November 1, 2005

The New German Left Has Left

Hatched by Dafydd

The so-called "Grand Coalition" in Germany of the two biggest parties -- the Christian Democrats, who (barely) won the recent elections, and the erstwhile ruling Social Democrats -- has been shaken, if not yet stirred, by an uprising of more hard-core leftists within the ranks of the latter party.

According to the New York Times,

The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Franz Müntefering, said he would not run for re-election next month after the party's executive committee rejected his candidate for its No. 2 position.

Mr. Müntefering, 65, is representing the Social Democrats in delicate negotiations to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union, led by Angela Merkel. The parties had hoped to wrap up the talks in time to elect Mrs. Merkel on Nov. 22 as the first woman to serve as German chancellor.

It seems that the German Socialist youth took umbrage at being told what to do by their elders. Younger members of the Social Democratic Party (Gerhard Schroeder's party) tend to be much more leftist... rather like Michael Moore Democrats here. They don't like the idea of any economic reforms at all, preferring to rescue the ailing German economy by shouting slogans at it.

Like Mr. Müntefering, Mr. Schröder, 61, represents an older generation of Social Democrats that is increasingly at odds with younger party members. Some of these up-and-comers are staunchly leftist and opposed Mr. Schröder's efforts to overhaul the German economy.

The tension finally erupted at the recent party meeting, when Mr. Müntefering backed a longtime aide, Kajo Wasserhövel, to be general secretary. Political analysts said some of the younger members were antagonized by what they viewed as Mr. Müntefering's high-handed style.

Andrea Nahles, 35, a former leader of the party's youth wing and an unofficial leader of its left-wing faction, emerged as an alternative candidate. She was chosen in a secret ballot, by a vote of 23 to 14. Ms. Nahles's victory must be ratified at the party's congress in Karlsruhe in two weeks, where members are also scheduled to approve the agreement for a grand coalition.

Conceding her decisive victory, Mr. Müntefering said, "I can no longer be party chairman under these conditions."

This has set plans for the Grand Coalition wobbling, if not quite yet crashing down. If the merger does not go through as planned, however, new elections will be required, since neither the Christian Democratic Union on the "right" nor the Social Democratic Party on the left is likely to be able to form a ruling coalition with smaller parties.

Nobody seems to know what would happen in new elections: either voters would decide it had been a mistake to oust the Social Democrats, and they would win; or they would become impatient with the antics of the Left, and the Christian Democrats would win; or most likely, the results would be more or less the same, and the country would remain in turmoil. Ah, the wonders of the parliamentary system... it's so much more exciting! (Imagine Florida 2000 for months on end, with not only the presidency but also Congress in limbo.)

Oddly, although it's the Social Democrats who are splintering, the Christian Democrats are now also in trouble:

The jolt reached other parties too. Edmund Stoiber, a leading conservative politician who has developed a good rapport with Mr. Müntefering, said the announcement had given him second thoughts about his own role in a grand coalition government.

Mr. Stoiber, the prime minister of Bavaria, is the designated economics minister under Mrs. Merkel, and he has been a constant presence at her side in the talks with Mr. Müntefering and Mr. Schröder. His defection would sting Mrs. Merkel, since he heads the sister party of the Christian Democrats [the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, that is].

We'll have to watch this game of "spin the Bundestag" carefully, as it could have a very significant impact on Europe and the United States... both directly in terms of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and indirectly as a result of its effect on the increasingly fragile German economy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 1, 2005, at the time of 2:18 AM

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