Friday, September 21, 2018

If There Were Another National Election Required?

There is continual chatter now that the SPD Party might quit the coalition and it'd likely force a new German national election.  My belief is that the SPD folks would be 'crazy' quit the coalition, and I only give this a 10-percent chance of occurring because of this current mess. 

However, the question is....would the AfD do some things to pursue more votes and make this potential election a bigger risk for the CDU, the SPD, the Greens, and the Linke Party?

So, my observation in this scenario is this:

1.  The AfD is mostly supposed to represent the 'alternate' side of things.....so I would suggest they go after more votes.

2.  Group number one, Hartz IV (welfare) folks.  Yes, I'd go out and say the current numbers being used.....is unfair and everyone on welfare should get a 17-percent increase (it'll freak out the SPD folks greatly).  How to arrive at 17-percent?  Just a wild number.  They would easily get another 1.5-million votes nationally, in my humble opinion.

3.  Group number two, I'd make a blunt decision to take down half of public TV and decrease the TV tax by 35-percent.  You can go across Germany today, with the age group of 18 to 30, and find five million Germans angry and frustrated about the TV tax.  I suspect you could easily get another 2.5 million extra votes. 

Presently, the AfD (without much advertising and promises) can probably get 17.5 percent of the national vote.  With my two groups that I'd go after?  You can slap another six-percent on this and come very near 24-to-25 percent of the national vote.  It's not enough to win, but it would make this a fairly interesting election and force some kind of reform out of all the parties. 

The Housing Summit

Over the next couple of days in Germany, there's going to be a housing summit where the political parties huddle and discuss ways to solve the housing crisis.

What's really going on to trigger the crisis?  There are basically three major issues:

1.  The experts now say that the nation is missing one-million residences (affordable residences is more of the key term).  Most of the experts will point at the ten major cities of Germany and claim those make up almost of the missing affordable residences.  So you can call this an urban problem.

2.  Escalation of rental prices is central to this whole discussion.  Some people believe an absolute 'brake' of some type needs to be applied, but private apartment building owners would go ballistic if the government got heavily into this and forced rules to be applied.

3.  Construction of new affordable residences?  As you go into each major urban city.....the planning teams are standing there and having to play 'ball' with property owners who are in the speculation business.  If you look for banks who want to finance affordable residence....it's not something that you see a big return on investment.

So the value of this summit?  Some folks suggest it's just for images and dialog.  Some folks will suggest that the government will have to go out and fund with tax-money....a construction project of a huge magnitude (maybe agreeing to build all one-million apartments), but I doubt that agreements can come out of this summit. 

The general public?  If you live in a major urban zone....you know it's a big mess, and something needs to be done.  The folks who live in the other 90-percent of Germany?  It's just not noticeable. 

Political 'Drama' Unfolding

What's been said by various news outlets in Germany is that a major meeting with the leadership of the SPD Party and the Executive Committee of the party....to discuss the party boss (Nahles), the situation with Maassen, and if the coalition should be dismantled....will occur early next week.

To lay out the facts here: (1) Maassen was expected to be fired as head of internal security of Germany because he refused to cooperate on going after perceived right-wing figures in Chemnitz.....but he was instead promoted to chief of staff to Seehofer (the Interior Minister).  (2) Nahles had a stake in this mess, and people think she should have demanded his firing and when that failed....the coalition should have been dissolved.  (3) A lot of this drama is tied to the two state elections to be held within the next thirty days (Hessen and Bavaria).

Adding to this fury, if the SPD dissolved the coalition?  Well....Chancellor Merkel would probably have to call for a new and fresh election (figure the end of November).  I looked over this morning at a poll that the Focus new people did and it brings some insight to the bigger mess.

Right now, the CDU/CSU is figured to only have around 27.5 percent of the national vote (a big drop from September 2017's election).  The SPD?  Also in trouble, at 16.5 percent.

The Afd Party (the anti-immigration group) sitting at 17 percent.  The Greens have moved up to around 14.5 percent.  The Linke Party at 11 percent, and the FDP at 10 percent.

If we went to an election and these results were actual voting pattern?  It's hard to imagine how the CDU/CSU folks would be able to form any government (they can't touch the AfD folks or the Linke Party).  The SPD will refuse to participate in another coalition.  So you are left with the Greens and FDP situation.  Back in Nov/Dec of 2017.....those two groups tried to partner up with the Merkel crowd and got nowhere.  I don't think things have improved. 

