Ed Philp here once more, filling in for Andrew Hammel on vacation. Thanks Andrew!
It is now just under three weeks until the federal elections in Germany. As of writing, it still looks as though Angela Merkel’s CDU party will cruise to a slight victory, feeding more off a desire for a change of face at the bridge than a solid platform appealing to the majority of the electorate. In spite of the intervention of both George Bush and God (the Iran issue and floods in Bavaria), this election campaign has shaped up to be the most non-carbonated soy-based beverage offered to the German electorate since – I don’t know – perhaps Wilhelm II? The only political actor who has injected any fire into the debates so far has been the German Jack-in-the-Box Gregor Gysi, who can work himself into an absolute froth in front of any podium or camera. Actually, at the entire party convention of the Lefties (die Linke), the only figure of any interest was Katja Kipping, a young, photogenic socialist candidate with bright red dyed hair. Katja rennt...
If you missed the past three weeks of politics in Germany, here is a recap:
- Stoiber insults East Germans by calling them frustrated „calves“.
- East German voters largely agree with Stoiber, leading to a further rise in CDU polling in several eastern provinces.
- Flooding takes place in Bavaria, prompting all German candidates to buy green waterproof jackets, just in case they have to fly down and sandbag Bavaria’s dikes.
- All parties decide that visiting a damp Bavaria is less important than pointing fingers at Stoiber and accusing him of failing to properly finance Bavaria’s dikes (Bavaria has dikes; financing Bavaria’s dykes would be so much more interesting, especially with beery Oktoberfest around the corner).
- Merkel selects Paul Kirchhof, a tax reformer with some ambitious plans, as the likely CDU Finance Minister and shifts political debate to Turkish entry to the EU.
- German voters, to whom neither tax reform nor the EU are of much interest right now, rediscover that a host of websites featuring dancing caricatures of Merkel, Schröder & Co., are still more fascinating than actual political debates themselves.
This election has not only been lacking in vigor; it has also been missing any color of any sort. The incumbent workers‘ party, the SPD has chosen beige, accented with a hint of red, as its primary color, a sure signal that industrial unrest and rest room decor in Germany is headed for a new period of bland compromise. The CDU, known in Germany as the „Blacks“, is running with apricot and peach tones of all things, visible on all of their posters as well as on Merkel’s jacket at virtually every political function. The Greens have stayed with – well – green, and the FDP continues its use of Subway-Sign yellow 136. And while the hair of Die Linke may be sponsored by Arcor, their posters look as though they were designed by class VI b of the School for the Differently Abled using a potato and some cheerful colors.
It is just a few days to go. Whatever the result, I want to see some fireworks, some energy and some real enthusiasm on the part of the parties for the chance to govern one of the world’s largest economies. I want to see „Vote or Die“ T-shirts on prominent celebrities, Rock den Stimmzettel concerts and drinks named after politicians (the "Lafontaine" - anything fizzy and expensive; the "Merkel" - a glass of Rottkäppchen with a 17% sales tax - any other suggestions?). Either that, or really good post-election parties to get myself invited to.
In one of my next posts, I’ll look at the tax reforms on the table a little more closely.