Monday, January 7, 2013

Merkel looking good in the polls: But will FDP achieve the threshold?

junge schöne suchen Kandidaten für Deutsch Konservativen

by Clifford F. Thies

Recent public opinion polls show that Angela Merkel's parties - the Christian Democratic Party and, within Bavaria, the Christian Social Union - to be strongly in first place. Her parties have more than recovered from the drop in support they suffered subsequent to the 2009 election, when Europe fell into the second part of a double dip recession. Thus, Merkel has reason to be optimistic about being re-elected yet again as Chancellor in elections to be held by October 27 of this year.

The main uncertainty about the election appears, at this time, to be whether her preferred coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, will meet the 5 percent threshold required for representation in the Bundestag. The party is currently running at 4 percent in the polls.

In Germany, parties are represented in the Bundestag if (1) they achieve at least 5 percent of the nationwide vote or (2) finish first in at least three constituencies. In the most recent election, the FDP achieved a very substantial percentage of the nationwide vote (14.6 percent), but did not finish first in even one constituency. It it unlikely the party would win three constituencies with its diminished support.

Were the FDP to not reach the threshold, the CDP/CSU might be able to affect a coalition with the Social Democrats (a Grand Coalition) or with the Greens (a so-called Teal or blue-green coalition, the only prior such government we know of being the ruling coalition of Ireland from 2007 to 2011).

Part of the problem for the FDP is the revival of Merkel's conservative parties. The FDP's success in the prior election was partly in protest to the Euro-centric policies of Merkel's government. Large numbers of Germans oppose increased aid to the PIGS of Europe and to the influx of immigrants. The party benefitted from this protest, but, as a market-liberal party, the FDP is o.k. with free trade and the European project in general, and with immigrants as long as they do not become wards of the state. Indeed, the current leader of the FDP is himself an immigrant, of Vietnamese birth.

The other part of the problem for the FDP is the appeal of populist parties on the right and anarchic parties on the left. An example of the former is the tiny "Citizen Rage" Party of Bremerhaven, which has tapped into voter discontent during these tough times; and, an example of the latter is the German Pirate Party, which has gained representation in several Landes and is, like the FDP, running at 4 percent in the nationwide polls.

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