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Countdown Germany: Day -1.5

by Saturday Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 11:52:53 AM EST

The last day before German elections...what's going on there? - from the diaries ~ whataboutbob

In fact, it is not even two more days to go. Rather one and a half. But never mind. Yesterday, the last poll numbers were publicised, and today were the last big convention speeches. As far as I can see it, chances are looking good for a CDU/FDP coalition now. Read below:

  • The Polls
  • Final party conventions

The polls

Traditionally, most of the pollsters stop polling about 10-14 days before the election. The argument was that in such a short time to go, polling becomes even more volatile than it is anyway, and that marginal, insignificant changes could be inflated/overemphasised by politicians or the media. But that rule is beginning to crumble. Two of the four polls I have cited publicised numbers until yesterday. These are Forsa and Allensbach. I put them at the top of the following poll tables list. Below, I added the older numbers of Forschungsgruppe Wahlen and Infratest-Dimap that I already had in a previous diary.


.    9/16  9/12  9/07  9/03  8/29  8/22  8/13
SPD  33.0  35.0  34.0  31.0  30.0  29.0  29.0
CDU  42.0  42.0  42.0  43.0  43.0  43.0  43.0
GRE   6.5   7.0   7.0   7.0   7.0   7.0   7.0
FDP   7.5   6.0   6.0   7.0   8.0   8.0   7.0
LEP   7.5   7.0   8.0   9.0   8.0   9.0  10.0


.    9/16  9/13  9/09  9/02  8/26  8/23  8/16
SPD  32.5  32.9  32.7  29.6  28.1  27.9  27.9
CDU  41.5  41.7  41.5  41.7  43.5  41.8  41.9
GRE   7.0   7.2   7.2   7.7   8.1   8.1   8.0
FDP   8.0   7.0   7.0   7.8   8.0   8.7   8.4
LEP   8.5   8.5   8.9  10.1   9.7  10.3  10.5

Forschungsgruppe Wahlen

.    9/09  9/02  8/26  8/19  8/12
SPD  34.0  32.0  30.0  29.0  29.0
CDU  41.0  43.0  43.0  43.0  42.0
GRE   7.0   7.0   8.0   9.0   9.0
FDP   7.0   7.0   8.0   8.0   8.0
LEP   8.0   8.0   8.0   8.0   9.0


.    9/08  9/01  8/25  8/17  8/11
SPD  34.0  32.0  31.0  30.0  29.0
CDU  41.0  43.0  42.0  42.0  42.0
GRE   7.0   7.0   8.0   8.0   9.0
FDP   6.5   6.0   7.0   7.0   6.0
LEP   8.5   9.0   9.0   9.0  10.0

So close to the elections, you have to be careful with new poll numbers. Note that the two organisations polling until yesterday are said to have party preferences. Allensbach is said to be close to CDU, while Forsa is said to be close to SPD. But anyway, in both cases, SPD slips in the last week while CDU numbers hold, which indicates that the trend of the last three weeks towards Schröder has stopped. There can be no question any more which party will get the most votes. It will be Merkel's CDU. As really pivotal remains the question of coalition majorities. Everything depends on the question whether there is a CDU/FDP majority or not. Both Forsa and Allensbach project 49.5 %, which would be sufficient - all the more since CDU is likely to win more overhang mandates than SPD.

To sum it up, recent development was in favour of a conservative/liberal coalition. Now, it seems quite likely that we will have to face a complete change of government from SPD/Green to CDU/FDP.

Final party conventions

In analogy to the polling traditions I mentioned before, publicly funded TV stations (ARD and ZDF) traditionally abstained from putting too much emphasis on reporting about the campaigns during the last days before elections. Today, be have a breach of that tradition, too. Three hours ago, ARD aired live feeds of the 5 biggest parties' candidates' speeches. According to ARD, the party organisations were informed about when exactly their orator was on air. Every party was allowed for two feeds of 2-3 minutes length. Between the first series of feeds and the second, some polling numbers were presented by the commentator.

Merkel's performance was not outstanding but the crowd she spoke to was really remarkable. Reminding me of US-party convention speeches of designated presidential candidates. The crowd was all waving signs, shouting "Angie-Angie", and cheering.

With the other speeches, everything was business as usual until the very last switch was made to Schröder's second feed. But no one was there. Schröder had already ended, and the place was all empty. Instead, they showed recorded parts of his speech. But this could not prevent that the effect was, as far as I am concerned, very negative for Schröder, especially in contrast to Merkel's cheering crowd.

