At Glover Cottages on Tuesday 15th August, we hosted Dr Andrew Beattie, lecturer in German and European Studies at the University of New South Wales.
Dr Beattie discussed the forthcoming German elections. He said the key issues were unemployment, refugees, marriage equality and leadership. At only 3.8 percent, unemployment is currently at an all-time low, enhancing Merkel’s leadership promise of stability. But the refugee crisis is divisive, causing substantial disagreement between and within parties. Merkel wants no ceiling on humanitarian relief, which has support from the left and elements in the international community. But the far right is opposed and so are parts of German society. Dr Beattie’s assessment is that the majority of Germans will support Merkel’s position.
One party worth watching is the right-wing Free Democratic Party (FDP), whose relatively young candidate, Christian Lindner, wants to reinvigoration the Party’s focus and support. Throughout Bundestag history the FDP has been a consistent coalition ‘king maker’, with the exception of the last elections, when Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Dr Beattie speculated that Merkel may find it expedient to ditch the Socialists and form a coalition with the FDP, or even with a party even further to the right – the Alternative for Germany (AfD) – which is using the refugee crisis for political traction. There is potential for a six party Bundestag.
During question time the opinion emerged that forming coalition governments between large opposing parties may be possible in Europe, but impossible in Australia. One could not imagine the Liberal and Labor parties forming a coalition government. A question also arose about the name of Merkel’s party – the Christian Democratic Union. Was it not one of the very few European political parties with a religious name? Did it have a religious flavour? Dr Beattie explained the origin of the Christian Democratic Union in both name and formation. It was a device to overcome religious differences in the community and reduce conflict between Protestant and Catholic political ideologies. As such it had been effective as a way of overcoming differences for the betterment of the German people.
AIIA NSW intern