How to beat Merkel – and while doing so Socialists might also save the EU

Angela Merkel has just announced to re-run for the German Chancellorship in the upcoming Fall 2017 general election. If she wins she can prolong her reign, which started in 2005, a total of 16 years, the biggest in German history (tied only with Helmut Kohl 1982 – 1998, CDU). Over the years the reasoning by experts for her uncontested leadership, although with changing coalition partners, has varied but subsequently acclaimed she holds a high level of trust.

The last time the Social Democrats have ruled without conservative influence, along with the (back then more clearly) left-leaning Greens was under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder. A more or less true workers’ child, who made his way up to the highest office, despite the fact he had a troubled childhood and later had to overcome struggles with other great figures within the party.

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He was the one who introduced the now infamous ‘Agenda 2010’, which some experts claim has been the recipe for Germany to overcome to be the ‘Sick man of Europe’. This reform programme allegedly gave the economy that robust outlook and comprehensive steadfastness to manoeuvre it through the 2008 financial crisis and come out of it as the least affected and even clearer exports primus of the EU.
Well, critics and public opinion alike see the measures with great disdain and true reason for the lack of trust in the SPD as the workers minded political party anymore. The Agenda which eventually cost Schröder the chancellorship consisted mostly of weakening labour laws, especially the wide-scale possibility to temporary employment and upscaling applicable restrictions on social benefits. For some, it is remembered as a wide deregulation effort of the financial and economic market, quite ironically done by a socialist-left government.

The Greens, back then in their very last government participation on a national level so far, are also remembered much as a party bending their principals to fit the rules of governing. Especially the first term starting 1998 was overshadowed of dragging the pacifist principled Greens into the Kosovo War. The self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlook crumbled only further over time. At the very least has the environmental pioneer efforts set in and the ‘Energiewende’ toward renewables is still on its way. While also at this point, as for many other policy ideas, it needs to be clarified that Merkel managed to capture the credit. Additionally, the unique characteristic of environmental awareness and the keen engagement for it has ceased to be ascribed extraordinarily to them, in an on that matter enlightened Germany.

Brave New Situation

The huge trust set into Merkel by the German people has diminished over the years, and in the wake of the ‘refugee crisis’ intermittently collapsed. First being elected in 2005, winning by only a small margin of about 1% (National Election Result: Union 35,2%, SPD 34,2%), her popularity has been, after an initial steep rise, remarkable stable. Reaching an approval of 80% in January 2006, Merkel since had long time spans (April 2007 – October 2009; April 2012 – March 2015) where around 70% of Germans held very favourable views of her.  Unexcited, slick and sober were adjectives often used to describe her personality, which gained a high affirmation across the political spectrum. Especially more traditional or conservative leaning supporters of the SPD and the Greens do not harbour dismissal. Additionally, to push for and implement ideas drawn from various political ideologies, gained her quiet acclamation from many. To cherry-pick one’s favoured policies she implemented can become quite a popular sport as one can choose from the ‘deactivation of nuclear power plants’ over the ‘realisation of the minimum-wage’ to the enhanced ‘stay-at-home parenting credit’. In review, voters seemed to have been susceptible to depicting her as one of the few or even the only sane, thoughtful and sovereign politician among many troublemakers. Therefore, it can be explained how willingly the term ‘Mutti’ (Mummy) framed by the Media became widely accepted. A satisfaction with an uncontested hegemon, manoeuvring above party politics, had set in.

This changed dramatically as in August 2015 Merkel’s approval rating dropped to 50% and stayed there since. In November 2016 Merkel has an approval rating of 52%; she is even trailing to Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU, 64% positive rating). The reasons for this can be found in close connection with the refugee crisis. It became the valve for many right-conservative leading figures and senior politician to publicly and harshly criticise her judgement. Infamous groups like PEGIDA and the right-wing party AfD (Alternative for Germany) had been founded earlier and in the latter case even with different aims but started now to became the collecting tank for all those feeling ‘left out’ from the establishment politics. Their constant spread of uneasy feelings with (Muslim) migrants, the globalisation and general dismissal for politics became an epidemic. In that kind that actually the part of the population who formerly and unquestioned stand alongside Merkel became critics. It is worth mentioning that still the far majority of the German public still does not fall prey to the fear mongering of right-wing ideologies or actually see a general threat in migration, it seems more an unease with the insight that politicians seem to doesn’t care much about them. A general feeling of being treated as insignificant and having no voice in the political circles ‘up there’ might prevail these days.

