September Elections Raise Interest And Eyebrows

This year has been quite the political journey for us Germans. Thanks to the unique features of the German electoral system and the way the 16 states run their election calendars, major votes have been taking place all year long. So what does this mean for German politics?

To see things in context for the general election in September, you have to consider the overall economic and political situation in Germany at present. Like the rest of Europe, business is a bit down this year for the export trade, a key driver of the German economy. People are very concerned with jobs and security.

However, whatever Germany does to insure its own solvency and security is not done in isolation thanks to the interconnectedness of the European political and cultural landscape. Earlier in the year, when Germany declined to offer rescue funds to some Eastern European countries, scare mongers claimed Germany was hanging the Continent out to dry. Naturally not — it’s just that the ability to help abroad begins with solvency and economic soundness at home.

Horst Köhler, the recently re-elected German President, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be the candidate to shift depending on the outcome of the September elections, have been working on social program reforms. Their aim is to improve services while curtailing some of the spending. Results are mixed, and votes on measures are often delayed. Some see these reforms as robbing the people to preserve the state, while other say the reforms are needed to avoid bankrupting everyone with debt.

If Chancellor Merkel’s party wins the September election, most analysts say that it would be interpreted as a mandate to get serious about reforming the social payment programs in Germany. If her party loses, there will be a great deal of reshuffling on the national stage. Either outcome will bring change and uncertainty, which is not very popular given the worry that many people have about the future now thanks to the economy.

Thus, debates are heated, and the newspaper columns analyze everything said or done. This keeps interest levels high, but some of the recent campaign moves have also raised eyebrows. In an attempt to inject humor and levity into the campaign, Vera Lengsfeld used her own and the Chancellor’s cleavage in a German election campaign ad… and definitely garnered some national as well as international attention! ;-)

Vera Lengsfeld, the creative politician -- Photo: REUTERS

Vera Lengsfeld, the creative politician -- Photo: REUTERS

It just goes to show that right about the time you think nothing is happening with German politics, something will change in the debates. It will certainly be interesting to see which way the voting goes on September 17th!

I definitely will be watching it closely; and you?

—Marcus Hochstadt

 

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