Well, you are much more in the know...though I still believe it is going to be a Schröder upset. Will soon know.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 04:07:35 AM EST
I am a little afraid to bring up the hope that Schröder will win. But I sure hope the limb you mentioned in another thread will hold.
by Fran on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 04:12:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here are the facts, as far as I'm aware of them:

  • The SPD had Big Mo up into this week. That seems to have stalled now, judging by the Forsa and Allensbach polls. I can't find the MoE of these polls anywhere, but it's hard to dismiss the fact that both show the same trend.

  • The pundits have been predicting for weeks that the SPD would close the gap up to the lower or mid-30s percent range, as disgruntled but ultimately loyal SPD voters grudgingly return into the fold. Schroeder, on the other hand, predicted that the SPD would surge right back to 38%, which is were they ended up in the 2002 election and which would give them about parity with the CDU. But I'm afraid that the polls this week are more consistent with the pundits' story than with Schroeder's.

  • To make matters worse, the last three days have seen a major onslaught of bad publicity for Schroeder's government. The excreable Bild, Germany's largest worthless rag, err, tabloid, always happy to shill for the CDU, alleged that Schroeder's finance minister, Hans Eichel, has prepared a list of painful budget cuts to be implemented immediately after the election. Eichel denies this and is threatening to sue Bild, but Merkel & Co. have absolutely run with this. The real problem is that this business reminds a lot of voters of what happened three years ago, when Schroeder's government hid damaging data on the economy and the government's budget until after the election. This credibility gap has contributed a great deal to the SPD's recent losses in state elections, and this is the worst possible time for the SPD to have voters see their suspicions of them reinforced.

  • On the upside, though: this week's polls also show that 35% of the electorate are still undecided, and that a majority of voters no longer desire a change in the government. And the combined impact of these two data points is not to be underestimated. German voters are extremely "conservative", in the sense that it takes a lot for them to vote a government out of office. The fact of the matter is, they've done this only once so far - in 1998, when Schroeder came to power. Every other change of government was caused, not in the voting booths, but by the parties forging new governing coalitions. Schroeder's predecessor, Kohl, was able to stay in office for so long because even though he was never popular (except after the reunification in 1990), voters always in the end decided to stick with him, until 1998. That may work for Schroeder as well. Like you said, we'll see.  

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 12:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never understood what motivates right wingers. Left wingers are cheering for things like progressive reform and equality but what is there to cheer about in conservatism? I can understand why you vote conservative, but not how you can do it enthusiastically.
by swedish liberal on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 04:40:37 AM EST
Here's the formula:

The feeling of belonging to a majority +
a good propagandist +
ordered happiness +
the TV camera effect +
3 glasses of champagne


a raving crowd for any politician.

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 08:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Ever considered that these people want to keep more of their hard earned money?

  2.  How about the government legally stealing less of your money?
(a) Schroeder steals more
(b) Merkel steals less.

  1. Maybe they want more economic freedom?

  2. Maybe they want a stronger defense policy agaisnt the Islamofascism?

  3.  Why did people enthusiastically cheer Ronald Reagan?
He won 49 out of 50 states in his first run.
by ilg37c on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 03:19:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wtf? Ok, tax and economic policy I buy - some people want even more tax cuts and deregulation than they got with the left.

 But 'a stronger defense policy against Islamofascism' what is that supposed to mean?   In terms of domestic anti-terror stuff you don't get more hardline than the SPD Interior Minister Otto Schilly. In terms of stuff abroad, the current coalition very strongly backed the war in Afghanistan.  And while there are plenty of people who think that Schroeder could have been more diplomatic and low key in opposing the Iraq war (including his own Foreign Minister) pretty much nobody feels that Germany should have actively supported it. In 2002 the worry that the right would join in allowed Schroeder to pull a come from behind victory (that along with being a much better campaigner than Stoiber)

BTW, Reagan won clearly but by no means with a landslide in 1980. In 1984 he did get those 49 states, and a close to twenty point margin. Why? Good economy for the first time in over a decade, great charisma, lackluster campaign by his opponent.

PS. As a general rule when you choose to express opinions that go against those of the blog community you are in, it's a good idea to do so tactfully. Otherwise most will just dismiss you as a troll.

by MarekNYC on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 03:35:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economic freedom my ass. You know nothing about freedom, except for CEO's.