So if the CDU/CSU folks failed in their attempt to form a coalition after a forced election....what happens?  The President of Germany has the option of asking the second-place or third-place winner to form a government, so you examine that scenario.

The AfD as the number two winner?  Zero potential to put a coalition together.

The SPD as the number three winner?  There would NOT be enough votes to partner with the Linke Party and Greens....however, if they could convince the FDP to join.....they'd have 50-plus percent of the vote.  The odds of the FDP agreeing in this coalition?  I give less than a 10-percent chance. On top of that.....four parties to form a government?  That would be a stressful mess for people to handle.

So another election by spring of 2019?  Yeah, that could be the result.

This meeting next week for the SPD leadership is a big deal and it could mean the end of Nahles and her leadership over the party.  It could mean the end of the coalition.  But basically, it's just a big drama to have an affect on the Hessen and Bavarian state elections. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Talking over the Brandenburg Polls

A year from now....in the eastern side of Germany, there's a state election.  Brandenburg will hold their state election in September of 2019.

Polling?  Well....the Focus folks brought this up today  Back in the spring, the SPD was a point or two in the lead.  Presently:

The SPD and AfD Parties are tied.....23-percent each.

The CDU...sitting at 21-percent.

The Greens....at 7-percent.

The Linke Party....at 17-percent.

The FDP....at 5-percent.

Where this is leading over the next twelve months?  Well...it would make for a major deal if the AfD pulled slightly ahead and won this (if by half-a-point).  Course, there is zero chance of a coalition under the AfD, and the SPD would later get the nod to form a government. 

Does the SPD have a problem?  For a decade now, some Germans have suggested that the CDU has more or less made itself into a Frankenstein-type creation....being a CDU-SPD creation, and the SPD themselves can't define themselves in this political arena.  Virtually everything that the SPD supports....the Greens support and the CDU to some degree support.  The idea of being for the common working guy?  That was the image of the 1960s and 1970s SPD Party, which is long gone today. 

Germany: How a Forced National Election Would Occur

For the benefit of non-Germans, I'll explain how you reach a unplanned national election and implications.  Please note, I seriously doubt that the SPD Party would be this 'crazy' and pursue this type of national strategy.

German elections are set to a normal four-year cycle, but the particular day is not absolute.  In general, elections will never occur in December because of the Christmas season, and it's set to always be a Sunday. 

The government depends upon a coalition situation where two or more parties combine to form 50-plus percent of the Bundestag.  To reach the coalition stage, the number one party will select potential parties (doesn't have to be the number two party) form a group.  They will sit down and discuss the cabinet posts, the national strategy and script how things will be handled during this crisis or this long-process.

An example here would be the discussion over perceived lack of security.  You and the other party sit down and opt for three things: (1) more cops, (2) more prosecutors, and (3) some major cyber security deal. The two parties claim credit and the public is happy.

When a coaltion fails, you can go to an attempt to form a coalition with another group (which in this case is unlikely), or you go to a minority government (several in Europe have done this and most survived in a marginal environment), or you opt for an election in two to three months. 

Presently?  The SPD Party is at the lowest point since the end of WW II.  The AfD Party is near 17-percent, and the Greens rising a point about every two to three months.  It would be a serious mistake to think that the SPD could reverse this trend and get 20 to 30 percent of the vote. 

The odds of a new election achieving nothing for the formation of a new government?  Well, it's best not to suggest this to a German. 

Not having Merkel in the mix?  Some people would suggest that it might help the CDU to have fresh faces and a new prospective.  Some people would ask how the immigration policy or strategy changes?  Some would question the way head for the SPD Party and if it is a faulty strategy.  You can say nothing much over how the non-Merkel election would go. 

Are Germans locked into a frustrated view of Berlin?  Well....now that you ask it that way...yes.  Most working-class Germans see Berlin as some type of opera, without any fat-women, singing barbers, or knights in shining armor.  Things don't get fixed....they get minimized and made into new fresh problems.  The news media that carries this 'pail of water' probably have used up all of their 'silver bullets' and the public doesn't have the trust that they had from a decade or two ago.