German Politics Is Coalition Politics

Understanding the constraints that move German policy decisions, one needs to have a closer look into the unfolding party landscape. Which has become more colourful and diverse over the years as the German electoral law through a plurality voting system favours a variety of parties. Although newly founded endeavours are by nature small, they can comparably easy manage to compete successfully for seats. To form a coalition government, also on state, regional, local and city level has thus become the rule.

First of all, but by foreign observers often forgotten, is Merkel’s very own power base composed of a coalition. Although the conservative sister parties CDU and CSU (solely competing in Bavaria) have since its inception worked more or less smoothly and tight together as the ‘Christian Union’. Even though they are consisting by law only as a parliamentary party. But as they are always prearranged set to collaborate and in elections even campaign together, they can be viewed and rightfully perceived nationwide as one party. Therefore, Merkel’s party base shall be correctly named hereafter as ‘the Union’.

The FDP, historically been the ‘junior partner’ of the SPD, has since 1982 thoroughly shifted to become the Union’s most desired coalition party. Kingmaker is an often attached title to the liberals which showed frequently showed right-leaning sentiments. Especially their publicly often solely perceived focus on the cutback of taxes and emphasising on neoliberal paradigms has given them a one-dimensional outlook. Which has might contributed largely to their eviction from the national parliament, as in the 2013 national elections they, in the first time ever, did not manage to reach the 5%-threshold. With their meagre 4,8% result, they were heading for totally losing significance. However, with solid results on lower levels and thereby continuing participation in state governments they clung on to public attention. After major personal and minor policy reshuffling, they are now back on track reentering the Bundestag.

The SPD has often endured hardships through coalition politics. On the national level, they resorted regularly to the position of ‘Junior Partner’, in Governments with the conservative Union. Furthermore, the great play of coalition politics in German favoured small parties and therefore set fertile grounds for the establishment of new ones. These, in turn, have over the years all, or in any case more successful, produced upsprings on the left side of the political spectrum. Namely, the PDS (later The Left) formed in 1990 as an actual ramification of the former left wing within the social democrats.  Additionally, beginning in the 1980’s, and as an established political force by 1990 are the greens, who constantly attract left-leaning middle-income voters. Finally, the Pirate Party is worth mentioning, who reflected the desire for liberal and digital agenda aware policies, but has recently and on a national level not played a big role anymore.

The Greens, a programmatic party focusing on environment-related issues have become the favourite Partner of the SPD to form a coalition government. They are composed of a social liberal left and a conservative environmental right-leaning wing. Hence they attract voters from higher and high educational backgrounds, related to the significantly higher income and on the other hand bourgeois conservative traditionalists with a tinge for moral progressiveness.

The Left, the abandoned child of the social democrats, mostly through the social benefits cutback in the wake of the Agenda 2010, represents the most vigorous socialistic left force within the German political landscape. (Historically are also parts of the former SED party from East Germany/DDR in there, but they can be neglected these days.) They constantly claim the privilege to lead the opposition and therefore be the furious voice of the unrepresented. Sadly, for the Social Democrats they very often target them especially as they are viewed as traitors to left ideals by constantly compromising within Coalition-Governments. To achieve a governing left coalition, which this article argues consisting of SPD-The Greens-The Left (or commonly in Germany as Red-Red-Green by their party colours), the prodigal son needs to be reunited with the mother party. At the 2013 party congress in Leipzig the SPD declared that they are not anymore preclude to form a coalition with The Left, which had been the diction for 23 straight years before. The Left on their side of the aisle have also moved slightly towards the SPD and for example, unfastened their strict standpoint on ‘leaving NATO’.

