Schröder still trying to hold on, delivers a strange performance after the elections

Despite the losses his party suffered yesterday, Gerhard Schröder is still trying to hang on to office. Some of his supporters like to think that he is going to be successful, but it is far more likely than not to be nothing more than a bluff.

Either way, his strange performance directly after the elections indicates that the last months were pretty hard on him. During the televised after-election debate of the various parties’ chairpersons, moderated by two senior journalists from the big two public broadcasters, he behaved downright appallingly. Throughout it all he grinned and grimaced, and when he spoke he petulantly insisted that he is Chancellor and will remain Chancellor. He also garrulously and somewhat incoherently attacked the media, accusing them to have conspired against him, in order to get Merkel into the Chancellery. All this is in stark contrast to his suave performances you usually get from the ‘Media-Chancellor’.

One of the two moderators finally ran out of patience and rebuked him (transcribed from my memory, so the exact phrasing could be a bit different from this): ‘Mr Schröder, and I deliberately say Mr Schröder and not Mr Chancellor, you don’t have any business to make allegations against us, just as we don’t make any allegations against yourself.’ After that he simply turned to Angela Merkel, ignoring Schröder altogether. The Chancellor obviously sensed that he had gone too far, he just sat there and silently put up with this chastisement in front of a huge TV audience. The unusual harsh tone, very different from what he used to hearing from German journalists, likely also took him aback.

Even so he dominated the debate when he spared with his political opponents – Angela Merkel was visibly disappointed by her party’s bad performance at the polls, and Edmund Stoiber from Bavaria was a weak candidate in 2002 and seems to have learned little since then. Both were no match against even a weakened Schröder. Their policies and programs are far superior, but they are pikers compared to him when it comes to politicking.

Schröder can still brazen it all out, and build a new coalition government under his leadership against all odds, but no imaginable configuration will be stable for long. The various parties and their personnel simply are incompatible, and in one or two years there would be another reelection. With that in mind, some of the other parties might form some other, unexpected coalition that excludes the Social Democrats altogether. More on that in another post.

6 thoughts on “Schröder still trying to hold on, delivers a strange performance after the elections”

  1. Ralf – I appreciate your posts on German politics, especially on this election. Looking at the results I would think that the most likely government would be a red-green-red coalition with Die Linke agreeing not to vote against the government in return for something or other. Is this possible?

    If not, is there any other coalition that could form a majority, realistically?

    And if no leader can put together a majority, what happens under German law? Another election?

  2. Spigel reports that the extreme left (Lafontaine et al) will urge their supporters to vote SPD in Dresden. Is it mathematically possible for SPD to overtake CDU/CSU should Dresden go SPD?

  3. Jim,

    the Social Democrats can’t afford to join Die Linke in a coalition. Die Linke is made up of a lot of former Social Democrats, who changed allegiance only recently. The party faithful won’t accept it, for they feel quite aggrieved over the renegades, while the most leftwing Social Democrats would be tempted to join forces with Die Linke. The party would fall apart.

    Besides, both leading men of die Linke, Gregor Gysi from the former East German communist aprty, then the PDS, and Oskar Lafontaine formerly of the Social Democrats have a prior history of fleeing from responsibility, leaving it to others to pick up the pieces. Not very appealing partners.

    Die Linke also would put a lot of pressure on the Social Democrats. luring away lots of their members. Unless of course they manage to stalemate the Christian Democrats, which would make the coalition senseless and shortlived.

    The traffic light coalition of red, green and yellow (i.e the Free Democrats) doesn’t seem likely either; the Free Democrats won’t want to join just so that Schröder can remain Chancellor, without being able to realize their own plans.

    The ‘Jamaica’ coalition, ‘Black’ (Christian Democrats), Greens and Free Democrats doesn’t seem possible; the Green members of parliament might go along with it, but the Green basis won’t give this coalition their blessing.

    Frankly, I can’t see any possible coalition leading anywhere. On the other hand the voters wouldn’t be very pleased if the would have to vote again, and there is no reason to think that they would chose differently than they did just now.

    The least unlikely possibility is a Grand coalition that doesn’t intend to get anywhere, with the sole purpose to prove to the voters that a working government isn’t possible under current circumstances. Either way, there will be new elections in two years or less.
    Under these circumstances they also will be able to convince the President that those new elections are necessary; our Presidents are mostly figureheads, but they have to sign new laws before they can become valid, and they also can decide if there should be re-elections or not, not the Chancellor or the parliament.

  4. Sulaiman,

    Dreden is just one seat, so that alone won’t make the Social Democrats ovrtake the Chriatian Democrats.

    There are so-called ‘overhang mandates’, though. German voters get two votes to cast. With the first one they can vote for an individual candidate, with the second one for the party of their choice, which doesn’t have to be the same as the one the candidate they voted for with the first vote.

    The idea is to give each party as many seats as corresponds to the percentage of the votes this party receives (from the second vote, of course).
    But, if more individual candidates of a party are elected via the direct votes for individual candiddates than the party would receive seats via the second votes, ‘overhang mandates’ are created and given to the party.

    If the Social Democrats get the seat in Dresden, and also two more overhang mandates than the Chriatian Democrats, they will have parity with them; if the get three more, they will become the strongest faction.

    It is going to take some weeks until we’ll know for sure how many seats each party will get.

  5. Assuming Merkel is sincere about wanting to implement long overdue reforms… there’s not a chance of doing so with that old dog Schroder barking out whatever he thinks the electorate wants to hear. When he starts snapping at Austrian “mountain ape” economics (rather than the usual US tooth and claw cant), then we’ll know he’s had enough of politics.

    I’d suggest that he was quite clever to call this election when he did, as he’s obviously demonstrated that risking the vote of an uncertain and nervous electorate is better than waiting around until forced to risk the vote of an uncertain and nervous electorate that was sick of him. Assuming Merkel does the smart thing and bides her time until she has a solid majority, that old dog Schroder still has a year or two left to barkbarkbark… very clever indeed.

  6. A Scott,

    the Social Democrats were turning against each other before Schröder called for early elections. This announcement had a disciplining effect, without it the coalition would have broken up in a much more ugly way. The short election campaign also made it hard for the opposition to commmunicate caomplex issues, while Schröder ran on a purely destructive platform, as usual.

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