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
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.