Monday, September 28, 2009

Kiss me, Guido

No, not the 1997 film by that title. Just a bit of a celebration thanks to Guido Westerwelle. Germany held its national election and the "Grand Coalition" of do-nothingness, engineered by Angela Merkel is over.

When the last election ended in a stalemate, instead of sitting on the sidelines, as I though was wise, Merkel formed a Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats. The result was inertia. Merkel wanted power more than she wanted reform. And German lost out because of it. While everyone was clammering for a place at the table, Westerwelle lead his Free Democratic Party into the wilderness of opposition. He said that he would rather wait things out to the next election than form an alliance with the Social Democratic Party, which is precisely what he should have done.

The results showed that strategy paid off. Both the SDP and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union lost support. The big winner was Westerwelle and the FDP which sprung to its highest national votes ever, just shy of 15% of the total. Westerwelle and the FDP is the closest thing to a libertarian party in Germany. They tend to favor lower taxes, less government regulation, and social liberalism. And certainly a government lead by Merkel and Westerwelle is cutting new ground socially. Never before have the two main leaders of a nation been a woman and a gay man. No doubt the Mormons are fund-raising to try to have a referendum overturning the election. (Just a joke.)

What is interesting is to see the dramatic increases for the FDP. In the state of Schleswig-Holstein the FDP received 14.9% of the vote, in 2005 it had 6.6%. In Brandenburg it went from 3.3% to 7.2%; Baden-W├╝rttemberg, from 11.9% to 18.8% -- just 1/2 percent behind the SPD there; Bayern from 9.5% to 14.7%; Berlin from 8.2% to 11.5%; Bremen from 8.1% to 10.6%; Hamburg from 9% to 13.2%; Hessen from 11.7% to 16.6%; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, from 6.3% to 9.8%; Niedersachsen, from 8.9% to 13.3%; Nordrhein-Westfalen, from 10% to 14.9%; Rheinland-Pfalz, from 11.7% to 16.6%; Saarland, from 7.4% to 11.9%; Sachsen-Anhalt, from 8.1% to 10.3%; Th├╝ringen, from 7.9 to 9.8%. The FDP made gains in every region of the country, even in the old East where the far left still holds some sway.

Because of the way seats are allocated Merkel's CDU did gain slight in the Bundestag, going from 226 seats to 239 seats. The SDP saw their number of seats from by 76 while the FDP went from 61 seats to 93 seats.

Americans may see more of Westerwelle than in the past. As the head of the second main party of government it is likely that Westerwelle will become German's Foreign Minister. That should prove interesting in dealing with backward parts of the world: like Islamic nations and the American South. It could be amusing watching Islamic delegations having to treat a gay man with respect. Westerwelle was asked if he thought being gay would be a disadvantge when dealing with the more bigoted nations. He said: "The decision as to whom we send as a government representative rests soley with us Germans based on political and moral standards." In other words: tough.

Photo: Westerwelle (R) and his long-time partner, Michael Mronz (L), celebrating the German election returns.

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