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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:44 pm 
Sanno
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Raphael wrote:
There was a state legislative election in Lower Saxony yesterday. The result - SPD 36.9, CDU 33.6, Greens 8.7, FDP 7.5, AfD 6.2, Left below five percent - is confused enough that both the SPD and the CDU celebrated like winners on tv; mathematically the SPD came first, but the CDU will probably be more likely to form a governing coalition, because there's no majority for red-green and the FDP has ruled out a coalition involving the SPD.

Why won't the FPD work with the SPD? I didn't think the SPD was all that horrifyingly left-wing anymore?

And why is the state election held now? Accident (they called the state election before they knew there would be a national one just before it)? Coincidence? Tradition?
Quote:

Anyway, in the rest of the country, the importance of this is that party leaders are no longer worried about how anything they do might hurt them in Lower Saxony, and are now free to actually talk to each other and try to put together a governing coalition. Wheee. The first stage of this will be so-called "Sondierungsgespräche", which translates as "probing talks" and means that party representatives talk to each other to see which kinds of coalitions might be possible.

Actually, the direct translation is better here. Coalition discussions in English are often "soundings" or sometimes "sounding talks", or just "talks to sound out [so.]", etc. "Sounding" is a rarely-used word, but remains current in the Navy, in politics, and sometimes in the work place. But politicians are particularly keen on them (you'll also find politicians conducting "soundings" when they're, say, deciding to run for another office). The verb is "sound out", or sometimes just "sounded".
Quote:
(Spoiler: basically the only federal level coalition that currently seems possible is CDU/CSU/FDP/Greens, no matter how difficult it might be to get the Greens and the other three parties, especially the CSU, to work together.)

After that, there'll be the actual coalition talks, in which the parties will try to work out a coalition agreement (or, to be pedantic, a coalition treaty). After that, there'll be a new government.

As an aside, apparently the CSU will try to found a new federal department of "Heimat", which is a kind of difficult to translate German word - it means "home" in the sense of "a village, town, or region where you feel at home". Apparently the task of that department (if it is founded) will be to promote the rural lifestyle and local rural cultural traditions, and to try to keep small town residents in their small towns.

For most purposes, I think "homeland" (as a noun) or "home" (as an... adjective? Abstract mass noun? whatever) would suffice, although seemingly the German is used more often. "Motherland", "mother country" etc can be used more evocatively. And sometimes we just say "heimat", though usually in a different sense (heimat and urheimat are mostly found in a historical sense).

FWIW, the word "Heimat" is more recognised in Britain than you might think, because of a deeply-beloved TV show of that name in the 1980s. A decade ago, it was voted the 10th best drama ever* (it was a brief era of German television being popular here - Das Boot was 15th). My father still goes on about it.

*for those who are curious, it was beaten by:
More: show
The Sopranos; Boys from the Blackstuff; Edge of Darkness; The Singing Detective; Cathy Come Home; The West Wing; Cracker; Our Friends in the North; and Twin Peaks. The next 15 were: Prime Suspect; Pennies from Heaven; Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy; I, Claudius; Das Boot; A Very British Coup; This Life; Abigail's Party; Hill Street Blues; Queer as Folk; Sex Traffic; Bleak House; House of Cards (the original, obviously); Shameless (the original, obviously); and Talking to a Stranger

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:08 am 
Avisaru
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mèþru wrote:
Raphael wrote:
keep small town residents in their small towns
WHAT?


As opposed to letting the smaller towns wither away as jobs, people, and services move to larger cities. It's an admirable goal but has a couple of problems:

- It's a bloody hard task to achieve, not the least with a policy maker's toolkit.

- It's easy to turn into a policy of neglecting the cities, or at least seeming to do so.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:30 am 
Smeric
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mèþru wrote:
Raphael wrote:
keep small town residents in their small towns
WHAT?

It's basically about pleasing rural voters by creating better infrastructure in non-urban areas. The CDU/CSU voters are more rural than urban, and more conservative, so caring for village communities and preserving traditional life styles is a vote winner. Plus, Germany indeed has a problem with people abandoning certain rural areas and with the population of these areas feling abandoned by government, especially in parts of Eastern Germany. That's part of the reason the AfD and similar right-wingers get so many votes there.

Salmoneus wrote:
Raphael wrote:
mathematically the SPD came first, but the CDU will probably be more likely to form a governing coalition, because there's no majority for red-green and the FDP has ruled out a coalition involving the SPD.

Why won't the FPD work with the SPD? I didn't think the SPD was all that horrifyingly left-wing anymore?