The AfD (Alternative for Germany), is apparently the new Big Player in German party politics; as judged by polls they will gain around 10%. Very interesting is, as their (radical) right-wing appearance leads, they could first and foremost steal a significant amount of votes from the conservative Union. Fearmongering against Muslims and migrants in general, catalysing contempt for “establishment politicians”, spiced with blunt racist comments by their party leaders gives them the well-known look to be a populistic right-wing protest party. Well-known in Europe, but not so in Germany. At least with that popular support has since WW II no party arisen “right of the Union” and thus provoked a sincere shock. Statements by all self-proclaimed “democratic parties” have been given, to not form a governing coalition with the AfD, whatsoever. Having said that, the AfD still impacts hugely on the election of 2017. The percentage expected to be conquered by this party is very unpredictable, but in all scenarios it will be well above the 5% threshold. Their share of votes and certain entering of the Bundestag will shift the power balance away from the two big people’s party, SPD and Union, which will be sufficient to leave only a Grand Coalition (by the two named) or one consisting out of at least three partnering parties as feasible options to form a government (a novelty). Anyhow the ‘nation’s mood’, or more precisely one of conservative voters is hard to predict here. Is the frustration with Merkel, and in the case of non-Merkel voters towards their former establishment party choices, big enough to assign their vote to the AfD? A party clearly portraying even far-right sentiments. Which by historic awareness and shaming processes have been always a special trigger for the German population and reliable stopped voters from resorting to such parties. At least is such a huge percentage of the vote reserved for a far-right party unknown in

The statistical feasibility of a left-wing coalition is highly related to the reentering of the FDP into parliament. If the liberals climb above the 5% threshold, this will decide hugely the distribution of parliament seats and therefore the Parliament majority. If the Bundestag experience to bear six parties, it firstly will expand hugely in a number of representatives (due to overhang seats) and secondly will only provide a grand coalition with a clear majority to govern. Thus the turnout for the FDP is utterly the most important in the upcoming national election if one desires a left-wing coalition. In addition, the result of the FDP seems so far also the most unpredictable. The polls show them constantly lingering around 5%, so perfectly on the brink to be ‘In or Out’. Their vote share will be influenced more than others by the percentage of people who assign their vote to the AfD, to protest against Merkel, or are willing to hold onto the grand coalition, as they are merely an unpopular third right-leaning party.

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source is: FES Dr. Michael Broning, Head of International Policy Analysis http://www.fes.de/de/strategy-debates/

 

Momentum Shift – Time for a Left Coalition to Govern

Pundits, especially after the upsetting election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, are guessing if people in liberal western democracies are solely tired of establishment politics and their corruptible personal or if merely fake-news and filter bubbles enable populists to delude them. However, the more convincing analyses take the voter and her/his desires seriously, by eclipsing the actual populist policy proposals and try to detect the mechanism behind the unexpected decisions of a huge amount of the electorate. People are sick of neoliberalism, even though many voters are not aware of it. They feel left behind, not only due to globalisation and a perceived overarching focus on ‘minorities’, where that be true or not, but also they feel more detached from the decision-making process. Overall the voters are actually still listening and learning from the media. The news most prevalent content is, by nature of the ‘negativism in the media’ about catastrophes, cruelties and misconduct of the elite. People are fed up with the unfair distribution of wealth and their growing struggle to find happiness. Embodied in the neoliberal quest to increase one’s individual consumption, the voters actually want to have a bigger say, which they then actually rightly pursue in bluntly shaking up the system. Populist deems the most successful in catching in here, but the left wing needs to understand the underlying needs of the people and provide a viable alternative. The mistrust and anger need not only to be channelled, it needs mediation. The people expect explanations and an alternative. ‘There is no alternative’ politics shall be dead. Democracy is quite profoundly a system providing wide-ranging freedoms to debate policies. Populists aren’t engaged here, they as said above are channelling with outstanding ease the anger about the non-transparent policy process. To gain a chance at winning back votes and cumulate them on the left side, leftists need to address these issues and come up with a narrative which brings back hope to change the system. An Anti-Establishment message, therefore, shall not be frightening, on the contrary, it shall motivate to push for systematic change on the overwhelming prevalent neoliberalist narrative which actually governs Germany, thus the European Union, today. More concrete policy and campaign proposals will follow below.

Time to break the ‘Unwritten Rule’ – Again

At this very moment bear leftist parties, namely SPD 25,7%, The Left 8,6% and Greens 8,4% have the majority of seats in the Bundestag. However, Angela Merkel (CDU/CSU 41,5%) is heading the Coalition Government. This is due to the ‘unwritten rule’ which states that ‘the single biggest party or Election Winner shall form and lead the government’ and the SPD conceded.

