The jubilee and memorial year 2009 and the shadows of elections

The nation­al elec­tions on 27 Sep­tem­ber 2009 cast a shad­ow on pol­i­cy mak­ing and pub­lic debates in 2009. Chan­cel­lor Merkel will run again for the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDU/CSU) while For­eign Min­is­ter Stein­meier is the can­di­date of the Social Democ­rats (SPD) for the chan­cel­lor­ship. Stein­meier will pre­fer to lead a SPD/Green/FDP coali­tion as chances for a red-green major­i­ty are quite mea­gre. If the CDU/CSU/FDP, the so called bour­geois camp (bürg­er­lich­es Lager) will not gain a suf­fi­cient major­i­ty, a ‘grand coali­tion Merkel II’ with a how­ev­er weak­ened SPD is most like­ly. Nation­al elec­tions are pre­ced­ed by the elec­tion of the state pres­i­dent (23 May 2009). The sig­nif­i­cance is that the two par­ties of the grand coali­tion nom­i­nat­ed their own can­di­date so that the out­come will indi­cate the strength of the two oppos­ing camps (CDU/FDP ver­sus SPD/Greens/Left). More­over, 13 elec­tions at the region­al (Län­der) and local lev­el have been scheduled:

  • 18 Jan­u­ary: state par­lia­ment elec­tion in Hesse
  • 7 June: local elec­tions in Baden-Würt­tem­berg, Meck­len­burg-Vor­pom­mern, North Rhine-West­phalia, Rhineland-Palati­nate, Saar­land, Sax­ony-Anhalt (part­ly), Sax­ony (part­ly), Thuringia
  • 30 August: state par­lia­ment elec­tions in Saar­land, Sach­sen, Thuringia
  • 27 Sep­tem­ber: state par­lia­ment elec­tion in Brandenburg

2009 is a year full of his­toric dates to be remem­bered. Media have already start­ed to work through the long list:

  • 60 years Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Germany
  • 20 years fall of the Berlin Wall and hence
  • 20 years of (re-)unified Germany
  • 70 years onset of World War II

It will be inter­est­ing to note in how far the Euro­pean dimen­sion, e.g. in the case of 20 years of fall of the Berlin Wall will be reflect­ed. It will tell us a lot about the cur­rent state of mind and feel­ings of Ger­mans, who, accord­ing to a recent survey,[1] by a large major­i­ty con­sid­er post-war Ger­many over­all as a suc­cess sto­ry. How­ev­er, there are still notable dif­fer­ences in the per­cep­tions of West and East Ger­mans: Where­as 83 per­cent of West Ger­mans con­sid­er post-war Ger­many as a suc­cess sto­ry only 61 per­cent of East Ger­mans share that view. That does not mean, though, that East Ger­mans look par­tic­u­lar­ly favourable at the time of the com­mu­nist Ger­man Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic: Only 28 per­cent of them see the time of 1949–1989 as the best time for Ger­many in the 20th cen­tu­ry against 58 per­cent who favour the time after the Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion. West Ger­mans in con­trast show a larg­er extent of nos­tal­gia with about two-thirds con­sid­er­ing the time of the ‘old Fed­er­al Repub­lic’, i.e. (West) Ger­many before reuni­fi­ca­tion, as the best time for Germany.

The inau­gu­ra­tion of the first African Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent of the US trig­gered a debate on “would Oba­ma be pos­si­ble in Ger­many?”, mean­ing when, if ever, can we imag­ine a Chan­cel­lor or Pres­i­dent with a migrant back­ground? This con­tin­ues the debate on fail­ures and inno­va­tions in migrant inte­gra­tion policy.

More­over, the impli­ca­tions of the cri­sis of the finan­cial sys­tem and the world econ­o­my for Ger­many and the EU and how to pro­tect the EU and man­age the cri­sis will remain high on the agenda.

Ger­man troops in Afghanistan and a revi­sion of the Afghanistan strat­e­gy will inten­si­fy also in pub­lic debate as the new strat­e­gy of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion takes shape.




[1] Cf. Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung: Eine Erfol­gs­geschichte, 28 Jan­u­ary 2009.