The odds of a fresh new election?  I put it at 10-percent at best.  But it got brought up several times last night as 'experts' kept saying that the SPD could quit. 

The License to Critique and Criticise

About once a year, I'll have someone 'find' my essays/blog and want to let me know that they are disappointed that an American would go and criticize anything in Germany, German people, and that I am the 'bad' American.  It's split 50-50....Americans and Germans who fall into this tolerance-lesson that will be used against me.

The problem these people usually have....is that they absolutely refuse to view the landscape and grasp that Germans (NOT all Germans, but a fair number of journalists, politicians, and intellectuals) have picked up their license to critique Brits, Poles, Greeks, Russians, Americans, Dutch, etc.  So you sit there on a daily basis...observing the criticisms, and eventually you reach the point of realizing the tolerance/intolerance situation (or lack of it).

The 'bad' American act?  It's used to usually push people back a step or two and make them feel guilty.   The quickest way to rectify the situation....is to ask them how tolerant they really are?  Their mere act of intolerance....puts them into a difficult situation.  They will stand and defend intolerance, which makes them look even worse.

So I have that license to critique and criticize.  To be honest, it's not much of a license.  About ninety percent of Germans you come across....particularly working-class Germans....aren't all hyped up or falling over themselves to be openly critical of other cultures or countries.  They've got more important things to worry about.

Criticizing roads or bridges?  Most Germans will lay out a dozen harsh criticisms over the handling of road repairs or the construction of bridges. 

Criticizing government bureaucracy?  Most Germans will have thirty-odd stories to tell over their local or state government.

Criticizing laws?  Everyone has a favorite list of laws or procedures which are designed for failure or to frustrate the general public.

Criticizing the daily news?  Folks will pull out their Bild or local paper, and go into a chat-session over how this story got told out of context or that scandal is bigger than what the news talks about.

So pardon me, if I've angered you by making some wit or criticism over your German associates or some wonderful fairy-tale story.  But as you get into your 'flame' session....ask yourself....are you tolerant or intolerant?  Think about it for minute. 

The Bog Fire Story

It's a page-three type story which has now risen in Germany to page one.  Up in northern Germany, near Meppen....there's a fire which erupted in a Germany Army training area.  Cause?  Some missile was fired and it ignited a 'moor' area (a bog).  So this swampy bog has been smoldering and burning for two days now.  Size?  Well....the news folks say roughly 2,000 acres.

If you follow the story via the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.... the peat-area is somewhat controlled but a fair number of questions are coming up, and folks are wondering why'd you go and test missiles in such an area.  My general guess is that the rocket went off course for a mile or two.

Adding to this story....it's been a long dry summer and just everyone in Germany now worries about forest fires.

Firemen still at work?  That's the curious thing about a peat-type fire....this could linger around for days or weeks, unless you had a good rain for an entire day.

The environmentalists?  Well....they are working overtime to weave this story....talk about the released carbon and the terrible woes of our forests. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

On Public TV

There was this short piece I noted off Focus News magazine this morning....which featured an interview with Helmut Thoma (the Austrian guy who made RTL....Germany's commercial TV network out of thin air).

Helmut is retired today and keenly watches over the TV landscape of Germany.

So they asked him about public TV (ARD and ZDF), and his response was "monopolized to an extent", and then suggesting that the ZDF/ARD crews are there to practice some type of "care for the elderly".

Yes, he is suggesting that the younger audiences are being pushed to the side.

My son (100-percent German, age 27) will proudly stand and admit he hasn't watch one single minute of public TV in 12 years.  He pays the TV tax because he has to....but he and the others in his age bracket have zero interest in what public TV is producing.

The political folks over the past five years have given hints to ARD (the manager of the public TV system) that they need to regain this youth audience or face some harsh reality in the decade ahead (where the TV tax might be national topic to dissolve).  Some steps have been taken but I think it's basically too late. 

My criticisms over the public TV in Germany could be woven into a 300-page book.  I see them as attempting to be the 'all-in-one' type package for the public and generally failing.  The scripts picked for TV movie production?  I would suggest near a hundred scripts are chosen each year and funded, with half of them being a fairly lame or marginalized story to be told....mostly aimed at the audience of 50-years or older crowd. 

The private TV folks?  I think they have an open plain, and will continue to acquire more viewers.