1969 was the first time since the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany after WWII that the Social Democrats provided the Chancellor. Although the majority of the vote was held by the Union (CDU/CSU) 46,1% to SPD 42,7%, but the early-on in the campaign assigned coalition partner the FDP gained 5,8% and so tipped the election in Willy Brandt’s favour. Forth following has the SPD won the majority in the 1972 general election, which was actually the only time since it regained possession of it under the lead of Schröder in 1998 and 2002. However, successor to Brandt in the SPD Helmut Schmidt won the two following election also ‘just by a coalition majority’ and became Chancellor. So obviously the ‘unwritten rule’ of letting the ‘majority party’ form a government became merely a precedence in the Merkel era. Times in which the SPD is way to willingly to be put in place as ‘junior partner’.
In the last national election 2013, the left cumulative (consisting of SPD, The Left and The Greens) got the majority, anyhow there were additional obstacles to overcome to take over the chancellorship. The aspired SPD-The Greens Coalition proved to not gain a majority, while there has been on the opposite clear promises from the Social Democrats to not form a coalition with The Left. Above has been explained that this ‘consequent out ruling of a coalition’ has been overturned.  Also has an SPD-Left(-Green) coalition proofed successful on the state level, especially in the City of Berlin.

So what is majority wise already possible at the moment, shall be the clear objective for the proposed leftist alliance. Even if the SPD loses against Merkel’s CDU/CSU again in the Fall of 2017, a cumulative majority of the leftist alliance shall guide them to a victory.

Poll November 2016 – Forecast Fall 2017

The newest polls conducted by well-respected institutes give us a quite clear overview of the parties positioning, and what needs to change. The Union is at a historic low of 32% (anyhow some polls still see them around 34%), the SPD following its low-performing trend on 23% and the Greens quite high ranked with 13%. Nevertheless it must be stated plainly that the environmentalists are prone to over perform in polls, many institutes thus see them around 10%. Their vote share is often correlated with a high voter turnout. It seems obvious that a clear communicated ‘intention to form a coalition’ given by the Social Democrats has in 1998 and 2002 favoured their takeover of undecided votes. In this polling of The Left is weak with a mere 9%, anyhow other research institute rank them constant above 11% and regularly ahead of the Greens. The AfD is solid around 12%. The FDP, the historic kingmaker, has risen to 6% in optimistic and to exactly 5% in most polls, therefore they have the most unpredictable result.

A leftist majority coalition of SPD-The Left and Greens can only be achieved if the FDP does not make it above the threshold of 5% and hence does not enter the parliament. Additionally, shall it be sufficient if the Union gains such low figures and even the AfD such ‘high’ ones. Most importantly needs the SPD to gain about 24%, The Left 11% and the Greens 11,5%, thus there is much work needed to engage and convince voters and increase the total coalition votes by 3% to 4%, especially on the Social Democratic side. It is feasible, but still a lot in German politics, which are characterised by their numerous parties. However, the statistical biggest foe is the redundant FDP, which could get substantial backing from the CDU.

How to gain the votes – Personal

As Merkel has stepped forward and announced her bid for chancellery, the pressure is growing on those to come forward who want to keep up a fight for it. Emerged as a possible competitor has Martin Schulz, the then former EU Head of Parliament. He would represent a centralist candidate within the SPD. Opposition Candidates have a long way to popularity, especially against such a long-standing chancellor. An alternative would be party leader Sigmar Gabriel, who so far already backed down twice, to ‘let other candidates lose’ against Merkel. Schulz is a newbie to high-level national politics but is anyhow way more popular than Gabriel to German voters. Additionally, if he, even for the rather short period ongoing from February 2017 steps in as foreign minister, his popularity most likely will grow. This position produces since decades the highest approval rating of all government figures in the German public eye, to whoever had the honour to bear the Foreign Ministry.