Actually, the FDP has ruled out a coalition including the Greens. The Greens in Lower Saxony are somewhat more to the left than the Greens on the federal level, and the FDP had campaigned for ending Red-Green. I'm not sure whether they'll keep that up - they seem to have signalled already that they'd be OK with a Jamaica coalition in Lower Saxony, which, as it would include the CDU, would be more conservative than an Ampel (= "traffic-light") coalition with the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP.
In any case, the only politially possible coalitions in Lower Saxony are Ampel, Jamaica, or a Grand Coalition. If the FDP continues to exclude the Ampel, I assume we'll end up with a Grand Coalition of SPD and CDU - a sub-optimal outcome that will only strengthen the AfD.

Salmoneus wrote:
And why is the state election held now? Accident (they called the state election before they knew there would be a national one just before it)? Coincidence? Tradition?

State elections are held all the time, on their own calendar depending on the state constitutions (some state diets are elected for four years, some for five years). But in this specific case, the regular election was due next year (in January); the early elections were triggered by the red-green coalition losing its one-seat majority (a Green deputy who wasn't re-nominated for the party list for the upcoming regular election switched sides to the CDU). As all major parties were interested in new elections, the Landtag dissolved itself (it can do so with a 2/3 majority) and triggered the election.
It had been discussed to schedule the elections on the same day as the federal elections, but it seems there were legal and organisational objections by the state electoral commission against having them so shortly after the dissolution, which happened on August, 21st.

Salmoneus wrote:
For most purposes, I think "homeland" (as a noun) or "home" (as an... adjective? Abstract mass noun? whatever) would suffice, although seemingly the German is used more often. "Motherland", "mother country" etc can be used more evocatively. And sometimes we just say "heimat", though usually in a different sense (heimat and urheimat are mostly found in a historical sense).

The problem with most of these English translations (except for "home") is that they seem to default to the nation state or perhaps big divisions that see themselves as nations, like e.g. England or Scotland, while Heimat doesn't - it evokes smaller units, prototypically the immediate region around one's home town or village. When the nation state is meant, the more precise Heimatland is often used.

Salmoneus wrote:
FWIW, the word "Heimat" is more recognised in Britain than you might think, because of a deeply-beloved TV show of that name in the 1980s. A decade ago, it was voted the 10th best drama ever* (it was a brief era of German television being popular here - Das Boot was 15th). My father still goes on about it.

You mean this? Huh, I didn't know that it was so successful in the UK. In Germany it was really big, although I must admit I never watched more than a few glimpses (due to the fact that my parents didn't want to have a TV at home for reasons of principle, I didn't watch a lot of the iconic German films and TV Shows of the 70s and 80s when they were originally on TV).


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:51 am 
Smeric
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That's a phrasing problem. I thought you meant some program that would make it difficult for people who want or need to move out from small towns to do so.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:12 pm 
Avisaru
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(I would have posted something, but H-W wrote pretty much everything I would have written, including some details I didn't know.)


mèþru wrote:
That's a phrasing problem. I thought you meant some program that would make it difficult for people who want or need to move out from small towns to do so.


Oh, sorry, my bad.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:34 pm 
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Wow, that was unexpected. Or at least, I didn't expect it, though perhaps I should have.

After weeks during which everyone seemed to agree that the main problem in the probing/sounding talks was to get the Greens and the CSU to agree on something, last night the FDP pulled out of the talks, which ended them. As a result, we're now in largely uncharted waters, in a situation that hasn't happened (as far as I know) at the federal level in all the time that the current constitution, the Basic Law, has been in force. Merkel talked about the situation with the Federal President today, who, afterwards, appealed to all parties to try again to form a coalition. However, the SPD's Vorstand (which might be translated as something like "board" or "executive committee") voted unanimously against a grand coalition once again.

That would leave either a minority government, which hasn't happened at the federal level after World War 2, or new Bundestag elections, which would require some complex constitutional maneuvers.

I think I'll post some relevant parts of the German Basic Law now (translation from http://gesetze-im-internet.de):

From Article 69:

Quote:
(2) The tenure of office of the Federal Chancellor or of a Federal Minister shall end in any event when a new Bundestag convenes; the tenure of office of a Federal Minister shall also end on any other occasion on which the Federal Chancellor ceases to hold office.

(3) At the request of the Federal President the Federal Chancellor, or at the request of the Federal Chancellor or of the Federal President a Federal Minister, shall be obliged to continue to manage the affairs of his office until a successor is appointed.


(This has been the base for Merkel's authority since the newly elected Bundestag convened on October 24th.)

and:

Quote:
Article 63
[Election of the Federal Chancellor]

(1) The Federal Chancellor shall be elected by the Bundestag without debate on the proposal of the Federal President.

(2) The person who receives the votes of a majority of the Members of the Bundestag shall be elected. The person elected shall be appointed by the Federal President.

