Germany Shifting to the Left

Published on 2013/10/01
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Once again for the record, here is the official result of the 2013 general election:

Christian Democrats:41,5%
Social Democrats:25,7%
Left Party:8,6%
Greens:8,4%
Liberals:4,8%
Alternative for Germany:4,7%
Seats in the Bundestag:
Christian Democrat block:311
Social Democrats, Greens, Left:319

Germany is undergoing a shift to the left because the next Bundestag will seat only parties that pursue a more or less Social Democrat policy. The CDU bloc will enter into a coalition either with the SPD or with the Greens. This will further weaken the free-market liberal wing of the Christian Democrats, which lacks clout anyway. Add to this that the upper house, the Bundesrat, is also dominated by three left-leaning parties. As it is, they will have a majority in either house.
What we will see in the coming years is a coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats or else of Christian Democrats and Greens that will implement a social-democratic agenda:

  • More red tape
  • More constraints on the free market
  • More “social justice” (meaning redistribution of wealth)
  • Higher taxes for “the rich” (contrary to what Angela Merkel promised)
  • Rent control, imposing a rent cap on new leases
  • Continuation and exacerbation of the irrational and dirigist energy policy.

The new Government will sorely lack the corrective liberal element. Yet the Liberals have only themselves to blame. It kept none of the promises that had helped the party to win such a stunning success at the ballot box four years earlier. And they failed to represent a free-market position in European politics. Which is why many Liberals voted for the new party, Alternative for Germany. No other party, according to election researchers, lost as many votes (440,000) to the Alternative as the Liberals.

My hope is that this will cause Liberals to redefine their position, and that the Liberals will manage to find plausible leaders and to realign their agenda. It is a good thing that Rösler has stepped down – though it comes too late in the game. But it will be hard for the Liberals to reposition themselves now that they are no longer represented in Parliament. Plus, the party has a new competitor, the aforesaid Alternative for Germany.

Whether a coalition government of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats or Greens will last four years is doubtful. Sooner or later, the threat that a leftist alliance of Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left might seize power (because they already have a majority of 319 seats versus 311 Christian Democrat ones) will present itself. Midway through the parliamentary term, the Social Democrats or Greens could end the coalition with the Christian Democrats, and gang up with Gregor Gysi, who will do his utmost to modify his party’s foreign policy and security policy positions far enough to make them palatable to the Social Democrats.

Regardless of who will enter into a coalition with the Christian Democrats – whether it be the Social Democrats or the Greens: The junior partner will always be in position to blackmail the Christian Democrats with the tacit threat of ending the coalition and entering an alliance with the left. Let us recall: When the Greens made their first showing in the political arena, the incumbent Prime Minister of Hesse, Holger Börner, said such people should be “hit over the head with a board” and would never qualify for a coalition with his party, the Social Democrats. It was but a short while later that the Social Democrats formed a coalition government with the Greens in Hesse, the first in Germany. In the next stage, word from the Social Democrats had it that, while it is very well to enter into a coalition with the Greens on the state level, such a coalition would be ruled out on the federal level. Joschka Fischer then went and got the Greens in shape for a federal coalition government.

When the Left Party (formerly the governing party of East Germany and renaming itself after the German reunification) popped back onto the political stage, the Social Democrats ruled out any alliance with it, too. Soon enough, though, they abandoned this course and formed a government in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania that was tolerated by the Left Party. This paved the way for entering into outright government coalitions between Social Democrats and Left Party in several German states in the next step. It is now being said – as was said previously about the Greens – that, while working together on the state level is okay, a collaboration on the federal level would never work. But four years down the road, and perhaps even sooner, the Social Democrats will renounce their position, and align themselves with the Left Party on the federal level, too.

About the Author

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann is one of the leading experts for the strategic positioning and communications of companies.