Relationships between Social Democrats and their electorate in Germany remind me of the families where husbands have a habit of occasional going on the spree. Every time, coming home from carousal, they apologize and pledge that it will never happen again, and get forgiveness. After a while the story repeats.
The same is about German Social Democrats. Gerhard Schroeder’s government while in power pursues tough right policy. The social state, which foundation had been laid back in Bismarck times, is systematically being demounted, with the rights of the working class being abolished. No other rightist government dares to follow the neo-liberal course as consistently and uncompromisingly as it is done by the social democrat Schroeder in Germany and his counterpart Blaire in England. Yet, when it comes to elections, Social Democrats all of a sudden pour loads of the leftist rhetoric on the heads of the perplexed electorate. People’s hearts melt, and their faith in the Chancellor comes back.
However, this state of affairs may not last forever. “Frau Germany” is a faithful, but strict lady. This time Schroeder appears qua the husband, though not thrown away in the streets, but forbidden to get in bed. In other words, he was allowed in the house no further then the threshold.
Christian Democrats and Social Democrats have gained an equal number of votes-35,2 and 34,3 percents respectively. Partially comforting for Angela Merkel and her conservatives might be the fact that their partners – Free Democrats (liberals) have got 9,8%, leaving the allied with Schroeder Green Party behind (they got 8,1%). This lay of the hand, however, won’t work to form a lasting coalition. The rightist block receives 225+61 mandates, while the leftist one – 222+51. The difference by 13 mandates is not enough to form a stable majority in the government.
The only party which looks like an indisputable winner is a Left Party. Its predecessor, the Party of Democratic Socialism could not make it to the Bundestag whereas the Left Party got 8,7% of votes, or 54 mandates. While all other parties, represented in the parliament, except for the Free Democrats, kept losing their voters, the number of the adherents of the Left Party has significantly increased (by 4,7%), which has left all country’s other political forces far behind. Yet, the success of the leftists is very relative. Not only did they fail to keep 10-12% of the electorate, which they had at the beginning of the campaign, they have also failed to become the first largest party in the Eastern Germany. What is even worse, the Left Party yielded to the Free Democrats, thus becoming only the fourth in the overall list.
The fact that the leftists could not gain control in the East, which has literally slipped from their hands, had caused more than just mere psychological damage. The party lost in the district about a dozen of the direct mandates, which have passed to the Social Democrats. However, it was not only the retrieval of their potential voters to Schroeder’s party, which caused the loss of the parliamentary seats by the leftist in the East, but also the last minute decision of the great number of potential voters of Christian Democrats to change their preferences and opt for the Social Democrats, which has also influenced the overall balance.
Malicious tongues say that the Left Party leadership is satisfied with this very result, as they were afraid to get an overly big, radical, uncontrolled fraction in Bundestag, and overly big political significance, which was to be followed by people’s great expectations and serious political responsibility. It is, in a sense, quite comfortable to be in opposition. At any rate, many have noted, that in their electoral campaign the Left Party lacked energy and sometimes even professionalism, which has never been typical for their predecessor PDS.
This way the Free Democrats may consider themselves to be the only “true” winners. This party however is so deficient in self-sufficiency that its success came unnoticed.
Journalists and political analysts argue about the future coalition pattern and suggest various options. Their perceptions range from the assumption of the collaboration of the Conservatives with Social Democrats to the speculation about “Jamaica coalition” – that is of conservatives, liberals and the “greens”. Each party has its color: the Christian Democrats (conservatives) are black, the Free Democrats (liberals) are yellow, and the Green Party’s color is obvious. Altogether they comprise Jamaica’s national flag.
Technically, the formation of the government is no big deal, as there is no any fundamental difference between the parties. Even professional analysts, while scrutinizing their Programs are able to detect only insignificant disagreement on the tax issues between the Social Democrats and the Conservatives. The only party which does have a Program, different (not fundamentally, though) from the other’s ones, is the Left Party. That is why its participation in any coalition is impossible.
The main challenge for a governmental coalition is the personal rivalry of parties’ leaders rather than political and ideological friction, which is actually absent. The Conservatives and the Social Democrats are able to cooperate perfectly well, whereas Schroeder and Merkel are not. They are like two bears, who can not get along in one lair.
Anyhow, whoever is to head the forthcoming coalition, the latter will still have to do with one fundamental problem, which means a lot more then all sorts of arithmetic layouts in the Bundestag. Whereas all the politicians stand for the neo-liberal course, the majority of the population – including those, who support conservatives – is reluctant to stick to this policy.
Unlike England and France, where modern polity and the beginnings of the nations can be traced back to the first bourgeois revolutions of the 17th – 18th centuries, Germany developed into a single nation-state in the process of industrialization. By the way, this is the reason why it managed to become a military superpower and a dangerous rival to the old empires. All the parts of its apparatus were intentionally constructed and adjusted one to another just like parts of a mechanism, rather than being shaped in the process of unguided historical evolution. Army, transport, education system were also all deliberately designed. The industrial culture has eventually become the major basis of the German identity.
Efficient industrial sector demands governmental regulation, investments into the “human capital”, and education. The European capital, however, doesn’t want to place its stakes on industrial development. It opts for finances, trade, international profiteering and strong Euro, which is good for bankers, but not for the Europeans, who keep complaining about high retail prices. To put it briefly, the policy which is currently being pursued contravenes not only the leftist ideology and wageworkers’ interests, but the entire German cultural and administrative tradition as well. This is why any government, which is going to be formed can be considered as knowingly doomed.
In such circumstances the Left Party, as the only political force, which stands against neo-liberalism, has good perspectives. The only question is, whether the politicians at the head of the Party will dare to take this advantage.