Under the Radar

Another election has passed us by, but no one seems to know much about it. Last week, Germany held their national elections, with the conservative Christian Democratic Union winning a slight majority over the liberal Social Democratic Party. Angela Merkel, who ran as the CDU candidate against the incumbent, SPD leader Gerhard Schroeder, campaigned heavily over the course of this national election, using Germany’s failing economy against Schroeder. Merkel also called for reestablishing strong relations with the United States, particularly because of their deterioration through out the debate over the War in Iraq. Merkel’s campaign highlighted the necessity of an active foreign policy that engaged the enemy abroad in order to protect the interests and peoples of the West. She also opposed the entry of Turkey into the European Union, a point that Schroeder capitalized on. Despite initial polling which indicated Merkel would win in a landslide victory, Merkel and the CDU had a comparatively miserable showing, winning with only 35.2%, versus the 34.3% that the SPD won. The German national political scene has disintegrated rapidly, with both sides jockeying for control of the new government. When a center-left coalition could have been formed, as the major left-wing parties garnered votes that topped the 50 percent necessary to create a clear majority, the far-left elements refused to join the SPD. Now, rumors abound about the formation of a “grand coalition,” with the SPD and the CDU joining together as one. This is disappointing in that it would undoubtedly paralyze the German Federal Government with partisan bickering over completely different agendas. Worse is that Schroeder has used his gain in the polls in the days leading up to the election as reason to declare a victory and a national mandate. Regardless of the outcome, Schroeder should step aside and accept his defeat. The time has come for the induction of a new era into German politics, an era led by Angela Merkel and the advance of the capitalist ideal. Foreign policy obviously played a major role in this election. Merkel wished to work more closely with the United States in the war on terror and the War in Iraq, which was a blatant contrast to the platform of Bush-bashing which won Schroeder his last election. Schroeder stood for the multi-lateralism, believing that the United Nations should be coordinating the many efforts being waged in the War on Terror. Merkel called for unity, but also believed in a more aggressive foreign policy that would include active involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Merkel is not, however, a lapdog for American foreign policy. She vehemently opposes Turkish entrance into the EU, and also opposes the U.S. on the Kyoto Treaty and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Merkel has supported bringing the Baltic states and Poland into the greater European community, but believes that ties with Russia and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should be limited. This election was not just about European foreign policy, though. Thomas Friedman in a column for the New York Times over the summer, asserting that Merkel’s vision must be allowed to rise, compared the stagnant socio-welfare economies of Germany and France to the productive, efficient economies of England and Ireland. Friedman blasted how leftist reforms passed by Schroeder and by previous leftist administrations had done nothing more than cripple Germany’s once booming economy. Ireland, on the other hand, brought in market reforms and opened up their economy. Now, Ireland’s economy is booming, while weakness remains apparent in Germany and France’s economies. Angela Merkel won a majority in this election; the margin of victory is irrelevant. Merkel received the mandate to lead with the victory of the CDU over the SPD. Whether a center-right coalition is formed or the unstable “grand coalition” emerges, Merkel must be included in the future of Germany’s plans. Schroeder’s policy is washed up and should be acknowledged as such.