Posts Tagged ‘FDP’

Will the UK Lib-Dems go the way of the German FDP?

September 26, 2013

Last Sunday’s election results were an unmitigated disaster for the FDP in Germany. Historically – and going back to 1949 – it was unprecedented. They have no seats in the Bundestag for the first time. Sharing power in government has not helped them.

(All charts from Wikipedia)

FDP seats won

FDP vote percentage

There is a parallel to be drawn with the UK though the German proportional representation system has generally been kinder to the FDP than the UK “first past the post” system has been to the Liberal Democrats. But when times are bad the PR system of Germany is also more ruthless. The FDP dropped from an all- time high of 14.6% of the vote in 2009 to 4.8% last Sunday. The Lib-Dems were at 23% in 2010 and are currently at 10%.

File:LibDem vote-seat percent.PNG

Votes and seats won by the Lib-Dems

Today’s modern Lib-Dem party is not quite the Liberal party of old. In my youth I read about the great days of the Liberal party of Gladstone and Lloyd George (and even the young Winston Churchill). I thought quite highly of Jo Grimond and David Steele. But the merger of the Liberals – proposed by David Steele – with the break-away Social Democrats  from the right of the Labour party in 1988 has created a strange animal which has no true identity of its own. Like the ancient chimera with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a snake the Lib-Dems today try to combine mutually repellent ideologies and produce rather confused, fascistic do-gooders. With figures like Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne (now disgraced), Vince Cable and Ed Davey in their ranks they are enjoying their moment in the sun but are suffering from the twin fantasies that the tail wags the dog and that they know best what is good for others.

That their time in government supporting the Tories will be to their electoral detriment in the next general election seems very likely. Whether they will be wiped out like the FDP is unlikely in the British system but a comprehensive collapse is not inconceivable. Like the FDP which participated in a government dominated by Angela Merkel, the Lib-Dems are propping up but are totally dominated by Cameron’s conservatives.

Like the FDP, the Lib-Dems now run the risk of forcing their normally middle-of-the-road base towards the left or the right.  Like in the FDP, their traditional supporters in academia and the education system and the welfare services are going to move leftwards as the Lib-Dems give in to the Tories (with student tuition fees for example and for Helath Service cuts). The Lib-Dems have been the “green” face of this government but Cameron has been quite adept at using them for cover (as Angela Merkel has also done with the FDP). The disastrous cost of the renewable energy policies in Germany and the UK are seen as being more the fault of the Greens/FDP in Germany and of the Lib-Dems in Britain. Their ususal support among the environmental “do-gooders” is likely to shift leftwards for the moderates and greenwards for the more extreme. The traditional support from small shop keepers and small businesses is likely to shift rightwards.  The NSA scandal has hit the civil liberties image of the FDP as being a colluding party within the ruling government and so also for the Lib-Dems.  The support of The Guardian for the Lib-Dems can be compared to that of Die Zeit and Der Tagesspiegel for the FDP.

The general election in the UK is due in May 2015 (Scotland independence referendum intervening in 2014) and this gives the Lib-Dems 18 months to demonstrate that they have an agenda of their own. But this requires them to repudiate much of what they have agreed to while in government and will lead to a level of schizophrenia.

My guess is that the Lib-Dems will be reduced to less than the 10% they are currently polling at (from the 23% they had in the 2010 election). Philipp Rösler has just resigned as the FDP chairman. Nick Clegg will need to do the same in 2015 – though one could argue that the Lib-Dems might do better if they got rid of him before the election. They could do with a leader who is not as light-weight as Clegg or tainted as being Cameron’s poodle (but who?).

They will probably slip behind UKIP who are also at about the same 10% level but seem to be imploding. 2015 then will be a straight Tory-Labour fight. Neither Cameron or Milliband are particularly impressive as leaders. And so it will be a battle to see who is better at losing. And Milliband may be the more prone to losing an election.

Angela Merkel triumphs – could even govern without the FDP?

September 22, 2013

Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU have made a very strong showing at over 42% and the exit polls are predicting that both the FDP and AfD (Alternative for Germany) will both miss the 5% threshhold and get no seats. But the FDP and the Greens are the big losers and the AfD are sending a clear anti-European message even if they get no seats.

Angela Merkel is only 2 or 3 seats away from having her own majority without any coalition partners.

The SPD are around 26% and the Greens are down to 8%.

This could give the CDU/CSU around 298 seats in the Bundestag. With the SPD at around 185 seats and the Greens at about 57 seats it is even conceivable that Angela Merkel could govern without any coalition partner dragging her down. It is highly unlikely that the SPD/Greens would call upon the 59 or so seats of the Far Left.

The tactical voting to help the FDP that I was half-expecting does not seem to have taken place.

The Greens will have little leverage.

The way is now clear for a slow reversal of the disastrous nuclear policy pushed by the Greens though Angela Merkel will have to be very dainty on her feet to make this U-turn.

Tactical voting in the German polls today?

September 22, 2013

Talking to some of my German friends over the last few days, I get the impression that there could be some tactical voting today.

German polls

German polls

The latest polls (via der Spiegel) give Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU 39% but their coalition partners the FDP are running close to the 5% barrier. The Green vote has come down to around 9% and the recent ballyhoo about their pro-vegetarianism, anti-car and pro-paedophilia positions could hurt them further. The dawning realisation that they have been most responsible for the very high cost of electricity that Germans are burdened with has probably been the underlying reason for their steady decline in the last few months. The far Left are also around 9% and their votes are probably solid especially in Eastern Germany where die-hard communists are still hankering for the “good old days”.

The anti-Euro AfD are running below the 5% barrier and it has been politically incorrect to show any support for them. They could spring a surprise and creep over 5% and that would lead to interesting times – especially if their success is allied with a weakening of the Greens. Paradoxically some of their far-right support could be enhanced by some support from the very far Left.

To get any kind of a comfortable right-of-centre coalition Angela Merkel needs the FDP. For the FDP to fall below 5% could lead to some unnecessary pressures. A Grand Coalition with the SDP is something to be avoided. And this leads to the possibility that some CDU-CSU voters will cast their primary vote for their CDU-CSU candidate but will give their second vote to the FDP party. While no single FDP candidate will be advantaged in winning their own seats, this tactical approach could ensure that the FDP gets close to 7 or 8%. The seats they win as a party could then be close to the number won by the Greens and could provide the cushion that Angela Merkel could be quite thankful for. Talking to my friends (2 CDU supporters and one SDP) I got the impression that

  1. in very strong CDU-CSU constituencies some of the second “party” vote could well go to the FDP, and
  2. in strong SDP constituencies, CDU-CSU voters could cast both their votes for the FDP.

Well, the results will be known in about 12 hours and Angela Merkel’s performance is almost a foregone conclusion. She will be returned for the 3rd time. It is the performance of the Greens, the FDP and the AfD which adds some spice and interest to an otherwise rather low key and almost “boring” election. But it is the very mundane nature of the election which – I think – reflects the mood in Germany and is Angela Merkel’s greatest advantage. She makes common sense and being “boring” virtues devoutly to be sought.

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