the bandwagon. The candidate has been alternating between counterattacks and promises of transparency, stating he follows the Bundestag's regulations to publish secondary income to the letter and publishing his returns would compromise his privavy and that of his wife one week, and announcing full disclosure shortly the next.

This touches a sensitive issue, since watchdogs like Transparency International have complained for years that German anti-corruption legislations for politicians is rather lax. Under current rules, members of parliament only have to publish their secondary income as falling into one of three levels - 1,000 to 3,000, 3,000 to 7,000 or more than 7,000 Euro per year. The current opposition has been demanding stricter rules for some time, which the current coalition has been blocking, so there's a good deal of hypocrisy to go around for everybody involved in the current debate. It proves once more though that the SPD is always keen to take over American campaign tropes, already having enriched German political culture with scripted conventions and background audiences in televised events.
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#17 BansheeOne

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 1458 PM

In a tune very familiar from US campaigns, Steinbrück has come under fire for his considerable income from companies and institutions for holding speeches, with folks demanding that he publish his tax returns - not usual in German campaigns. Significantly, the critic originated from the left wing of his own camp who think he's too close to big money and lobbyists, though conservatives gratefully jumped onto the bandwagon. The candidate has been alternating between counterattacks and promises of transparency, stating he follows the Bundestag's regulations to publish secondary income to the letter and publishing his returns would compromise his privavy and that of his wife one week, and announcing full disclosure shortly the next.


Steinbrück's candidacy has definitely been off to a rocky start. He eventually tasked auditors to detail his income from the lecture circle, and it turned out to amount to 1.25 million Euro during this term, plus at least 500,000 more in book deals. Save for some minor glitches in tax reporting, there's nothing wrong let alone illegal about that, but it still presents several problems for him. The first is that he's in a party that often seems to hold making millions as something unsavory. The second and very much bigger is he held several of his paid speeches while he really should have been present in parliament, including for votes.

A particular case that has gotten lots of play is 25,000 Euro he received from the public energy provider of the (SPD-ruled) city of Bochum for a 90 minute talk with an exclusive audience of ca. 170. While other celebrities got the same deal, including former conservative President Richard von Weisäcker and now-President Joachim Gauck (an independent, and before he was elected), the issue is that Bochum like many cities is rather cash-strapped, and the municipial energy company is about to hike power prices. There has been a rather unseemly public debate between them ans Steinbrück about whether he was "implicitely" supposed to donate the money to charity, but the fact remains this is not exactly in the venue of good Social Democratic values.

Accordingly, Steinbrück has been hit over the head with it at every turn in political debates so far; when he attacked government plans to pay parents of toddlers under three a compensation when they chose to tend to their children at home rather than taking public daycare offers, termed variously a "hearth bonus" or "keep-away-bonus" by the Left for allegedly incenting women to stay home with the kids rather than pursueing their carreers, a coalition speaker promptly retorted that the money he earned while he should have been in parliament was much more of a "keep-away-bonus". Even a vice group leader of the Greens in the Bundestag twittered ahead of yesterday's floor debate "heard the SPD is raising funds, Steinbrück is to speak Friday".

The issue has cost Steinbrück a lot of sympathy in the polls already, falling behind Chancellor Merkel's approval ratings in most competency fields. He has other attractivity problems too; while his hard-charging, tough-talking no-nonsense style appeals to male voters, he is much less popular with women due to his lack of interest in "soft" topics. Advice has ranged from working on his bulldog mimics over getting different glasses to bringing out his family for the campaign - which would be another rather American thing to do that Steinbrück has reportedly vetoed. Overall, the SPD has dropped back to pre-Steinbrück poll numbers while CDU/CSU have so far managed to hold on to their gains.

The Greens as third-strongest party just chose their top candidates in sort of a national primary, an instrument not institutionalized in the German system but sometimes taken by parties to decide controversial leadership issues. The couple that emerged (the gender-conscious Greens wanted at least one woman) is former Environmental Minister Jürgen Trittin, a former leftwinger turned pragmatist-for-power, and Bundestag Vice Speaker Katrin Göring-Eckardt of the realist wing, also praeses of the Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany (an office she will suspend during the campaign).

