Thursday, July 8, 2010
As new laws are being passed, it is usually well known in Germany that the opposition will not be happy with it. Our German political landscape included two sides: Coalition and opposition, who almost never work together. The opposition is actually only some sort of deliverer for the media. They have to criticize everything so that media can report about it and make the people angry, who should then protest. Yet, as we know that also protests are not always—or rather seldom—heard, the whole situation seems helpless.
Thus, opposition has found—favoured by the new situation in Bundesrat where they have a majority—a new method to deem laws. Instead of only telling how bad some laws were, they also try to threaten the coalition by mentioning the Federal Constitutional Court. As it is not possible to call Constitutional Court based on the Basic Law in these cases, they argue that the decisions should be made by both Bundestag (federal) and Bundesrat (states). There are some laws in Germany, which have to be settled by both of them including mail or railway, but most important all laws concering the finances of states and communities.
Since the Federal Constitutional Court has gained high popularity due to its decisions against surveillance, opposition seems to be trying to use this method now. However, at the same time they are degrading the Constitutional Court to a nearly worthless level on which everybody can use it as a threat against decisions he does not like. Instead of killing the high respect our Constitutional Court has, opposition should rather try to give exact propsals for better laws, because often you have the feeling that they do not know it better, either.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
In ancient Rome, politicians knew how to keep the people satisfied and quiet. There is a famous slogan for their method known as PANEM ET CIRCENSES meaning “bread and games”. This saying implies that the Roman people was held silent with free corn and free games. Nowadays, the slogan seems out-of-date and people think they can watch politics all the time, but when important sport events begin, we see how wrong this assumption is.
This week the G8 and G20 summit (G20 of the most important industrial countries, not the G20 of development countries) take place and the Canadian government spends 1.1 billion dollars for it. Most of the money goes into security for the politicians: 933 million dollars. Another part will be used for artificial nature, even though there is enough nature in Canada outside. — Yet, maybe politicians need to see how nice the world can be rebuilt even if we destroy the real nature.
Politics below soccer
However, instead of criticizing these high costs in times of crisis, many news papers rather care about soccer and how the German team will play against England on Sunday. In my own news paper, the G20 summit of Toronto has been mentioned in a small article of two columns and about ten lines. No word about the heavy demonstration when G8 summit took place in Germany, no word about the demonstrations in Canada, no word about the investments into artificial nature and no word about this year’s investments being 10 times as high as last years in the US.
News papers are not able to care about politics, they need to deal with soccer and thus it is no wonder that polticians are having a debate about financial cuts at exactly this moment. Of course, there has been a small debate before, but this was the beginning, when everybody mentioned his ideas. The important discussions are going on now, the final proposals for law are written now and the law will be passed soon. Thus, politics can be glad to see that the German soccer team has won against Ghana and the reporting will go on.
…and anything else
Of course it is not only the World Cup that leads to such situations. Events like the Eurovision song contest can also help politics as many news papers rather want to report about our winner Lena (even though she does not talk with these news papers) instead of political discussions. These news papers are the bad ones anyway, but they have a huge audience and big impact on politics. When many politicians of the SPD agreed to critical laws in the last election period, one of their most important members said that they had been afraid of a famous—and very bad—news paper.
So, we will always see politicians trying to have important debates at times when there are popular events and as World Cup or Olympics take much longer than the Eurovision Songcontest, they are predestined.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Three Candidates for Presidency
Three days after the retirement of our former president, the conservative coalition has chosen a candidate for presidency, ignoring the opposition’s recommendations to suggest a candidate that could be elected by all parties. The coalition instead proposed Christian Wulff, current minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia and member of the CDU.
As soon as government had decided to propose Wulff, two of the three oppositional parties (i.e. SPD and the Greens) suggested Joachim Gauck, not member of any party. Gauck fought the GDR and was responsible for the Stasi files after the defeat of the GDR. He has an attitude which can be roughly explained as “American freedom” meaning that he is very liberal. This also lead to criticism from social-democratic non-politicians and the left-wing party Die Linke.
Die Linke thus discussed if they should propose another candidate, trying to find an agreement within the party. The result according to media was that “the party chair has put through its opinion”: Die Linke proposed Luc Jochimsen as third candidate and they will also support her in a second or third voting. This shows the huge distrust against Gauck.
Voting According to Party Will
Now, representatives of all parties are told to vote for their own candidate and most of them will probably also follow the party line. Germany has a strong tradition of party politics and the so called “Fraktionsdiziplin” recommends each representative to vote according to the own faction’s leaders opinion. This makes oppositional ideas automatically evil. They might be the best ideas ever, the coalition will dismiss them anyway, just because you are supposed to vote as your own leaders do.
Since presidential elections are secret, you will however find more people who do not follow this rule. Furthermore, there are not only politicians in the Bundesversammlung who votes the president, but there might also be celebrities (Bundesrat can chose representatives as it wants).
Thus, the election could be exciting. It could… if everything had worked as expected.
Paltering Behind the Curtain
To get many votes from the political opponents, SPD and Greens—both usually caring very much about social security—have chosen a liberal politician as their candidate for presidency. They explained that they saw the need for a “non-party candidate”, but selecting Gauck as the one to be was rather calculation than persuasion. And it seemed to work. A few days after the presentation of Mr. Gauck as an alternative candidate several liberal politicians of the FDP said they want to support Gauck instead of the real CDU and FDP candidate Wulff who is rather conservative than liberal.
Yet, as the Die Linke will not support Gauck due to his lack of social dedication, the Red-Green strategy might not work that well. Besides, the German caricaturist Klaus Stuttmann published a picture about the FDP’s thoughts on the presidential election. Its content can be translated as: “Hello Angela [Merkel], no rising taxes! otherwise we not vote for Wulff. A good friend”.
