Monday, September 19, 2005

GERMAN ELECTION MESS- IT COULD HAPPEN HERE, IN FROZEN CANADA

Anyway here's a story on what went down in Germany yesterday. Basically it was so close that there was no winner. Angela Merkel and her CDU won the popular vote but don't have enough votes to carry Parliament. Gerhard Schroeder and the Social Democrats don't have enough votes to carry the day, either, but so far Schroeder has refused to resign as Chancellor and they're trying to figure out what to do about this situation. He could well try and hold on to power until they hold a confidence vote with the current alliances, and then see what happens. But he doesn't have enough votes to carry on either, that's obvious. It's a mess.

The whole problem is the strong showing by the FDP and the Greens and especially by the Left party, a party filled with what I understand are Communistic types and radical SDP defectors, and other people you don't want in a government. They passed the 5% threshold for the first time and got a huge chunk of seats just by doing that. And that has created a big problem in the lower House.

My understanding is that the Greens won't work with the Left Party, period, and will refuse to join the government if the Left Party is part of it, which makes it impossible for the SDP to get a majority. But I don't think the Greens have to worry because the Left Party are persona non grata to the SDP anyway. The Free Democrats would have joined a coalition government with the CDU, but that coalition can't carry the day with the current numbers. The CDU will need to work with these other parties that the Free Democrats can't stand, just to form any sort of government, and the Free Democrats will have none of that. So the only thing we know for sure is that the Free Democrats are going to be in the opposition. Everyone hates everyone.

Now it looks like the CDU and SDP are going to have to work together and form a grand coalition. A lot of good that's going to do for Germany. Already the markets are down on this news, because investors were hoping an outright CDU victory would produce economic reforms that could lead to more jobs. But the CDU ran a gaffe-ridden, lousy campaign. On the other hand, Schroeder ran a lousy government. Thus the result. A total Hung Parliament.

People in Canada may look at Germany and do their smug "can't happen in Canada" routine. Oh, yes it can, folks. In fact we almost got it with the last election. We do not have a total Hung Parliament but it is a still a Minority parliament that is increasingly acting like the US Congress in the type of deals being cut between legislators and parties on a bill-by-bill basis. The Liberals are staying afloat by working with the NDP and with any independents who will listen to them, but they do not have any formal coalitions with them. A large number of seats are in the hands of the Bloc Quebecois, who nobody wants to work with because, well, they want to break up the country. If we get a close election where the Liberals and Conservatives fall short of the numbers they need to get working control, we'll get a deadlock situation because no one will work with the Bloc, and the Bloc won't do deals with any of these people.

Bottom line is yes, the German situation can happen here, possibly the next election, maybe the one after that. We have a Conservative party that has no idea how to run a campaign, and a Martin Liberal government that is the worst government in the history of Canada. And we have a smaller party in Parliament that no one wants to deal with. Same exact conditions as in Germany.

So I think it could happen as early as the next election, right here in Canada. And I don't care about these polls showing a big Liberal lead here. The CDU had a big lead in Germany and blew it during the campaign. So polls mean nothing. Conditions are right for a German-type deadlock situation where the Conservatives and Liberals would have to come up with a "grand coalition" of their own to make Parliament work.

I know that in Israel that they had to come up with one of those types of deals. Likud and Labor had to form a so-called "Government of National Unity" because the election ended up deadlocked. They made it last for a full term as I recall, during the 1980s, which was remarkable because Likud and Labor hated each other. I could easily see a similar scenario where Canada could end up with a Hung Parliament after an election, followed by some sort of "government of National Unity." Which could make sense, particularly if Canada has to deal with another unity crisis. If there's one thing Conservatives and Liberals agree on, it's that they hate the Bloc more than they hate each other.

But I have to say, the thought of teaming up with the Liberals turns the stomach of many Conservatives. I could see lots of people quitting the Conservative Party if this ever happens. Personally, I don't want to see this scenario happen, it would just be a mess for Canada. But it could happen.

Still, even though the German election created a mess, look on the bright side. It's better for Germany to have an election that ends up being a mess, than to have the situation that they had in the 1930s and 1940s when, ahem, they had no elections and were busy invading other countries. Democracy and human rights are very important.

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