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For Schulz, to back down at this election and letting Gabriel run and subsequently fail against Merkel for Chancellor, can be no viable prospect. The leeway to get by ‘not lose this time’ but although trying to earn some popularity among voters through being the foreign minister in a Merkel IV Government and subsequently run successfully for the chancellorship in 2021 is a farfetched bet. Personal politics are dynamic, especially German ones when a ‘non-Merkel’ Government around that time becomes a certainty. Schulz probably will face fierce competitors and or additionally the SPD will have developed no chance to govern whatsoever. Time has taught us: a coalition with the conservative is repetitive poisonous and destructive for the Socialists. Every coalition with the Union has pushed Social Democrats even further from a decisive electoral win. Compromising to govern has and will not any further convince the people of the Socialist’s will to reform the system. Of course Schulz needs to be aware that legitimate EU critic will be addressed directly to his persona and can become a crucial aspect of the whole campaign. He seems therefore cautious to not jump the start and is waiting for a solid approval among the German public to announce his bid for chancellorship.

 

Cem Özdemir would be a conservative Green leader choice, although a very popular one. The greens primaries will decide finally in January. However, judging by his popularity the Author is quite convinced that he will be the chosen one. As the greens head their party always by a female-male duo, it is necessary to mention that Katrin Göring-Eckhardt, uncontested in the primary thou, will lead alongside him. Özdemir, the very first elected parliamentarian with parents of Turkish descent, is an outspoken Erdogan critic. He has initiated an official recognition by the Bundestag of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, committed by the Ottoman Empire and since then negated by the Turkish State. Further, he has already often been cited condemning Erdogan’s misconduct regarding press freedom and human rights. With a wink, he could be marketed as a self-declared anti-Erdogan. He is likely to become foreign minister in the proposed constellation and therefore this will be a hot topic during the campaign. A coalition with the Union is an attractive option for roughly around half of Green voters due to Merkel’s popularity, therefore the leadership needs to find a way to make a statement against a coalition with the Union without outcast large numbers of people. An option might be to focus on the Bavarian radical-conservative sister party CSU and their outstanding populistic leader Seehofer. By taking this approach a clear separation from the Union and their policies without generating a setback among green-minded voters could be achieved.

Katja Kipping, in the moment party leader of The Left, would be a desirable choice to become campaign leader and subsequently in a governing coalition Head of the Ministry of Finance. She would be the moderate choice over Sahra Wagenknecht who is far more radical left. Her constituency and personal origin is Dresden in East Germany, therefore she could achieve a reconciliation with voters from this realm. The grow of the AfD and subsequently the articulation of disdain for the established parties originated there and bears the stronghold of protest voters.

Obviously, all three leading figures represent a more conservative and centrist than radical wing and positioning within their party. Exactly that shall be the proposed strategy here, to convince the electorate to assign their voice to a reformist leftist project. Contradictory only on first sight, subsequently this reflects the sentiments of the German people, who would like to have leaders to identify and parties that held them accountable. Or to explain further, it seems that the countryside electorate ‘wishes to be heard’ and see some quite conservative and patriotic, also even, populistic campaign slogans. In the meantime, are the middle-income and cosmopolitan voters of urban areas already left-leaning in general. A balance need to be struck.

Early on in the campaign all three future coalition parties shall show their desire to reform the country’s system of unfair wealth distribution and to achieve this collaboratively. Opinion research constantly portrays a favour of ‘smooth collaboration’ over ‘fierce fighting’ by the electorate regarding inter-party collaboration in a government. An even direct declaration of the will to form a leftist coalition to get rid of Merkel and conservative stagnation politics and reenergize progressive policies would work tremendously, but will most likely stay a dream. A caring attitude towards people who ‘feel left behind’ and who struggle in the neoliberal consumerist culture in a search for identity, is what all party need to show to provide an alternative to populist forces.

A quite unique proposal on how to “show people ‘what they could get’ if they trust their vote to a Red-Red-Green Coalition’ came from Oskar Lafontaine (former SPD finance minister and reemerged as party leader of The Left, nowadays only active on the state level). He proposed in an Interview early 2016, that the named might already begin in Summer 2017 and then all the way up to the election in Fall to collaborate on a handful of common ideas. This would mean to literally act as ‘Government within the parliament’ by passing several laws. As noticed earlier they already holding a combined majority in seats and thus only the SPD would need to break its ‘coalition promise to the Union’. Lafontaine believes that would be a bearable loss only three months before the election and would in the contrary send a clear signal to voters, that the SPD is willing to govern. There seems not much to lose, already are 55% of SPD affiliates unsatisfied with the government, wherein the SPD is a part.[1]

The Good, the Green and the Left – Policy

If one dives into the policy proposals already made in the past and new ones declared to pursue, we can actually find quite a lot of similarities and overlaps. To find common ground within a coalition government will be therefore no problem, this shall be communicated within and publicly by the campaigns.

