Saturday 26 September 2009

Parliamentary elections in Portugal and Germany

National elections in EU member states concern the lives of citizens not only in the respective countries but in all countries of the Union.

Through the policy-making power of the EU Council and the guiding weight of the European Council, governments influence the European political agenda as well as the outcome of negotiations on the European level, possibly even including the level of the working groups in which administrators and diplomats prepare and discuss future legislation.

So tomorrow, the parliamentary elections in Germany and Portugal might or might not change the lives of European citizens. In both countries, the polls predict a win by the leading governing party, but the way they can govern is unsure:

In Portugal, the latest poll foresee that the Socialists will remain the strongest power, although they won't be able to hold the absolute majority and might be forced into a minority or coalition government.

Since I am no expert in Portuguese politics, let me focus on the German case:

In Germany, Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) will very likely win the elections (see the latest opinion polls) while the unwished present coalition partner, the Social Democrats with their candidate foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, might receive the worst result in the history of the Federal Republic.

The question will be whether Merkel's CDU (together with its Bavarian sister party CSU) will have a majority together with Guido Westerwelle's Liberals (FDP) - the polls are very tight - to form a coalition of the economic right led by Merkel or whether Merkel will have to continue with the Social Democrats.

The two other parties likely to enter into the Bundestag, the Left Party (DIE LINKE) and the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) don't seem to have a power option because all likely (triple) coalitions that include them have either been categorically ruled out by the other three parties or by the two themselves.

The most likely result of tomorrow will thus be that Angela Merkel remains the Chancellor of Germany, not matter what the election result.

However, a renewed but shrunk Grand Coalition (Christan Democrats and Social Democrats) will be less stable than it was in the previous term, risking not to hold for another four years.

A "Tiger Duck Coalition" (term created during this campaign because the two colours of the tiger duck represent the Christian Democrats and the Liberals) in return will mean a shift in policies towards the economic right, but it will also create a stronger opposition of the then concentrated left and centre-left that might slow down German decision making in crucial policy areas, especially through the counter-balance of the second chamber, the Bundesrat, in which the federal states co-legislate and in which the CDU/FDP coalition would only have a tight majority that might change after regional elections in one or another major federal state (two minor federal states - Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein - are voting tomorrow, too).

Both scenarios would influence the German government's ability to act - in substance or speed - on the European level in the next 2-4 years, not least because of the strengthened position of the legislative branch after the Lisbon Treaty ruling of the Constitutional Court and the subsequent adaptation of the by-laws regulating the involvement of the two legislative chambers, Bundestag and Bundesrat.

The only small surprise factor in tomorrow's result might be the Pirate Party, probably the first party movement boosted by European dynamics (especially in Sweden), that could gain a visible part of the (extended) youth vote. The party running mainly on new technology, file sharing, and data protection issues was able to create considerable attention during the early stages of the campaign but wasn't able to keep up the pace of the traditional media (although the overall campaign was extremely boring and low key, not too far away from the European Parliament election campaigning). So I expect that they will reach the 2-3 percent tomorrow, not crossing the electoral threshold of five percent.

I myself won't be able to report during the day tomorrow because I'll be working in a polling station, but for anyone who wants to get a glimpse at the debates and who is able to speak German, I recommend following the #btw09 hashtag (short for: "Bundestagswahl 2009") on Twitter.

I'll then try to give a summary when I return late in the evening on Sunday, or at least to link the most interesting reports of others.

Read also on the topic: A Fistful of Euros.


Macarena Rodriguez said...

I have just been attracted for the first sentence of this post and I fully agree, by the way. National Elections concerning all european countries so thank you for covering news on German elections. I will try to do the same with Portuguese elections. So far, polls foreseen socialist as winners however during European elections polls showed a clear victory of socialist and in the end, conservatives won. We will see tomorrow.

Oscarcio said...

Congratulations for you post! As Macarena wrote before I totally agree with your first statement. I just want to give a really clear example: Opel situation (new owners, factories in Europe with an unclear future...) another example but this time about Portugal could be the high-speed train connection between Vigo (city in the northwest of Spain) and Porto (Portugal) if the conservaties won the elections...

Thanks as well for the Twitter recomendation for tomorrow evening! I can`t wait for the results

Eurosocialiste said...

Thanks for giving us an insight into German politics. I don't speak German so it's great to be able to read a citizen's analysis in English.
Isn't it a little despairing to see that altough the world's situation -and Germany's- has changed dramatically, the results of the election will most probably ensure things just remain the same, with yet another grand coalition? You're right, these German elections ressemble the European elections. Much ado about nothing. We'll just keep on with business as usual. No wonder fewer and fewer people vote.

Eva Peña said...

A big coalition doesn't sound that good in terms of democracy, it gives the impression there is no real choice, no real alternation in power. Don't you think so?
Good luck tomorrow and can't wait to read your coverage...