Deadlines for the Gazette are at times a difficult thing for the writer and one would wish the following edition to be printed already one week later. Whilst the last couple of weeks in German politics hardly are worth sarcastic comments or reflection, the days after the last deadline would have been worth lots.
The election of a Green Party president in Germany’s richest federal state was predicted but still sensational, showing the Conservatives the red card after 58 years of cosy majorities. The victory had been predicted for months, although everybody was busy blaming it on the catastrophe in Fukoshima, because loosing never is one’s own fault.
Little did it help that Angela Merkel tried to appear greener than green before the elections by imposing a three months moratorium on old nuclear power plants.
Looking from the outside, I feel that something else is happening in German politics, which has not been happening for the last 120 years: 1891 the socialists unified in the still existing Social Democratic Party of Germany after having been outlawed since 1878. Back then, they demanded such subversive things like the eight-hour-working-day or women’s right to vote. Nowadays, neither they, nor the second big party, the Conservatives, show any desire to bring about much needed reforms. They don’t listen to the people, their arguments are patchwork and concepts are not visible. Thus they started to lack credibility.
But people want to have current, burning issues addressed just like 120 years ago.
There are plenty of them, debt, pensions, health care, climate change, fair trade/politics, immigration, just to name a few. They are tired of the never-ending recitals of yesterday’s arguments, the never changing tit-for-tat and the eternal spin.
A prime example in this context is atomic power: after adopting a law that nuclear power plants can run for longer than previously ratified by parliament (because otherwise the lights would go off in Germany!), we now can cope without nearly half of them. Everybody already seems to know that they will remain switched off, because they are not able to withstand terrorist attacks.
Do we really need a tsunami in Japan, to bring home the message that the World Trade Centre was made a heap of rubble on September 11th 2001 or do we suddenly not rely on the capacity of our air force? Do we really need a tsunami to become aware that risk is defined as a possible future reality? Let’s await the end of the moratorium and see.
If the power plants remain shut down, the most likely explanation will be that the electricity giants will be able to make as much money with plan B as with plan A. Let’s also wait and see what impact the Green Party has in the governing of the state. It will be less than many people expect, but hopefully it will be a chance for a move towards a new political culture in Germany.
The permanent Euro Rescue Umbrella caused some discord in German living rooms, too. It is widely felt that we have to sort out the mess others have made, forgetting that we were sitting behind the steering wheel. Nobody seems to have noticed that the 22 billion euros, which Germany will have to contribute to the fund in cash, will be a loan from the banks … So far the fortune tellers were right, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and may be the bank will soon again say: go directly to jail, don’t pass go, don’t collect € 200.