22 January 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

It's election year here in Germany. While Bavaria got its State election out of the way last year, 2009 sees no fewer than five of the sixteen states voting.

Hesse was first, with the election taking place on 18 January. This was less than a year after the previous vote which failed to produce a stable government. This time round the SPD vote collapsed and the CDU formed a coalition government with the FDP.

This was good news - sort of - for Angela Merkel after the CSU's poor showing in Bavaria. While the CDU retained control of Hesse their vote is down on their showing in 2003 and is only marginally better than their performance in 2008 - their worst in Hesse since 1966.

Also voting this year are Saarland, Saxony and Thuringia - all on 30 August - and Brandenburg on 27 September. All four states are interesting because current polls sugggest that Die Linke, the Left Party, will do well in each of them. In Saarland and Brandenburg that could lead to a possible SPD-Die Linke coalition and in Thuringia to a Die Linke-SPD coalition - that is, a coalition with the SPD as the junior partner.

Meanwhile the Federal election will also be taking place on 27 September pitting the Chancellor against the Foreign Minister. The opinion polls throughout 2008 and into this year have been remarkably consistent with the CDU/CSU as the larget bloc but not able to form a government without the support of one of the minor parties. If the FDP poll well enough then a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition is the obvious option.

I'm no analyst but it looks to me like the SPD is in serious trouble. With only 25-26% of the vote in the polls its hard to see how they can achieve power without either continuing in the grand coalition- assuming the CDU/CSU are not able to form an alternative coalition - or establishing their own alternative coalition. However, since the SPD has said publicly that it will not work in coalition with the Left Party at the national level the only option would be to join with the Greens and the FDP - and I've no idea how those three parties would come up with a shared agenda.

Finally, elections to the European Parliament will take place on 7 June, and on 23 May the Federal President will be elected. The President is elected by the members of the German Parliament and by an equal number of delegates selected by the 16 State parliaments.

If your not already overcome by the excitement of it all you can browse all the opinion poll numbers in great detail online.

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