(3) If the person proposed by the Federal President is not elected, the Bundestag may elect a Federal Chancellor within fourteen days after the ballot by the votes of more than one half of its Members.

(4) If no Federal Chancellor is elected within this period, a new election shall take place without delay, in which the person who receives the largest number of votes shall be elected. If the person elected receives the votes of a majority of the Members of the Bundestag, the Federal President must appoint him within seven days after the election. If the person elected does not receive such a majority, then within seven days the Federal President shall either appoint him or dissolve the Bundestag.


(This regulates what might happen next. Sections (3) and (4) have never been applied before.)

Oh, and in case anyone's been wondering, in Lower Saxony, a grand coalition led by the SPD has been formed at the state level.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:43 am 
Smeric
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For the last almost 70 years, it was mostly boringly predictable who would govern Germany after the election results wre announced (the exception being 1969, when the CDU thought they'd continue the first Grand Coalition with the SPD, but the latter teamed up with the FDP instead). This time is really different; we're now having our next round of drama.
For the last week or so, the CDU/CSU and the President have tried to talk the SPD into a renewed Grand Coalition (GroKo = Große Koalition). Then the Agriculture Minister (Christian Schmidt, CSU) voted for the prolongation of the certification of weedkiller glyphosat for 5 years in the European Council of Ministers, even though the SPD-led Environment Ministry was against it. According to the rules of procedure of the cabinet, Germany should have abstained, as the two ministries involved were not in agreement. Later it also transpired that the Chancellor's offfice had instructed Schmidt beforehand to come to an agreement with the Environment Ministry and had reminded him of the rules. So this looks either like Schmidt has openly both broken the rules and defied the Chancellor in order to please his clientele (the CSU is traditionally in the pocket of the commercial farmers' lobby), or like Merkel unofficially sanctioning his actions to please the CSU while communicating adherence to the rules officially. Both possibilities don't make her look good, and the SPD has made a big show about how that scandal erodes the trust needed to renew the GroKo.
But despite the public clamour, Schmidt and Barbara Hendricks (the Environment Minister) now have met and made up, the leaders of CDU, CSU, and SPD have met at the residence of the President yesterday, and it seems we're headed for a new GroKo. We'll wait for new scenes in that political theatre. The SPD has promised that it will put participation in the GroKo to a vote among its members; let's see how that plays out.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:43 am 
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It might sound crazy, but would it be possible to have CDU-SPD coalition without CSU?

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:23 pm 
Smeric
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Pole, the wrote:
It might sound crazy, but would it be possible to have CDU-SPD coalition without CSU?

I know a lot of people who would like that, but no, it won't happen. CDU and CSU are joined at the hip; even if they're legally separate parties, they form one parliamentary group (Fraktion), since 1949. There's even a specific provision in the German legislation created with that union in mind, that only parties that do not field candidates against each other (i.e. in the same constituencies or states - keep in mind that German parties put up separate lists in each state for the Bundestag elections) can form a parliamentary group. There first would have to happen a splitting of that parliamentary group before your scenario would be possible. The CSU attempted such a split in 1976, but didn't go through with it. I can't exclude that it will ever happen, but that would be a major realingment of the German party system.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:33 pm 
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The Economist thinks there should be a new election in the hopes of producing a clearer result: https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21731622-political-uncertainty-bad-germany-and-europe-germans-should-vote-again-how-break. What do y'all think of that?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:49 pm 
Smeric
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linguoboy wrote:
The Economist thinks there should be a new election in the hopes of producing a clearer result: https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21731622-political-uncertainty-bad-germany-and-europe-germans-should-vote-again-how-break. What do y'all think of that?

Horsefeathers, old boy Economist. The polls currently show voting intentions that are a few percentage points up or down for the indiviudal parties compared to the election results, but nothing indicating that the result would allow any of the coalitions that aren't possible today (CDU/CSU/FDP, Red-Green, Red-Red-Green, Ampel). If things drag on without a government into the new year, that may change, but I doubt it. Currently, I'd actually prefer a CDU/CSU minority government supported by the SPD, and new elections in a year or two.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:08 pm 
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hwhatting wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
The Economist thinks there should be a new election in the hopes of producing a clearer result: https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21731622-political-uncertainty-bad-germany-and-europe-germans-should-vote-again-how-break. What do y'all think of that?

Horsefeathers, old boy Economist. The polls currently show voting intentions that are a few percentage points up or down for the indiviudal parties compared to the election results, but nothing indicating that the result would allow any of the coalitions that aren't possible today (CDU/CSU/FDP, Red-Green, Red-Red-Green, Ampel). If things drag on without a government into the new year, that may change, but I doubt it. Currently, I'd actually prefer a CDU/CSU minority government supported by the SPD, and new elections in a year or two.


