Friday, October 21, 2005

The People (of Germany) Have Spoken

Anyone following international news has likely found a scarcity of reporting on the controversial elections that took place recently in Germany. At least this has been the case for me. Like most things that are avoided by the American mainstream media, this has been avoided for a reason. What could that reason be?

Well, all I have heard about Europe over the past 3 years is how much they hate America. I heard this about Great Britain, then they re-elected their pro-American Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Leading the anti-American movement in Europe has been Jaques Chirac of France and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, or should I say former German Chancellor Schroeder. Schroeder ran on an anti-American platform as a member of the Social Democrats and was successful. He held that office for seven years. During those seven years he has fought both publicly and privately to distance Germany from the US and to disrupt American policies worldwide. As a result both he and Chirac have become darlings of the American media who love to see opposition to the US when their man is not in office.

Based on American media reports of worsening sentiment in Germany about the US due to the Iraq War, Guantanamo Bay and the Kyoto Treaty, among other things, it seemed a given that Germany would continue with the status quo and keep the anti-American, socialist Chancellor in office. This is not what happened.

What happened was an extremely close election, reminiscent of the 2000 elections in the US, in which Schroeder had to step down and yield power to conservative Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Party. Because of the way the German government is organized, the closeness of the election resulted in the negotiations for and the subsequent sharing of power between Schroeder's and Merkel's parties in the German cabinet. The nuances of the political system go beyond my knowledge of the German system. What is important is the election of a conservative. This is why the American media has kept its coverage of this to a minimum, afterall this is a historical election for Germany, worthy of much news coverage.

Merkel is the first woman Chancellor of Germany. She is also from the former East Germany, which gives her first hand experience with communism. Sounds newsworthy to me, as much so as is a change in the balance of power. According to her statements, Merkel is committed to improving relations with the US strained by Schroeder's opposition to the war in Iraq. This is not what the American media wants you to hear. After all, we are supposed to have no friends in Europe. John Kerry ran on the mantra of the US isolating itself from its European allies. It appears the people of Germany, at least a small majority, want somebody to undo the damage done by Schroeder, his anti-American posture and Germany's socialist domestic policies.

Merkel views the current direction of German socialism to be detrimental to the future of Germany. The fact that a majority of Germans share this view is another thing the media does not want you to know. After all, they are constantly pushing a socialist agenda in this country and paint the picture of a European/Canadian utopia as a result of socialism. The reality is much different.

Germany's economic growth has been basically nonexistent over the past 2-3 years. It is the fifth largest economy in the world yet it is the slowest growing economy in Europe. Social security payouts have exceeded the contributions from workers. Strict regulations on laying off workers and the national setting of wages have resulted in chronic unemployment. Unemployment is 11.2% in Germany. Their national healthcare system is in bad need of reform. Germany has a lavish welfare system which has been stressed by immigration due to its lax immigration laws. In short, socialism is catching up to Germany. Those from the east who know the pitfalls of this system were primarily responsible for putting Merkel in office. Those in the west are busy blaming the former East Germans for the problems.

So will the election of Merkel affect great changes in Germany and in German-American relations? Well it is hard to say. I suspect the tone will change more than the policies, due to the power sharing agreement that keeps the Social Democrats in charge of eight cabinet seats. They include the foreign, finance, labor, justice, health, transport, environment and development ministries. Merkel's party gets six ministries. Merkel's party has 226 votes in the 614-seat parliament; the Social Democrats have 222. Other parties occupy the additional seats. It looks like the statement made by the people of Germany may be the most important outcome for the US. Getting any real significant changes within Germany's socialist system and foreign policy will be unlikely due to the power sharing agreement and the lack of a majority in the parliment by Merkel's Christian Democrats.

The important things for Americans to realize are that a lot of Germans have not abandoned the US and those Germans are not too happy with where socialism has taken them. These are the last things the mainstream American media powerhouses want you to know.

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