Merkel seals German coalition

With a handshake, it was done. Chancellor Angela Merkel and liberal leader Guido Westerwelle have formally signalled their intention to form a new governing coalition, after the liberals did enough to consign Germany’s uneasy left-right ‘grand coalition’ to history.

The big winners of Germany’s election can look forward to the next four years, after voters backed a conservative, pro-business coalition to lead them back to prosperity.

Merkel though, was careful to project a human face on victory:

“Obviously we have to make sure that we keep the balance between employers and employees here in Germany,” she said. “We are going through tough economic times, and we must ensure that the balance between hire- and fire- is reasonable.”

The Chancellor’s new partners must feel like they’ve won the lottery.They’re in government and can put their ideas into practice.

“I think we Germans can make a valuable contribution to the debate on disarmament,” said Westerwelle. “We want negotiations so that the last nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can be removed.”

Germany will soon know the make-up of its new government, but talks are expected to be tough, as theFDP has more ambitious plans than Merkel’s conservatives. The atmosphere is so far said to be excellent, but Merkel has let it be known she will not shift too far to the right.


Seniors vote more on German elections than any other age group

There are seventeen million senior citizens in Germany, and they vote more than any other age group. Their influence means they are heavily courted by all parties. So in July pensions for the over 65s went up by 2.4%, despite zero inflation.

Thank you very much the Grand Coalition, except that the leaders of the CDU and SPD have also made their pensions untouchable. A new law puts a deadlock on pension cuts, even if salaries fall.

The right in Germany has always been able to count on the grey third of the electorate until now, but the Joshka Fischer generation is retiring. The times, they are a’changing says analyst Manfred Forsa:

“The elderly are naturally more loyal voters than other age groups, but they are starting to break with that tradition. In coming years this trend will mean the end of cradle to grave party loyalty.”

And the young will be in a battle for the votes of the old.

Threats cloud German election and Oktoberfest

Extremist threats are casting a shadow over the annual Munich Beer Festival and last minute campaigning in Germany’s general election.

Security has been stepped up across the country after videos warning of attacks by Islamic militants were posted on the web. But they have not derailed the festivities or the campaign climax.

In one clip a man claiming to represent the Taliban warned of a “rude awakening” if Germans returned a government committed to keeping troops in Afghanistan.

Analysts do not believe it will influence the outcome. Professor Nils Diederich of Berlin’s Free University said:

“It would certainly be different if the biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats for instance, would advocate an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. But only the Left Party is for an immediate withdrawal and it doesn’t play such an important role for voters.”

Germany has more than 4,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. A man has been arrested in connection with one of the videos.

CDU threatened by nuclear waste fallout

In Germany, fresh claims about nuclear contamination have threatened to derail the Christian Democrats election campaign.

The Enviroment Minister said the CDU government in the 1980’s tampered with a report to play down the risks of using Gorleben as a permament site for atomic waste.

It is claimed that under the leadership of then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Germany’s research ministry asked the federal agency in charge to alter its findings about the site.

According to the agency’s report at the time there was a risk that radioactive substances could seep into the ground water, making the site unsuitable for long-term storage.

The German daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung first published the revelations earlier this week.

Yesterday, Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, upped the ante by calling for an inquiry: “We need a total open and transparent procedure, and not this hide and seek game and secret diplomacy, that has been performed concerning Gorleben in the past.”

But the former Research Minister is rejecting claims of a cover-up.

“I don’t know whether the report had been altered, because I haven’t seen this report neither in its earlier state nor in its later state, and that is none of my business. A ministry works like this: we rely on those who do the work,” said Heinz Riesenhuber.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s camp has pledged to complete checks of all Gorleben files, dating back to the 1980’s but serious damage may already have been inflicted on her party, which has made clear its continuing support for nuclear power.

Although Germany’s remaining 17 reactors are scheduled to go offline by 2020 – the CDU party wants to revise the law and extend their operating life.

The use of nuclear energy is not the explosive issue it once was for the German electorate, with
polls suggesting only 7 percent of Germans back the government’s proposals.

Merkel’s woes increase as key ally steps down

A senior ally of Angela Merkel has stepped down as state premier of Thuringia in a move which could see her Christian Democrats cling on to power.

Dietmar Althaus has been under increasing pressure to resign from the opposition as well as his own party following disappointing state election results last Sunday.

Support for his party dipped by nearly 12 percent wiping out their absolute majority.

Regional leaders in the oppostion Social Democrats had ruled out forming a “grand coalition” if Althaus stayed on.

Althaus saw his popularity dip after he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for crashing into and killing a 41-year-old woman on a ski slope in Austria on New Year’s day.

Althaus himself sustained serious head injuries and spent four months recuperating.

He also caused an uproar weeks before the state election by suggesting that federal subsidies for eastern regions that date back to German reunification in 1990 should be pared back.

Merkel under pressure after election setback

“Don’t panic” is the message from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to her Christian Democrat colleagues after the party suffered big losses in state ballots ahead of the coming general election. Senior party members have urged her to change her low-key approach to the campaign.
But she insisted the CDU remains on course to win the national poll. She added she expected to be able to form a ruling coalition with the liberals, the conservatives preferred partner.

Frank Walter Steinmeier’s Social Democrats, gained ground on the CDU in two of the weekends three state elections. The conservatives remain ahead in the polls, but the outcome has given the centre-left new hope.

“It’s a good Sunday, a good electoral night for the SDP, with dramatic losses for the CDU,” Steinmeier said. He added that it was clear the country was against a government involving the conservatives and the liberals.

The left-wing party “Die Linke” and the liberal Free Democrats were the big winners on Sunday. Die Linke’s leader took a very positive outlook on the results.

“It’s up to the SDP now – they’re in a stronger position to former a government and it’s thanks to us they’re in this position and I hope they’ll do even better,” Oskar Lafontaine said.

The Chancellor has so far kept a very low profile and focused on avoiding mistakes. That may now change as the campaign intensifies.

Election setback for Merkel

Senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkels conservatives have urged their leader to raise her game after a poll setback just a few weeks before the country’s general election.

In three state ballots yesterday the Christian Democrats suffered a slump in support.
It’s given new hope to the Social Democrats, the junior party in Germany’s left-right coalition, but also the CDU’s main election rivals.

“It’s a good Sunday, a good electoral night for the SDP, with dramatic losses for the CDU” He added it was clear the country was against a government involving the conservatives and their preferred coalition partner the liberals.”

The conservatives saw their vote drop by ten percent in two the weekends state votes. Senior party figures are now worried they may suffer a widespread slump in support as they did in the final weeks of the 2002 and 2005 campaigns.

The CDU still has a strong lead in the polls but Merkel’s colleagues want her to mount a more aggressive campaign. The Chancellor has so far kept a very low profile and focused on avoiding mistakes.