Plenty of good articles have appeared ahead of this Sunday's German election. Here's a sample...
Writing in today's Guardian, James Meek says the German mood is one of fear that the good times may be past.
"At the moment, you have a situation where things are getting worse, little by little, and no political party in Germany has the courage to make a hard and painful cut, to say, 'We don't live in the world of the 80s, we have to adapt to new conditions'," said Thomas Brussig, a novelist and screenwriter living in Berlin. "So a reform solves a problem for two years, or for a year, or for half a year, and then you realise it's not enough, and that new cuts are necessary."
Katrin Bennhold of the International Herald Tribune reports that German voters voice anger and doubt.
As Germans prepare to vote Sunday, they seem resigned to an economic status quo that has seen joblessness stuck above 10 percent for the best part of a decade. ...Many feel betrayed by an economy that has allowed big companies to reach record profits at a time when unemployment remains at 11.4 percent. They are angry at a government that, despite imposing painful reforms, has not kept its promises to cut that joblessness.
..."Schröder is very good with the cameras but not so good at governing this country," said Werse, 57, a housewife and mother. "He had seven years." "Why should everything become better all of a sudden now?" she asked. "I am voting for Angela Merkel. At least she comes across as honest."
Tilman Spengler says Germany’s election is coming alive as the leading candidates offer divergent visions of what their country needs to become. It is Germany’s time of choice:
...the bigger and the smaller political parties have started to talk not just about elections but about a Richtungswahlkampf - a word as ugly to look at as to hear it pronounced. A Richtungswahlkampf is not just a battle over different political strategies, between charismatic (or not-so-charismatic) MPs, or for or against higher taxation: it announces nothing less than a clash of political civilisations.
It’s not that the CDU is not attempting to win in the sense that they do not want to govern. They do. But I think many of them, certainly within the league of state premiers would be relieved with the prospect of a “grand coalition”. One without Kirchhof, with more labour market reforms, but a less radical model of tax reform, and a new, less bureaucratic, model of health reform designed to include non-wage income into the public health redistribution system.
Ferda Ataman and Daniela Gerson at Der Spiegel ask Will Germany's Turks Pick the Next Chancellor?
More than a half-million German-Turkish voters are eligible to go to the polls... They overwhelmingly support the Social Democrats, and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has put Turkish voters at the front of his campaign this week.
Writer and commentator Günter Grass bangs the drum for Schröder :
With Sunday's general election now too close to call, Grass has urged Germans to vote for Mr Schröder. The conservatives had "nothing to offer" on culture, Grass wrote in an article for the Social Democrats' newspaper, Trust in Germany. The writer also praised the chancellor's decision to keep Germany out of the war in Iraq, despite "considerable" pressure from the Americans. "Two wars have originated from Germany in the last century, whose consequences are still palpable in the present," Grass writes.
Le Monde Diplomatique's Mathias Greffrath argues the SPD "is in steep decline' in Germany: new left, old right. It's all the market's fault, of course:
So the social democratic movement of the Brandt-Schmidt era has split irrevocably into three parties: the party of well-to-do workers and public sector employees (SPD); the party of the unemployed, those in precarious employment, and the victims of modernisation (Left party); and the party of urban leftwing liberals (Greens).
This break-up is the consequence of the political failure to master economic globalisation and of the widening social divisions caused by globalisation. It has destroyed the SPD as an integrating force and makes more difficult the task of building a parliamentary alliance of different categories of wage earners to defend a reformed welfare state and propose a strong alternative. As a result, submission to the market will increase. The crisis of the SPD is a sign of the impending crisis of parliamentary representation as a whole.
Der Spiegel also writes about The Price of a Failed Reunification :
On the campaign trail, Germany's politicians are mostly silent about one of the country's most pressing problems. Former East Germany is a major liability costing the economy €100 billion annually. An eastern German report card 16 years after reunification.
And Ulrike Guérot, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund examines Merkel’s New Foreign Policy: What, if Anything, Will Change?
..on the European level, Merkel will not build up a coalition with Blair for a ‘liberal’ Europe versus the ‘social’ one of France... What she can do, however, is to bridge between France and the UK, who are the two most important players in European policies.
...Merkel could, first, take the forthcoming EU-budget negotiations that will be on the table under the Austrian EU-Presidency starting 2006, to forge a necessary Franco-British deal. ...She could, second, bring Germany back to the middle of the institutional reform process and – in the spirit of Helmut Kohl’s European policy – be more demanding on France with regard to respecting the small countries, a strong Commission and a strong European Parliament (the only truly supranational entities of the EU). ...Bridging between France and the UK would also and essentially bring back Germany as a key European player in European affairs and policy...
Hat tip for some of these articles to the essential Political Theory Daily Review.