This would mean that the opposition has shot themselves in the foot, because they wanted to impose higher taxes for the rich argumenting with Basic Law article 14:
(2) Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.
It seems like the FDP now uses its chance to vote for a candidate that would fit themselves, but not their more mighty coalition partner CDU to impose their own ideas against the majority will. You might wonder why this works, as the CDU could also refuse: Some observers say that as soon as the oppositional candidate is voted for new president, our chancellor Merkel will receive her political death blow and would have to retire.
New elections however—and maybe the FDP has not enough foresight here—would be another desaster for the liberal party, as their popularity is really low at the moment.
Sometimes, if you plan too much, you (as we use to say in Germany) “wake up in front of a pile of broken glass”.
Monday, May 31, 2010
The German President Horst Köhler has retreated from his position on May 31, 2010. To enable you to understand this, I have to explain what happened within the past few days.
Köhler gave an interview to Deutschlandradio in which he said that in each war we also have to consider economical ideas, because we are an export nation. This has been criticized a lot by politicians from all parties, but actually he only said the truth. Of course each nation is going to war for some sort of economical considerations. The USA invaded Iraq because they want to establish oil trade with a democratic and stable country and Afghanistan has a lot of resources as the German magazine Spiegel has shown (German) including copper, gas and oil. Moreover, Afghanistan has a good strategic position for the US being next to China, Pakistan and Iran.
Now Köhler has retreated because he said that the criticism within the past few days did not show enough respect for his position.
Our Secretary of Commerce, Brüderle (FDP), agreed that the President must have a special position outside of party politics, which enables him to criticize parties and he should not be criticized as harsh as Secretaries like himself. However, there are also both politicians and citizens who think that a President has to deal with criticism and should not give up instantly.
What does the German President do?
Our President is not as mighty as the President of the USA who controls politics. Having learned from Third Reich we cut the power of the President and imposed him to appeal to politicians’ morals.
The German President’s task is to—or at least Köhler set these tasks for himself—criticize not daily politics, but more the general trends. Köhler’s most important aim was his mission for Africa, but he was also liked by the German people because he was not politician (even though member of the CDU) and thus had enough distance to all parties. The President’s most important formal task is to sign laws so that they can be published in the Bundesgesetzblatt and become active law.
Köhler was called critical towards his own government, because he stopped several laws. One thing that the we as the internet community often seem to forget in our criticism against Köhler: He did sign the censorship law directly, but demanded more information by the government—which is a huge signal. Moreover, it is not Köhler’s duty to check laws for content, but only for their creation. One time the government wanted to impose a law onto cities, which is not allowed anymore: Köhler did not sign it. Content is then checked by the Constitutional Court if they are asked to do so.
As for now, the President of the Bundesrat will take Köhler’s position until a new President will have been voted. At the moment this is Jens Böhrnsen, a rather quiet person who only meets publicity when he really wants to criticize something. For example, he wanted to attend our Constitutional Court because of government’s plans to cut money for Länder.
(4) The Federal Convention shall meet not later than thirty days before the term of office of the Federal President expires or, in the case of premature termination, not later than thirty days after that date. It shall be convened by the President of the Bundestag.
The new President now will probably be some politician, because media is now discussing if Köhler was not experienced enough. However, I think that it is better to have a President who has enough distance to party politics. Together with a friend I have discussed if it might be good to have the former protestant church leader Margot Käßmann as President, because she also tells criticism directly (as with her well known quotation: “Nothing is good in Afghanistan”).
Saturday, May 22, 2010
You might remember that I have reported about the students’ protests in Austria which already began in Germany some weeks later. Students had conquered lecture halls of their university and stayed there to fight for more democracy and a better situation.
Not even compensating inflation
I did not know if I should laugh or resignate when I saw the outcome of the plans to change everything. The government had decided to raise support for non-wealthy students by 2%. Wow, 2%! That’s a fucking lot considering that the normal inflation (except these two years of recession) is about 3%. This means that the costs for different products you buy (the Federal Statistical Office has a virtual shopping cart with all kind of products) increases by 3% per year, but you get 2% more financial help in a time span of several years.
Moreover, we hear the same postulations as every year: “There need to be more scholarships”. This is true, but then create them and do not talk about it all day long! Why are there political scholarships which require you to be member of a specific party, mainly CDU or SPD? There are not many youths who want to be member of CDU or SPD, because their structure is neither flexible nor modern anymore and so these scholarships are basically worthless for most students.
“You are worthless!”
The Financial Ministers of several Länder now carry the situation to extremes. They declined the raise, because it was too expensive. I wonder if they know that we will be paying retirement pensions in future.
Germany does not have anything except knowledge, thus they are spitting in their own bowl by not improving support for students. On the one hand they adapt Bachelor’s and Master’s degree which transform university into a full-time job and education industry instead of free learning and then they want to cancel help for students who cannot pay for their studies. That’s exactly the right way! Go on like this and you will destroy Germany’s good position.
There’s two possibilities: Either students are enabled to work while doing studies or they are supported by the state. The financial aid is not even a full payment, but a mixture of payment and credit, meaning that you have to return 50% of what you got. Comparing this with the offered increase of 2%, the state would have to finance only 1%. I do not mind if they pay 2% more or not, because it’s baiscally 10€ per student, but I do mind the signal they are giving to younger generation.
We are paying your wages, we are paying the wages of company owners, because we are the ones inventing new stuff. We are holding Germany’s title as research country high and you are kicking our asses.