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The 2009 German elections

Added on October 6, 2009 and on October 7, 2009
On October 5, the 36 member SPD leadership (Parteivorstand) nominated Sigmar Gabriel as the Social Democrats new party leader with 28 out of 36 votes. The other newly nominated inner circle party leaders are general secretary Andrea Nahles with 24 votes and the four vice-chairmen Klaus Wowereit with 22 votes, Olaf Scholz, Hannelore Kraft and Manuela Schwesig with 31 votes each. The meager results reflect a lack of party unity. The left has progressed. Gabriel, himself rather both a reformer and a maverick than a man of the left. has stated on public television that he no longer excludes a coalition with The Left (Die Linke) in the 2013 election.

According to the FAZ newspaper, the former finance minister Steinbrück attacked Ralf Stegner, Klaus Wowereit and the people from Hessen (Andrea Ypsilanti and her circle) for the 2009 electoral defeat. He accused them of lacking solidarity with the party leadership, being responsible for the end of the Grand Coalition in Schleswig-Holstein as well as Ypslianti for her breach of promise not to work together with Die Linke in Hessen after the regional election 2008.


Article added on October 2, 2009
The German elections 2009 have already brought political change to the European Union's largest country: within days, the Social-Democrats (SPD) got a new leadership. How come?

From 1999 to 2005, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (1956*) was Gerhard Schröder's right-hand man as the Chief of the Chancellor's Office. In 2008, after some tumultuous years following Schröder's downfall, the SPD turned to Steinmeier, Foreign Minister in the Grand Coalition formed in 2005, to lead the Social-Democratic Party into the 2009 German elections. Steinmeier was a reformer and had helped Schröder formulate the famous Agenda 2010. Although it was too little too late for Schröder, the agenda helped create some 1.6 million jobs from 2005 to 2008. The Grand Coalition of the Christian-Democrats and the Social-Democrats profited from the reforms undertaken by Schröder's SPD together with the Green Party. In its own ranks and especially at the party base, the Agenda 2010 was and remains unpopular.

At the same time, The Left (Die Linke), a left-wing party, largely a successor of the Socialist Unity of East Germany (SED), managed to attract former SPD voters. Die Linke is headed by Oskar Lafontaine, a former SPD chairman and a rival of Schröder who fell out with the Social-Democratic chancellor when his was SPD Party Chief and Finance Minister in Schröder's cabinet. Still in 2005, he left the SPD and joined the left-wing WASG. Two years later, the WASG and the PDS, the successor of the SED, merged to become Die Linke. With the rhetorically outstanding populist Oskar Lafontaine as its head, the party managed not only to attract voters in Eastern, but also in Western Germany. Die Linke largely contributed to the demise of the SPD as a popular party (Volkspartei) which could attract a wide array of voters.

The SPD's political zigzag politics under Schröder continued under Steinmeier. Although a reformer, in order to counter Lafontaine, he tried to sell himself as a traditional social-democrat. He could not deceive voters. Although pretty popular himself - as are all foreign ministers in Germany - the party was hardly hit in the 2009 election.



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In the 2009 German elections, the SPD, headed by the pale and uncharismatic Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was severely beaten up. From 34.2% in 2005, the party slipped to 23% in 2009. With only 146 seats in the Bundestag, the SPD can no longer be considered a major party. Steinmeier moved to the post of chief of the party fraction in the Bundestag. He could not claim to become party chief. The party chief, Franz Müntefering, was wise enough to resign. He was replaced by the Grand Coalition's Environmental Minister Sigmar Gabriel. A man from Hanover like Schröder, Gabriel is rather a reformer than a centrist within his party. The new General Secretary of the SPD however, Andrea Nahles, replacing the insignificant Hubertus Heil, is a left-wing powerhouse.

Despite the election of Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD, now in the opposition, is likely to drift to the left. Reformers such as Steinmeier and Finance Minister Steinbrück are now longer part of the party leadership in which, instead, together with Andrea Nahles, one can also find Klaus Wowereit (*1953), the Mayor of Berlin. Leading a coalition of the SPD with The Left, he favors an opening towards Die Linke, not only on the regional level such as in Berlin, but also on the German federal level.

In 2009, several regional elections took place. In Thuringia, the regional SPD leader Christoph Matschie (*1961), decided to form a Grand Coalition with the CDU, which got beaten up in that German Land. He deliberately decided against a coalition with Die Linke and possible the Greens. However, this cannot be seen as a sign against future Red-Red or Red-Red-Green coalitions in the future. Incidentally, in Thuringia, the negotiations to form a Black-Red coalition have not been finalized yet.



The 2009 German elections offered the choice between a continuation of the Grand Coalition and a fresh start with a Black-Yellow coalition, formed by Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Liberals (FDP). In Germany, “liberal” has kept its true meaning of economic liberalism as well as liberalism regarding personal freedoms. In the US, the term has been totally perverted, since the American “liberals” are in fact communists, socialist or social-democrats, in short the opposite of true liberals.

Although Chancellor Merkel stays in power, now together with the FDP, the electoral result of her party (rather the union of her party, CDU, with its Bavarian counterpart, CSU, which lost many voters) is far from glorious. The CDU/CSU only won 33.8% and 239 seats compared with 35.2% in 2009. Merkel lost votes once again, even compared with the miserable 2005 result. She managed to stay in power only because the SPD totally collapsed and because her partner, the FDP, headed by Guido Westerwelle (*1961), was the real winner of the 2009 election. In 2005 at 9.8%, the FDP managed to climb to 14.6% and 93 seats. Together, the CDU/CSU and the FDP control 342 of the 622 seats in the Bundestag. They won a clear majority of seats with only 48.4% of the vote.

Of the 62.2 million German voters, only 70.8% went to the polls, compared to the 77.7% in 2005. This indicates that many Germans were unhappy with the choices offered to them. The four years of stagnation under the Grand Coalition had left its toll. The ruling parties CDU/CSU and especially the SPD lost voters, whereas the opposition parties FDP, the Greens (from 8.1% in 2005 to 10.7% in 2009) and The Left (from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.9% in 2009) won. The biggest increase however registered the nonvoters.

Plenty of work lies ahead of the Black-Yellow coalition. Merkel and Westerwelle should turn to Friedrich Merz' - a Merkel rival ousted by the German chancellor - radical simplification of the German tax code. The system of 1 Euro and 400 Euro jobs should be abandoned. The labor market needs to be liberalized and the path to higher debt abandoned. Especially given the rapidly aging German population, the health care and the pensions systems need an overhaul. The list of reforms is long. The faster they are decided and implemented, the better for Germany, the European Union and the entire world economy.








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