If every man/woman was born with the same opportunities you could call taxes "stealth" - now it's a way of leveling the playing field and cancelling out gains that are due to blind chance. Justice, you know. Ever heard of that word?

by swedish liberal on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 10:10:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
National Public Radio aired a report Friday morning suggesting that Merkel's support comes from women who are thrilled with the possibility of Germany's first female chancellor.

A question for those of you across the pond: is NPR feeding U.S. citizens a load of garbage? Or is feminism behind Merkel's popularity?

by wanderindiana on Sun Sep 18th, 2005 at 10:57:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is NPR feeding U.S. citizens a load of garbage?


by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Sep 18th, 2005 at 11:40:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are there good online sites for getting updates on results as they come in on Sunday evening?
by saugatojas on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 09:04:55 AM EST
on this election site, you will find a really nice java-electoral map. But I don't know how up-to-date the results will be there. In 2002, the Bundeswahlleiter site had updated versions of incoming results.

I will try to put up a diary with some links until tomorrow afternoon.

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 09:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This election could produce a left-wing majority in the Bundesrat yet result in a Grand Coalition of CDU/CSU+FDP+SPD.

There is no way that the Linke/PDS would be brought into the cabinet, but if a minority government were feasible in Germany, you maybe could have SPD+Green even if the two parties were short of the absolute majority.

by Moosa Man on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 01:28:20 PM EST
First off, it's the Bundestag, not the Bundesrat, that's being elected on Sunday. The CDU will retain a majority in the Bundesrat no matter what. Secondly, a minority coalition is by all means consistent with the German constitution. The Linke could help elect Schroeder and later vote with or against the red-green coalition as they see fit, without actually entering the government. The thing is, though, it's not going to happen. Schroeder has vowed he won't accept such a deal, and the SPD would get absolutely crucified at the polls for decades to come if he were to break that promise.  

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 02:03:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As brainwave points out, there is nothing that would bar a minority government.  Furthermore, if the Linke chose to vote in such a government, it would be extremely difficult to force it out against its will since in Germany the only binding no-confidence votes are 'constructive' ones - i.e. ones that simultaneously vote in a new government.

On the other hand, while I found Schroeder's justification for early elections dubious - i.e. that due to dissatisfaction on the left of the coalition he didn't have a working majority, that would absolutely be the case with a minority govt.  In practice I far prefer a right wing govt or a grand coalition than a left wing one that is largely powerless, and that's what a minority govt would be.  The existing right wing veto power in the Bundesrat would be joined by a formalized far left wing veto power in the lower house.  

I also think it could turn around and hurt the SPD (and Greens) politically as centrist and center left voters decide that they prefer a mainstream right wing coalition to a one combining the mainstream and extreme left.

by MarekNYC on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 03:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the elaboration. (And, oh, man, I can't believe I said "Bundesrat"! I do know better.)

I should have been more clear on what I was arguing. Of course, brainwave is right about the procedure that could elect a minority government. But then Schroeder would be openly dependent on the Linke. So the requirement for an actual election of the government in parliament means, in effect, you cannot have a minority government (even if it is not actually against the constitution).

This is very different from the situation in many other parliamentary governments where the cabinet takes office and is ASSUMED to have confidence until proven otherwise.  That matters, in terms of political fallout, because such a government has not been openly put in power by a far-left party that most of the public disdains.

The parallel would be some of the past Scandinavian minority social-dem governments that have held power because the far left would abstain on a no-confidence vote called by the conservatives after the government was formally in office.

by Moosa Man on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 04:54:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A minority government would be formed under an agreement that the Linke would elect Schroeder and back him in the future in case it comes to a no confidence vote. They could do this without actually being a part of the government. Of course Schroeder's government would immediately fall as soon as the Linke would withdraw their support, but that's in no way different from how a governing coalition is dependent on all parties in the coalition. An SPD minority government "tolerated" by the PDS (the predecessor of the Linke) has been tried at the state level (in Sachsen-Anhalt) and there's no reason it couldn't be done at the federal level. I really don't see any difference between Germany and other parliamentary democracies in this regard. But, like I said, it ain't gonna happen.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Sat Sep 17th, 2005 at 08:36:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, empirically, we hardly ever get minority governmens when a formal investiture vote is required (as it is in Germany). We often get them when investiture votes are not required (as in Scandinavian countries, and recently in New Zealand).

The theoretical reason is as I tried to articulate above: Sometimes parties may be willing to cooperate somewhat informally, but not if there must be a formal vote resulting in a public declaration of mutual dependence.

by Moosa Man on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:43:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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