To be fair, it may not be that clearcut - in the case of these clarificatory elections, intentions can move rapidly before the election. That's because a large number of voters vote tactically in these situations, and tactical voting is often hard to predict beforehand (because people don't admit to it), and volatile (because it as polls start to show it, it becomes self-reinforcing). They can thus give unexpected results, although you're quite right that we shouldn't get our hopes up too much...


Regarding coalitions: while I don't imagine it's politically likely, presumably a CSU-free coalition is possible in practice despite the legal niceties? The CDU leadership could directly negotiate a deal with the SPD that the CSU leadership didn't approve of, surely?

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:48 pm 
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@Sal: purely legally, they could do so, but that would mean blowing up their own party. While CDU and CSU formally are two parties, they go into the elections as one unit and are seen by voters and members as such. It's a bit as if the Scottish Tories had their own seat and a veto at the negotiation table when a government is formed - that would make work harder for Theresa May, but it probably wouldn't lead her to form a government without them. Ditching the CSU would weaken the CDU and would enrage a lot of its members. There is no good reason why they would do that.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 8:12 am 
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Thank you for keeping people updated, H-W. I wasn't at all sure what to write about all the stuff that's been going on. And I agree that the new elections proposal from the Economist is nonsense.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:00 pm 
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Also, a new election could see further AfD gains due to all the chaos among the more mainstream parties.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:30 am 
Smeric
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mèþru wrote:
Also, a new election could see further AfD gains due to all the chaos among the more mainstream parties.

That risk can't be excluded, but the current polls give no indication for a significant rise in AfD votes right now. In general, most pundits are more worried that another four years of GroKo, with the main parties of the center in government, will lead to a strengthening of the extremes.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:54 am 
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We might have a lift-off. Sort of. In the new year, the CDU/CSU and SPD held extensive sounding talks, and those have ended with the production of a preliminary paper. We'll see if this leads anywhere.

Meanwhile, in some international media outlets, I've seen comments about how Germany has gone for months without a government. That's simply not true. Germany has only gone for months without a regular government - there's been an acting government for all that time.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:32 am 
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This just in: the Guardian has published an editorial titled "The Guardian view on Germany’s coalition deal: Merkel in the balance". Aaaaaargh! There is no coalition deal yet! There've only been sounding talks so far! The actual coalition talks are yet to come! And even if they produce a deal, it will still have to be ratified by the respective party institutions! Sigh.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:52 pm 
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And now it looks like there might be open rebellion in the SPD against the preliminary deal. There seems to be a lot of unhappiness in the base, and yesterday, a state SPD convention in Saxony-Anhalt voted against the deal.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:32 am 
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The SPD will have a special convention to vote on the preliminary deal tomorrow, and it's not at all clear how the vote will go. There's a lot of unhappiness about the deal among the SPD's rank and file. The deal is especially unpopular with the Jusos or Young Socialists, the SPD's youth organisation, which is traditionally a good deal more to the left than the "adult" SPD. Ok, we'll see.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:19 am 
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SPD special convention currently voting.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:30 am 
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Voted with a fairly slim majority to enter formal coalition talks.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:39 am 
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That doesn't mean that a CDU/CSU-SPD coalition is certain, though. Once the coalition talks have produced a formal coalition agreement, there'll still be a vote about that among the entire SPD membership. And given how close the special convention vote was, nothing is certain about that.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:02 pm 
Smeric
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Raphael wrote:
That doesn't mean that a CDU/CSU-SPD coalition is certain, though. Once the coalition talks have produced a formal coalition agreement, there'll still be a vote about that among the entire SPD membership. And given how close the special convention vote was, nothing is certain about that.

Yep. My impression is that the SPD grassroots like the idea less and less. Although it doesn't seem that new elections are such a good option for the SPD right now...


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:56 am 
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Now it is the time for Schulz, Nahles and the other SPD leaders to really get their shit together and reevaluate major parts of the pre-coalition talks agreement. If they don't, they're entering yet another government that won't implement anything the SPD campaigned for. Before the elections you heard them say abolishing private healthcare (I don't know how to properly translate Bürgerversicherung) was crucial for them and there won't be a coalition if the CDU opposes. This was dropped completely, just like fighting for job security and ending people getting trapped in endless temporary employment contracts, raising taxes for higher income groups, minimum wages and pensions and pretty much everything else, really.
I'm not an SPD voter and no matter whether I do or don't support these policies, this can't end well for them. They have been working against their own voter base (and as correctly noted, against their own youth organisation) and have done so for years, which ultimately lead to their disastrous election results (remember when something like 40% was a normal result? I certainly don't, I'm too young). And now it looks like they'll proceed with it like nothing happened. I am confused.


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