Barring another nuclear disaster anywhere in the world, none of them has any chance to actually become chancellor in a Green-led government; however the fact that representatives of the left wing lost out in the "primary" has been taken by commenters as an indicator that the Greens have become a fully "burgeois" party that might eventually even enter coalitions with the Conservatives - a model that has been enacted with moderate success on the state level before, notably in Hamburg and, in a threesome with the Liberals, in the Saarland (either government broke up within the first term). But for now, both Steinbrück and the Greens have ruled out going with CDU/CSU and stated their aim is another Red-Green coalition.

There are much worse perspectives for the smaller parties. The Liberals continue to creep below the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament, now joined in recent polls by the Pirates who were alleged to be on a meteoric path into the Bundestag only a couple months ago; but their internet-derived open structures of participation have come home to roost for them, with weirdos, trolls and shitstormers rather than issues dominating public reception. National leadership members have been throwing in towels at discount rates, while others that should better have been removed from the public eye have stuck around.

A prime example for the latter is their national whip Johannes Ponader, a theatrical pedagogist by education who has been working talkshows priding himself on living off public welfare with sporadic income as an artist (the Pirates for-free-mentality has led to very few of their functionaries getting very little wages from the party). That was not particularly good advertisment for the already-controversial plank of an unconditional basic income in the Pirate's program, but he managed to misimprove on that by reacting to criticism with the declaration that he would hence reject welfare and live off donations which friends had put out a call for. At that point his own party chairman publically told him to get a job rather than finding new ways to get around having one ...

Ironically, if both the Liberals and Pirates fail to enter parliament, the only thing that would prevent another Red-Green coalition would be the Left Party, which is fairly sure to make it even on directly elected representatives alone. Take them out of the equation, and the Conservatives will have no majority for lack of a coalition partner even though they might have a ten point lead on the SPD. That may happen in the Lower Saxony state election in January, while the Bavarian CSU looks likely to get a majority of their own in their state election immediately preceding the national vote in September.
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#18 Dave Clark

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 0550 AM

**SNIP**

There are much worse perspectives for the smaller parties. The Liberals continue to creep below the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament, now joined in recent polls by the Pirates who were alleged to be on a meteoric path into the Bundestag only a couple months ago; but their internet-derived open structures of participation have come home to roost for them, with weirdos, trolls and shitstormers rather than issues dominating public reception. National leadership members have been throwing in towels at discount rates, while others that should better have been removed from the public eye have stuck around.

A prime example for the latter is their national whip Johannes Ponader, a theatrical pedagogist by education who has been working talkshows priding himself on living off public welfare with sporadic income as an artist (the Pirates for-free-mentality has led to very few of their functionaries getting very little wages from the party). That was not particularly good advertisment for the already-controversial plank of an unconditional basic income in the Pirate's program, but he managed to misimprove on that by reacting to criticism with the declaration that he would hence reject welfare and live off donations which friends had put out a call for. At that point his own party chairman publically told him to get a job rather than finding new ways to get around having one ...

Ironically, if both the Liberals and Pirates fail to enter parliament, the only thing that would prevent another Red-Green coalition would be the Left Party, which is fairly sure to make it even on directly elected representatives alone. Take them out of the equation, and the Conservatives will have no majority for lack of a coalition partner even though they might have a ten point lead on the SPD. That may happen in the Lower Saxony state election in January, while the Bavarian CSU looks likely to get a majority of their own in their state election immediately preceding the national vote in September.


I have actually seen one Pirate who has halfway impressed me! Martin Delius, chairman of the Berlin state assembly investigative committee into the Berlin/Brandenburg Airport shambles . He was on the Abendshau a couple of weeks ago and appeared to have a good grasp of the details.
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#19 Rick

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 0619 AM

I am totaly ignorant of German politics. Which party is for much less government and which is for much more government and is there anyone inbetween?
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#20 sunday

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 0629 AM

It's Europe: all the parties are for keeping or increase govt. size!
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