First and foremost, especially for the SPD, as a people’s party, it is important to address the vast majority of the electorate. This is represented by low and middle-income voters who show some desire to get an emotional attachment in the communication. The SPD should focus on domestic policy, while obviously several foreign policy issues have a direct impact, also so in the perception of the electorate, on home.

The implementation of the minimum wage has brought the SPD appraisal. The Left is by now proposing an increase from the current 8,50€ up to 12€. Even though the law provides already for a mechanism to increase it, on suggestion by an independent commission, the SPD shall back up a lifting up to 10€. Higher manufacturing costs in Germany, are also a crucial aspect on increasing EU-wide growth. The German economy is resilient at the moment, while south European countries definitely are in need for comparative advantages. As a domestic policy, this has to be popular, around 25% of German workers are earning only around 1100€, the often called ‘new precariat’ as that income cannot provide for an adequate lifestyle in Germany anymore.

Additionally, is a vital policy proposal to win the election, a guaranteed minimum pension of 1000€. The feeling of neglect has come along often with the direct demand to ‘do more for Germans’. Although this argumentation is to decisive refuse, it is important to strengthen the pension system. It is justifiably unfair that a citizen who worked for more than 40 years is receiving a meagre reward of less than a thousand euros, in a comparably very rich country. The Left and Greens shall be willing to work along on this. Furthermore, it can be seen as a very first step on their possible long-time goal of an unconditional basic income.

The Greens just resolved on their last party meeting to fight for the introduction of a capital tax. The SPD could easily swing in. The left wing within the party is likely to promote such efforts and thankfully show unity on the campaign trail. Arguably laws regarding a tax on capital are redefining equity, but thus are great to revive the dialogue on wealth redistribution. Social mobility is at an among developed countries prominent low in Germany.

The ‚Bürgerversicherung‘, an all citizens’ health insurance scheme, instead of the current system divided into private and statutory health insurance, has been previously discussed among the Greens and SPD but lacked a parliamentary majority. The prospect to end the two-tier health care system can be a convincing message to the electorate. The Left, Greens and SPD all have earlier proposed models.

The last policy directly portraying the ‘rediscovered caring’ for ordinary people and not a diffuse elite, shall effect top manager earnings. A threshold on them, also on bonuses, has been discussed several times in leftist politics in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Twenty times the income of a regular worker is most likely an attractive compromise. The financial crisis and the subsequent preserving of the bankruptcy of German banks through taxpayer money is a very legitimate reasoning.

Trump’s America is not likely to gain more affection and also change tremendously the playground for transatlantic cooperation. This gives the SPD the unique chance to finally take a fierce standpoint against TTIP and CETA, as the Left and Greens for a long-time do. Party leader Gabriel has sooner declared ‘TTIP to be dead’, but shifted later his position. Schulz as candidate and reincarnation of the EU will have a hard time to repeat any similar statement, but can easily point fingers on Trump to not let it materialise anyway. As of now, 70% of Germans say they “approve that CETA was blocked (temporarily) by Wallonia and therefore the doubts of the citizens have been heard”.[2] Clearly, the parole must be: ‘Don’t be part of a new proposal until the election is over’.

Infrastructure Investment is a solid point, where common understanding along the leftist parties is no doubt. An attractive framing of these complex and dry topic needs to be achieved in the campaign. Long-time opposition to an ‘Autobahn toll’ passed by the Union and subsequently failed in front of the EU High Court can easily be recited here. The state investment plan laid out by the DIW Berlin can be considered an important start. Subsequently, government expenditure benefits the Euro Zone.

The hearing of Edward Snowden in front of the parliamentary investigation committee regarding the ‘NSA-scandal’, has recently been declared lawful by the German High Court. This shall be utilised and considered seriously as a popular possibility to pursue. It’s a legitimate standpoint on this domestic battleground to gain the confidence of the voters. Several people see it as necessary, while more conservative leaning voters might perceive it as a matter of national integrity.

