THE POLITICAL PAGE
Germany in an unstable equilibrium -
where will this end?
What is 'an unstable equilibrium'?
When a plank comes to rest on a round log – when it is balancing and the plank is lying horizontally then we say it is in an ‘unstable equilibrium'. ‚It is unstable' - because the slightest change can cause the plank to tip either to the one side or the other.
This is how I perceive the political situation of our country at the moment. Many things happened under the Schröder government but, at the moment the political process is on a knife edge so that a slide towards one side - a major change is conceivable - may be starting at any moment. The Red-Green Coalition – the coalition of the two German political parties the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and the Bündnis 90/Die Grüne (“the Greens”) – feels just as unstable. Their nerves are taut.
Even though the survey results are changing slightly from month to month the pointers are definitely towards change. A turnaround is in the air. Although the Black-Yellow-Coalition – the coalition of the two German political parties the CDU (the Christian Democratic Union) and the CSU (the Christian Social Union) – is consistently ahead of the Red-Green Coalition it is still a neck-and-neck race. For years the SPD has been losing, voters and members. More and more people think that this government is unable to solve Germany's current problems.
1. Present Record
Gerhard Schröder wanted to be judged by the improving unemployment figures. This was one of the election pledges made by Gerhard Schröder in 1998. The opposite has happened. There are now 5.3 Mio. unemployed people – the highest figures in this country since the end of Second World War. In addition a further 1 Mio. unemployed people were not counted as unemployed because they are involved in 'arrangements' made by the German federal labour office. All in all that means a total of 6-7 Mio. unemployed people.
According to experts like Prof. Friedhelm Hengsbach from the ‘Rheinischer Merkur' no. 11 2005, page 12) this figure is expected to rise steadily, ‘if we expect industry to be the key to rising employment'.
At the Jobs Summit, the government met Big Businesses half way; it offered further write-off facilities and accelerated tax reforms and immediately lowered corporation taxation from 25% to 19%. This was done in the hope that the billions profits earned would be reinvested in business growth and that new jobs would result. But, the opposite has happened. Why? Again prof. F. Hengsbach said: „If the returns anticipated from capital markets is higher than the profit expectations through real investments, the companies will invest their funds on the capital market rather than in capital investments to provide new jobs. This is where a change is essential." In other words: Companies want to generate strong profits. They can currently make more profit by placing their money on the global stock markets than they can by investing it in their own business. The hunger of shareholders for increasing prices is the whip which is continuously driving managers towards „anti-social“ market-economy. This cynicism was revealed through the announcement made by Ackermann, the Head of the Deutsche Bank, who forecasted a billion in profit for 2004 and only a little while later announced 6000 redundancies. Under the tutelage of the stock exchange Germany is just about to abandon the last of its social responsibility in the executive level of lager-scale companies.
Schröder as “the confrere of the bosses” admitted that he couldn't change the attitude of these bosses. The major manufacturers are making their employees redundant. They make profits and the state pays unemployment benefits instead of earning tax income from their labour.
At the recent Jobs Summit on 17th March the middle-sized companies were missed out, even though they generate 70% of employment. These small and medium-sized companies are not shifting their jobs abroad and they are not looking for remedies at the stock exchange. Because of their diversity they have no united political lobby, nor do they have the time to engage in politics. Each year 40,000 of these companies file for bankruptcy but, instead of helping the middle-sized companies the government burdens them with heavier bureaucracy. Finally the consequence of the employment legislation regarding the Disability Discrimination Act.
For a long time the family-welfare was the Schröder government's plaything. Till now when it has received renewed relevance: With only 1.4 children per woman of childbearing age Germany hast he lowest birth rate in the world. And these few children are also poorly trained (Pisa-Study). We don't need more day-care facilities for children as the federal government claims. We need a different set of values and a higher valuation of mothers.
In 1997 Germany pleaded passionately in the EU for the introduction of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) in order to maintain the value of the Euro. This pact should have led member states towards solid budgetary policy and avoid budget overspends exceeding 3% p.a. of the gross domestic product (GDP) - or sanctions would be imposed. Since 2002 the German government has consistently presented budgets exceeding the 3% limit on new indebtedness. At first Eichel, the federal minister of finance, promised to improve the situation. Currently, the SGP (the Stability and Growth Pact) was attacked publicly and is now expected to push for the destabilisation of the Euro. Finally, the politically astute Luxembourg Presidency has agreed that Germany's overspending on reunification costs and her excessive payments to Brussels can be charged as “costs for the reunification of Europe”. Nevertheless, a reduction of the Euro is being called for by Germany the shelter of economy - but this burden will be shifted on to shoulders of economic countries.
