THE POLITICAL PAGE
(State of affairs 02.06.2005)
The game is over, - the little games too!
The last red and green coalition disappeared on 22nd May 2005. The game is over. Yet, the red and green political model only exists at a federal level. The Chancellor has the last hand: re-elections. The coup is successful; he disturbs the opposition and its timetable. Now the union had to show its true colours: the union had to name the candidate for the chancellorship, and now it has to submit the election schedule under time pressure. Thus, the tactical games through which the Federal Council of Germany irritated the opposition and their politics, by means of blocking the law are also over.
The country breathes a sigh of relief; finally, its suffocation has come to an end. a democratic decision will now be found. Germany, who should rule over you?
1. North Rhine-Westphalia
The facts are known. The federal state with the highest density population - Germany's industrial heart and the stronghold of the SPD (the Social Democratic Party) for 39 years - voted on Sunday the 22nd May 2005, and this party lost! In an unprecedented election disaster, the SPD gained only 37.1 % and thus lost 5.7 % compared to the year 2000. The turnout in NRW ( North Rhine-Westphalia ) was an all-time low. And all this despite the very popular christian name of the prime minister Peer Steinbrück who outmatched Jürgen Rüttgers, his opponent, in the popularity charts by 34 to 11. But, according to one newspaper, Peer Steinbrück is ‘like a gold crown, on a rotten tooth, 39 years are enough!' This was the sentiment in North Rhine-Westphalia, a trend which amplified the general discontentment with the federal policy of the SPD in such a way that it finally lead to this result.
This was a great shock. The question which for a long time has been on the companions mind is now irrefutable. Are Gerhard Schröder's Agenda 2010, and Hartz IV, the right policies? Since 2003, thousands of members gave up their SPD membership and resigned from the party. The SPD lost 11 German elections in a row. A protest party, the WASG, was founded by the resigned members, who recieved 2.2 % of the votes at its first go in the NRW – 2.2 % which, of course, were desperately needed by the SPD. In 2004 Schröder therefore vacated his posistion as the chairman of the party for Franz Münterfering in order to avoid a split within the SPD. Will this spilt still come about after this election disaster? Gerhard Schröder has to carry out these reforms. But he's no longer sure of the support of his party.
The CDU (the Christian Democratic Union) vote increased by 7.8 % and achieved 44.8 % - a clearly unexpected result. Jürgen Rüttgers, the election loser of 2000, triumphed, and will become the new prime minister. During the national TV duel, Steinbrück convinced the voters with his personality, Rüttgers convinced the voters by his arguements.
Still, it must be said - that the CDU in the NRW region, of course, benefitted from the trend of the CDU in Germany, which, in the opinion poll on the question: ‘ for which party would you vote should the German federal election take place today?' outmatched the SPD by a good 46 % compared to 29 % for the SPD.
The population is disappointed by the red and green government – some of them because the reforms were not carried out entirely, and the others because they went to far over the top. The electorate knew that reforms were very necessary and that a CDU/FDP (the Free Democratic Party) government would push the reforms through. Nevertheless, the trend to bring about a changes seems to be greater; but even here the factor regarding the candidate for the chancellorship seems to be contrary to this trend. Gerhard Schröder is ahead by 46 to 36 of Angela Merkel (22.05.2005).
By the way, the FDP and the GREENS are in a political tie in the NRW region, as well as in the opinion poll: there with 6.2 %, here with 8 %. In the NRW region, the determined Christian parties reached 0.2% (ÖDP – the Ecologic Democratic Party) and 0.1%(PBC - the Party of Bible truth Christians). Both, the NPD and the PDS reached 0.9 % and were thus far below the 5 % - minimum clause.
2. The ‘beat of the drum', and its echo
After 18:00, Jürgen Rüttgers was allowed to rejoice about his huge victory, and be the centre of national interest for approximately 23 minutes. Then, the sound of a drumbeat was heard from Berlin which instantly marginalised the outcome of the elections in the NRW region. At first Franz Münterfering, and at 20:00 the chancellor, personally announced the premature end of the 15 th legislative period, a cancellation of the Federal Diet, and re-elections in autumn.
The surprise was perfect; national and foreign attention was drawn towards Berlin. Why and what is the use of these decisions?
Thus Schröder stole the CDU's triumphant show from the last red and green provincial government, the stronghold of the SPD.
Despite continuous and controversial protests, Gerhard Schröder put the CDU under time pressure to make their personnel, and conceptual decisions.
