Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

German election irony

It wasn't supposed to happen until 2006. But in a sharp contrast to the Canadian Liberals' "let's hold onto power by tooth and claw" behaviour this past spring, when the citizens of North Rhine Westphalia (previously always a stronghold of the social democrats) voted for the conservative CDU, the current social democratic chancellor Schröder took it as a sign of the way the wind was blowing and decided to give up the ghost. A no-confidence vote was held, and lost, parliament was dissolved, and new elections were called for this fall. For today.

As ever in Germany, though, irony abounds. While just a few months ago the polls were declaring reelection of Schröder's coalition government between the social democrats (SPD) and the Green party to be worse than hopeless, conservative leader Angela Merkel's call for a flat tax has met with significant criticism, and the long-ruling social democrats have nearly caught up with with her CDU. In even tastier irony, a reelection of the beleaguered SPD-Green coalition would give the Germans another government led by two old, straight white men, a win for the CDU would likely mean an alliance between a formerly East German woman and a youngish gay man. And perhaps most deliciously of all, there's a pretty decent chance that the CDU's partner of choice, the fiscally conservative FDP, won't receive a high enough percentage of the vote to be able to form a coalition (Germany has a mixed-member proportional electoral system, which produces coalition governments if one party can't reach an absolute majority), in which case a winning CDU would have to choose as its coalition partner ... Schröder's social democrats.

It's not quite the insane twists and turns of April 2005 in Canada (will anything ever be again?), but there's plenty there for election buffs. Go watch.

[Update: And in the end, the winner was ... irony. The CDU got the most votes, but did badly enough that they can't form a government together with the FDP. The SPD and the Greens can't form one, either. Of the remaining possibilities, the most likely one is a "grand coalition" between the CDU and the SPD. Imagine the Canadian Liberals and the Conservatives forming a coalition, and you'll have some idea how amusing that idea is. It's a great night for the German cabaret tradition, let me tell you.]

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