Monday, October 31, 2005

Things fall apart

Well, the Fiendish Müntemerkel didn't last long. German democracy makes a lot of things explicit that are assumed in the UK - for example, where the British assume the leader of the largest party will form the government, and know that if not he or she can be disposed of through a vote of no confidence, the German parliament has to explicitly vote in the new government. Before that, the parties have to reconfirm their leaders, something that we also spare ourselves. This all meant that getting the frankly unlikely Müntemerkel government into office would be a little like a convoy of fuel tankers heading up Highway Eight to Baghdad.

Only after the successive pitfalls of agreeing on the cabinet, and then the programme, and getting the party leaders re-elected, and getting the policy of joining the coalition confirmed, and finally confirming the new government with a vote in the Bundestag had been dodged could they finally turn their backs on a road of RPG teams behind every tree, roadside bombs and fake police checkpoints in the calm security of the yellow-black zone.

Well, as it happened, they got past ambushes 1 and 2 before the insurgents scored a hit. Franz Müntefering, the SPD general secretary and new party chairman, who was meant to become vice-chancellor and minister of labour, the SPD's guarantor in the government, has resigned as party chairman after his candidate for the general secretaryship (which as chairman he must vacate) was soundly beaten by the left's candidate, Andrea Nahles. With Müntefering out of the party chair and the Gen Sec's office, and unlikely to take up his seat in the cabinet, the whole balance of power in the new government goes out of kilter.

The SPD tried at first to deny it, saying that the coalition negotiations were proceeding "normally", but it didn't last. In the morning, the rowing between the CDU-appointed minister for education and research and the CSU leader-cum-minister of the economy was on the point of settlement as the CDU gave up the research programme on nanotechnology, optics and optoelectronics, microelectronics and production processes to Stoiber's Economics Ministry. But by the afternoon, Stoiber was out too, heading back to Bavaria with the comment that "it's an entirely different SPD".

Don't say I didn't warn you..

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