Beginning tomorrow and through Sunday I will be reporting on the German elections, aka Bundestagswahl 2013, from Frankfurt, Mainz, Wiesbaden, and Berlin, as part of a study group sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The foundation is the nonprofit arm of the Free Democrat Party, the junior coalition partner of the Christian Democratic Union. Whereas the FDP won a record-setting 15 percent of the vote four years ago, this time around it is fighting for its life.
For most of the year, the election has been described as soporific and uneventful. Most of the polls indicated that the CDU and FDP (along with Bavaria's Christian Social Union) would continue with its black-gold coalition—albeit with around 46 percent of the vote, just enough to rule. But in the last few weeks the CDU/CSU has been holding steady between 39 and 40 percent of the vote. The Free Democrats are polling, optimistically, at 5 percent. Keep in mind, 5 percent is the threshold in order to be represented in the Bundestag. If the FDP dips below this as it did in last Sunday's Bavarian state election (at 3 percent), it is doomed. The CDU would then drop the Free Democrats and most likely govern with the Social Democrats (SPD) in a repeat of the grand coalition—one that gets little done but would keep Angela Merkel chancellor.
Yes, there are alternatives but they aren't exactly viable. The SPD could join with the Greens and the far-left Die Linke party but the rift between the Social Democrats and the far left is deep. Die Linke, which counts former Communists among its supporters, is polling at 9 percent. But its policies, including a pullout from NATO, are still too much for moderate leftists to swallow.
Meanwhile, the Greens are in a freefall of their own, dropping from 20 percent to 10 percent. They are pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, one vegetarian day a week, and trying to play down a scandal from the 1980s in which some Green members supported pedophilia.
And what does it say about the state of a country that a former Communist party has more support from German voters than the FDP, which stands for lower taxes and less government?