German party leaders’ debates

This is not exactly current, but I took some notes from DW-TV (English) newscasts about the party leaders’ debates prior to the recent German election (and then neglected to build an entry around them). So, for the sake of posterity, here are the notes themselves.

There are some interesting angles on coalition positioning and federalism, especially regarding the controversial deal on Opel, in here. But I want to call attention to what had to be one of the best lines in the campaign, when the Green leader said that he is determined to prevent a CDU-FDP coalition: “it would mean no money for education, a blow for fighting climate change, and a return to nuclear power. Even the party colors of black and yellow are used in the symbol for radioactivity.” Zing!

The rest of my rather fragmentary notes follow, on an inside branch.

Debate between Merkel (CDU, incumbent Chancellor) and Steinmeier (SPD, incumbent Foreign Min.), Sept. 13, 2009 (DW Journal)

Merkel: openly states preference for a different coalition, explicitly saying FDP. Says focus of next term will be “creating jobs… generating growth.” Says these goals can be better achieved with the FDP, “because there is more agreement between us” [on taxes, growth, etc.].

Steinmeier: “opposition is not an option.” Says goal is “to be in government and to head the government.”

Analyst, John Berwick, says that the party wants to be with FDP, but claims Merkel herself might rather continue the Grand Coalition. She sees crisis as requiring concerted national effort, and so may not want to change horses.

–polls are “notoriously inaccurate in Germany”; 40% [!?] say they are undecided.

On Opel sale by GM.

Steinmeier says that a coalition of CDU-FDP would have let Opel go bankrupt; claims credit himself for the “long struggle” to find a buyer for Opel rather than bankruptcy.

Merkel says that “is simply not true” and notes that the regional governments involved in the deal (Hesse and NRW) are both CDU-FDP. They “clearly worked just as hard to save Opel” as I did and as you did [addressing Steinmeier].

Paraphrases of other parts of debate by Berwick:

CDU and SPD disagree on intro of minimum wage. But in debate, Merkel suggested she is personally in favor of minimum wage for people who can’t make a living on current low wages.

Merkel said she sees nuclear energy only as a bridge, rather than as a permanent solution. Again, some distance from stated party policy.

Disagreements on taxes between Merkel and Steinmeier.

Afghanistan: has entered the election campaign following the involvement of German forces in deaths of civilians, but the two agree on keeping German military involvement going. Steinmeier says what Linke wants—“just rush out” is not possible.

Berwick says it was mostly a series of statements in favor of the GC. Says that early in the debate she said she was campaigning for her party and not for a coalition. Berwick says that will “infuriate” her FDP potential partners. (This seems at odds with the statements we heard Merkel say about wanting a new coalition.)

Berwick thinks “we may well see” continued GC.


Sept.14; debate amongst the smaller parties

Analyst, Berwick, says FDP leader, in debate, said he “flatly rejects” any cooperation with Greens.

FDP leader called for “easing the burden on the middle class”

[See also quotation from the Green leader, above.]

A more interesting debate after the “subdued” debate between the two big party leaders.

3 thoughts on “German party leaders’ debates

  1. I didn’t realize there was a debate for all the party leaders, then the leaders of the two largest parties, then just for the smaller parties.

    This might be a model for single member systems that have two big and several smaller parties, notably Australia and Canada. The Canadian leaders debate last included a leader of a party that could even in a technical sense never gain a majority in the House of Commons or lead a federal government, and the leader of a party that has never won a seat in the House of Commons.

    I’m not sure what the arrangement was appropriate specifically for Germany. This is a system where minor party leaders are usually needed to form coalitions and often take senior cabinet positions, and sometimes (during “grand coalitions”) lead the opposition! Not only is there no technical reason German voters couldn’t just make the Greens the largest party, but minor parties in Germany have more than nuisance value.

  2. Was there a debate with “all” the party leaders (i.e. the five already in parliament)? I was aware only of the two I mentioned: one between the two big-party leaders, and another among the remaining three. But I might have missed DW’s news program the night of the five-leaders debate.

  3. I just assumed that there would be a debate between all five party leaders, since it makes sense.

    Its interesting if the Germans adopted the format of a debate between the two major party leaders, without the minor parties, and then a debate between the minor party leaders, without the major parties. This is justifiable in a situation where there is an initial debate between the five. Its absolutely absurb absent such a debate. Its not like no one is trying to decide between the SPD and Greens, for example.

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