Regarding its policy in Europe the federal government has vehemently argued for the inclusion of Turkey - in spite of all foreseeable problems.
In the same way our government (together with other governments) is pushing for the abolition of the weapons' embargo against China, in spite of the obvious and imminent threat to Taiwan of the new Anti-Secession-Law of the People's Republic. Nevertheless, the US-Congress agreed unanimously (!) to continue the embargo at the moment because they are only interested in the continuation of the business relation with China, the up-coming economic world power.
In 2002 the Red-Green-Coalition pushed the partner law through thus paving the way towards gradually giving the homosexual partners who register as „domestic partners“ almost the same responsibilities and benefits as married couples.
A further liberalisation of society is to be achieved through the Disability Discrimination Act (ADG Antidiskriminierungsgesetz) which goes beyond EU requirements.
Positive thoughts about the Schröder government include:
The awareness of the need for rigorous reforms and their attempt to implement them in the Agenda 2010 in spite of considerable opposition from within their own party.
The Health Reform was successful: The health insurance fund saved billions. But, like Big Business, they too are unwilling to pass on the savings to the people insured.
Through Fischer, Germany's foreign secretary, this government has tried to bring God back into the EU-constitution
The federal government's policy towards Israel remains friendly.
2. The Current Topic
The situation of the Red-Green Coalition has currently grown more acute and has become extremely unstable due to:
Joschka Fischer, the foreign secretary's Visa-Affaire,
the expectations of the Job's Summit on 17th March,
the Kiel Disaster of 17th March,
the North Rhine-Westphalia elections on 22nd May 2005.
For many years Joschka Fischer has ruled at the top of popularity charts. There is no precedent for such a sharp fall of one of politics' most popular stars. Of course, his party stands by him and of course the Chancellor will do his best to keep him. Schröder knows that his election victory was due to Fischer and he also knows that he needs him to win the next elections. If Fischer falls the Chancellor will be hurt too. It would be an illegible writing on the wall of his own downfall.
The Visa-Affaire is no storm in a teacup. Trough the Visa-Affaire thousands of people from the Ukraine used Germany as a transit country with the objective to settle in Portugal. Apart from the damage caused to our country by the laxe Visa practice the Schengen Convention was also culpably disregarded.
„They climbed on a Job's summit and came down a hill.”
Anyway the expectations weren't that high. 12% had great expectations, 53% had poor expectations and 30% had no expectations at all.
A country in which 83% of the population does no longer expect anything from their politicians - in terms of unemployment, but even more important regarding their willingness to seek the best of its people and not only of their own party – is a weakened country.
The lack of real political alternatives accentuates the party-political quarrelling. German citizens can no longer perceive either conceptual or personally attractive alternatives. This is what is destabilising the democracy at the moment. This is the time when populists and extremists always bring their ‘simple solutions'.
The 17th March was a ‘black day' for the SPD and particularly for Heide Simonis. We would have wanted a different abdication for her. A single person determined the fate of the entire federal state. And maybe even the fate of the whole republic. In a democratic manner, perhaps, but without the appearance.
There were only two determining factors, namely the two deputies of the SSW who prevented the victory of the winners and the strongest party. Again remarkable; again also democratic.
A new big coalition will emerge: an other temporary solution… as always. Big problems often need big coalitions. But usually big coalitions turn out little solutions. „There is no model programme for the alliance", everybody says.
It is interesting to see who will be left behind: the Green Party and the Federal Fraction (FDP). All of a sudden they are no longer needed. An interesting observation.
Everybody is looking forward to the North Rhine-Westphalia elections. This election is seen as the fore-runner of the elections for the Bundestag in 2006. If the NRW, the federal state with the highest population and the stronghold of the SPD falls into the hands of the CDU the emotional domino effect can no longer be hold back. Although electors vote differently for the Federal Diet than they vote for the elections for the Bundestag the federal politicians have promoted this election as a forerunner of the general election. Steinbrück and Schartau, the regional politicians, are trying with all their might to limit the damage of federal policy e.g. the Disability Discrimination Act.
Expecting a decision in the next weeks the country seems to be in a hiatus, as if it has stopped breathing for a while. During such times little events take on a huge importance and become triggers in a chain of reaction. Given the right weather, every snowball can launch an avalanche and each little match can cause a forest fire.
At such times much prayer is needed.
From God's point of view such seasons are times of judgement, times of distress. God works with individuals, he works through them and in them. God works through individuals whether they ‘believe' or not. Nevertheless, he works through them and he also shapes the world history with them. In the Bible we can see how God worked through Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. As soon as they became arrogant or when their time had come God suddenly removed them. When the powerful are brought down, an era often comes to an end.
