After an election, German politicians face journalists who ask hard questions, especially of the losers. No US politician would submit him- or herself to such tough interrogation on camera. None avoid the attacks or stupid questions, answering with intelligence and politeness. The campaign period might be short, but press scrutiny is intense and no one can duck the exposure, as US politicians do so well.
From my limited knowledge of German political history, I do not believe that any party has governed the country after the war without a coalition partner. Germans like coalition government, because that is their form of checks and balances. The feeling is that one party would get into too much mischief, without a partner to keep an eye on things and raise the alarm. They have learned from past mistakes, and now are able to make new ones.
German is like a giant oil tanker, difficult to turn in a short distance. Because of that, minor ripples--or even large waves--do not cause course changes in this country. Germans like status quo, which major parties deliver, even if the partners change.
The national election takes place in Germany today. Most expect Angela Merkel’s party to garner the most votes, but that will not be enough to win the election. Parties rarely win a majority, so a coalition government is the norm. Wrangling will begin before the final count is finished.
Angie is certain to become chancellor again, but her partner is in question. Whatever the outcome, I do not expect much change. I have lived through many elections and different forms of coalition, but have experienced little difference. Germans do not like change.
The best thing is that campaigning lasted only a few weeks and one could avoid most of the theatrics. Differences between the parties are marginal, so the messages are unconvincing. Seismic changes are unknown, despite the occasional flight of fancy by a minor party. Unlike in the US, there are many parties. Fortunately, few make it past the 5% hurdled needed to enter parliament. Life will return to routine tomorrow, not that the past days have not been routine.
Since started writing this worthless blog, the first national election in Germany is taking place. Some might not have noticed, because anyone blinking will miss the event and its run-up. And, if you blink, you will miss the advertising, because it is permitted only for four weeks prior to the election. On top of that, all parties must receive equal time in the media, for which they must not pay. That means that one sees as much television advertising for a party that will receive less than one percent of the vote as one sees for Angie’s party, which will receive around 40 percent.
All advertising is boring and poorly constructed. Some is downright bad. Slogans on posters, which are plastered along streets (again, only for four weeks) are naive and often completely stupid. I even saw one demanding the “end of fascism”, which caused to wonder if these hopeful politicians are living in the same country in which the election is taking place. Smiling faces of, mostly, unattractive politicians are a blight on the landscape. At least, we must look at these ugly faces for only a short time...unless they win the election.
Of course, this is a refreshing alternative to the US election farce, which the world must endure, it seems, with no end.
I noticed a humorous headline in our local newspaper (something still thriving in Germany, like bakeries, breweries, and farmers’ markets...and taxes):
“Anti-spying Agreement with the United States Planned”
This made me wonder if similar discussions are taking place with the Chinese, Russians, and other major industrial nations. Of course, national elections are coming up in September and surveillance is an issue with voters, so the ruling party surely wants people to believe that they are able to effect American behavior. And, we all know how stupid the average voter in any country is....
The nuclear catastrophe in Japan has re-ignited the debate in Germany about use of nuclear energy. The Green Party is having a field day.
During the dark days of socialist/green government, about ten years ago, they passed laws to drop this energy source in the future. Few could explain how to power the German industrial machine in a better manner, but rational argument rarely matters in politics. Once the conservatives regained power, they immediately reversed the decision.
Unfortunately for politicians, Nature has a way of entering the fray and not listening to politicians' "reasoning". After Fukishima, even the Conservative Party recognized the need react to the news and announced the premature closing of a few older nuclear reactors (which were already planned to be decommissioned). In politics, chemistry, and nuclear physics, every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. The government may have appeased voters, but failed to reckon with the energy companies: they sued, claiming that the decision to close the aging nuclear plants had "no legal basis".
I wonder if the tectonic plates had a "legal basis" for or sought a "legal opinion" before moving underneath Japan. I doubt it. Of course, lawyers somewhere are probably considering the case against Nature...while others will surely be willing to defend the earthquake and tsumani. Fees could be massive...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.