A cut back on arms export is a popular proposal and necessary to strike an alliance with the Left and Greens. Higher investments and efforts in civil peacekeeping operations might come along.

All in all, the SPD needs to move decisively to the Left and paint a clear vision of the future to expect from a Red-Red-Green Coalition. A Government that cares again about its people, especially the middle and low-income majority not only the well-established elite. A Social Democratic leadership to trust your vote to, to achieve a more equal and fair economy. The Greens need to position themselves as social liberal, not neoliberal, to attract ongoing people from a quite conservative and financially established background. The big goal is to outdo the FDP and diminish their renewed rise to limited popularity. The Left nonetheless needs to show a clear ability and will to govern on national level and has to illustrate reliability as a future coalition partner.

Save Europe – Stop Austerity Politics

Merkel’s conservatives have ruled Europe for a long time and been aggressively and justifiable been criticised for their austerity politics. Anyhow France is set to elect Francois Fillon as a right-wing conservative, while Britain tries under a somehow even stronger Tory leadership leave the EU altogether.

As explained here there are chances Germany can be set up to turn Socialist again and finally pursue policies so desperately needed to sustain a Europe of thoughtfulness and reciprocal assistance. However, Europe can only get together and work as one if the feeling of a ‘fair financial redistribution’ prevails among its citizen. To achieve this Germany needs to reallocate its overwhelming gain out of the Euro System. By doing so, the left will be able to stop the nationalistic sentiments and reverse their growth. Endorse a solidary union, not the miserable further promotion of the nation-state idea. The proposed policies on enhanced government spending on infrastructure, pensions and the structural refinement of the German social system by an increased minimum wage will benefit the Euro Zone. Increased productions costs in Germany will ramp up other EU countries possibilities to export and get on track for a prosperous sustainable growth.

Sebastian Stölting is a student at Dresden University of Technology and Cairo University. He pursues a B.A. in political science and communication studies. Besides his research focus on Security Politics he is a close follower of German and EU Politics. He attended the 2016 edition of the School of Democracy.

[1] http://www.infratest-dimap.de/umfragen-analysen/bundesweit/ard-deutschlandtrend/2016/november/

[2] http://www.infratest-dimap.de/umfragen-analysen/bundesweit/ard-deutschlandtrend/2016/november/

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One thought on “How to beat Merkel – and while doing so Socialists might also save the EU

  1. I had the opportunity to directly speak with the author. It is an amazing article. Some people might find it a bit long, but if you want to know what the upcoming elections in Germany are about, this is the article to read. Even a must-read I would like to say.

    However, I have two important comments I would like to make.

    1) I think you leave out one major issue, at the end you mention that the re-invention of the left parties can prevent a focus on the nation-state, however identity is important for many people. Now many people associate themselves according to their Culture or Nation. In the old days it was about Class for example.

    For that reason you have to give the voters an alternative if you don’t want to have it about the nation-state, don’t forget that many people were typical labourers a few decades ago, that identity made them connect with leftwing politics as well, simply proposing a few nice ideas would not be sufficient to bind people on the long term.

    Our economies have changed, our societies have changed, we live in a very individualized period and many people feel that their identity is under pressure. Refugees and other migration streams strengthen this sentiment. If the leftwing parties want to address this issue, want to make it about different topics, you have to present people an identity they can relate to.

    2) My second point would be thinking about the following statement you make:

    “All in all, the SPD needs to move decisively to the Left and paint a clear vision of the future to expect from a Red-Red-Green Coalition. A Government that cares again about its people, especially the middle and low-income majority not only the well-established elite. A Social Democratic leadership to trust your vote to, to achieve a more equal and fair economy.”

    Many solutions you offer are short-term focused on how to win the next elections, how to form a successful leftwing government people can trust to vote upon, but, as also addressed under point 1 there is more, the socialdemocrats for example (as you acknowledge) need to reinvent themselves, who are they and what do they want, how can people connect to them besides that they can gain from certain policies, I do miss that long term solution a bit despite the fact that you say such a strategy is necessary.

    —–

    In short, an amazing article, and it leaves room for discussion.

    Like

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