„He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down the rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1, 51-52)
„God reigns over the nations" (Ps. 47,8).
From this point of view what does it mean then when all of a sudden a very popular politician like Joscka Fischer is unhinged and when at a single blow, grace seems to have departed from him. The spotlight of favour seems to have been switched off and both of them, Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer, seem to be rehearsing secretly the scenario of their abdication. All of a sudden the arrogant high achiever becomes a needy petitioner pleading for his party to bolster him.
What does this mean when after hours of prayer at the national leaders' conference on 16th March when we proclaimed and called upon Jesus' name over this state of unstable equilibrium in this country and prayed for the good will of God to be done in this land as it is done in heaven so on earth and on the very next day an unprecedented political “who dunnit" took place in Kiel. The result was that a very popular minister-president of a federal state had to go. What is the good will of God for our country in this situation?
Always when we pray about politics and something significant and unexpected happens – hold on in there and try to discern if it is an indication of things to come which may be of great importance for tomorrow.
When thinking and praying about the North Rhine-Westphalia elections at this leaders conference we did not only become aware of the war for victory here on earth between political parties. We also became aware that even in the spiritual realms a confrontation is on the way, which can also be circumscribed by the implementation of the good will of God for this federal state. Therefore, the prayers of the saints are of crucial importance in this election. This is not surprising considering the importance of this election for the whole republic.
A spirit of depression hovers over the country, a spirit of resignation nurtured by the fear about the future and the lack of vision. Neither the government nor the opposition are able to make a case for Germany for which a national sacrifice is justified. The final demotivating factor is the thought that the policy which is providing financial relieve to the large-scale manufacturers and is demanding sacrifices from the poor. The gap between rich and poor is becoming deeper and deeper and everybody is worrying about his job. Strangely, perhaps, but there is little confidence in the government among either the poor or the rich. And, confidence in the opposition is also lacking. As a consequence the people are caught in this state of unstable equilibrium. This leads to political in-fighting and resignation and, in elections, to no clear majority. The lack of a clear majority results from a shift by a frustrated electorate towards the marginal parties or, simply, a refusal to vote.
Germany is filled by negative feelings but one feeling rises above the others. The Federal President Horst Köhler, is Germany's only hope at the moment. With a blend of professional competence and common sense, of national sentiment and true faith he is proclaiming words of hope over Germany. The people trust him because he says what he thinks and then does what he says.
Germany needs a government with these characteristics, a chancellor (a candidate) “after God's own heart” somebody to whom God can impart his wisdom for an authentic concept with a perspective, somebody who has the favour of the ordinary and important people despite of – or even due to – the reform, somebody who sows and reaps trust which alone can releases the great qualities of the German people, qualities such as eagerness, diligence, determination, a fighting spirit, the organisational ability, a will to take risks, creativity and the enthusiasm to innovate.
God works through individuals! So we can ask him for such a person. By the end of the year the opposition wants to solve the "K-question" - (the question about the next candidate for the Chancellors office). This question has already been solved within the government camp. But just as with the nomination of the Federal President God has always an surprise candidate up his sleeve. Let us pray for God's candidate and no one else to take his place in the chancellorship.
God we feel the unstable situation of our country and we feel that: You are the one who speaks and acts here. Glory to you!
We give you the glory over your judgements – even though out of astonishment and consternation some of them leave us speechless. God challenges what opposes him.
God we call to you for the revelation of your good will for our country. We speak into the change and instability: „You, Father, you counsellor, Lord, everything from beginning and end is in your hands.”
Jesus, release your humbleness in the hearts of our governors, a heart to serve you, the country and each other, an attitude which is respectful despite political differences.
Lord, when we stand up in faith and lift our eyes up to you we break the power of the spirits of resignation and this claw of fear. As the bearers of your hope and love for our country we are at your call.
Lord, protect our presently unstable democracy from a skilled political rabble rouser, a populist from the right or left wing.
Father bless our government so that it takes wise and appropriate decisions.
Bless our Federal President Horst Köhler in particular, and give him your liberating word for the hour.
Reference to the SPIEGEL, 21st March 2005 no. 12, 2005 in the article entitled: “The long farewell from the Red-Green-Coalition”.
The „Political Page“ is an independent part of the prayer letter “Wächterruf” and therefore has to be ordered extra at Dorothea Best, Wielandstr. The Political Page – also appears in English on my homepage (www.beter-im-aufbruch.de.vu).