Schröder and Münterfering knew that if the NRW-election went alongside for the SPD a ‘palace revolt' would be initiated within the party in order to supply the party again with a ‘social-democratic profile' for 2006. Franz Münterfering's criticism on capitalism during the election campaign let expectations rise within the SPD regarding a change of direction. However, the immediate call for elections will stop the arguments and it will wake up their old fighting spirit, we hope! What does the profile of the SPD during the election campaign look like? It looks exciting; the chancellor had no other chance since the union disposed of the majority votes in the Federal Council (43 out of 69 votes) it can stop each bill and each initiative of the government to solve problems. Although, nothing will change after an eventual election victory by Gerhard Schröder, the balance of a newly adjudicated law-making process through the electorate wouldn't miss its impact on the Federal Council.
If the red and green coalition were to lose, this would be an honourable and democratic departure from office by the chancellor. The alternative would be an adjourned game for 15 months, whereas the chancellor's troops would meanwhile possibly run away under these circumstances and he would be forced to call for a vote of confidence risking being brought down unintentionally by his own people, which means that he would no longer be supported.
A journalist called the reason for re-elections ‘suicide because of the fear of death', because it is more likely for the coalition to lose the election (death) than to win it. Also Schröder knows this. Still he decided to bet everything on one horse even though there is hardly a chance to win the election, which is far better then to be demolished step by step by your own left wing or by political opponents. Even foreign newspapers take their hat off to him; he walks in dignity and paves the way for re-elections, i. e. for a new era.
He has a secure place in the annals of history as the chancellor who finally chanced reforms and dared to lead an independent foreign policy opposing the USA.
Müntefering and Schröder know, of course, that they cannot win the election against this ‘ rebound' mood in the country. Besides, not only are some deputies around Otmar Schreiner against him, but also his core group in particular which is filled with disappointment about Schröder's policy, and with anger about this desolate decision by both chairmen which will mean a sure loss of power.
People that are able to look ahead feel that the SPD needs a time of ‘recovery' in which the party can restore its identity without having the permanent whip ‘of the loss of power' on its back. As the opposition of a CDU-government, the party will probably receive its power back quite soon.It remains to be seen to which extent the SPD as the opposition is ready to support the reforms of the agenda 2010 which initially was its own decision. Schröder will probably no longer be part of this new / old SPD.
As far as foreign policy is concerned the announcement of re-elections means
uncertainity about the European Union, as the budget negotiations will take place in Brussels in June. It is about the years 2007-2013, in which the planning reliability for the support programme has to be restored. Also the budget allocated to the EU must be re-assessed. The paymaster countries – among them also Germany - want to leave the volume at 1 % which means 81.5 billion euros. The committee and the recipient countries want to supplement this amount. How much decision-making authority does Schröder have in this situation?
An additional insurance which had an influence at the stock exchange also caused the announcement of re-elections in Turkey, as it is known that Angela Merkel is against Turkey joining the EU. She only wants to give Turkey the status of a ‘privileged partnership' within the EU.
3. The constitutional law question
Out of the negative experiences of the Weimar Republic, the fathers of the Federal Republic set up a Basic Constitutional Law for the Federal Republic of Germany which exclusively banks on stability. Uptil now – different than in England— the parliament in Germany can only be suspended if specific conditions are given. This is regulated by article 68 of the Basic Constitutional Law.
According to the Basic Constitutional Law the Federal Council cannot suspend itself. It is the duty of an elected government to run the legislative period for 4 years, even under difficult circumstances. Only the Federal President has the power to suspend the parliament and to call for re-elections in Germany. He can do this but he doesn't have to do it when asked to by the Federal Chancellor; the Chancellor can pronounce his request if he cannot find the majority vote, when calling for a vote of confidence within the Federal Council.
With the red and green coalition, Gerhard Schröder has a majority – even though it is a narrow one. If he doesn't want to hold the majority he has to ask his party or the greens to abstain when he calls for a vote of confidence. Than the no's of the oppostition would bring him down and he could ask the Federal President to suspend the parliament and propose re-elections; the Federal President would then have to make a decision within 21 days. If he says “no” the government still has to carry out its office duties despite a motion of no-confidence. If the Federal President says ‘yes', re-elections must take place within 60 days.
The fact is that Schröder can only receive the majority vote of no confidence ‘per order' and this problem is under constitutional law. However, this is contrary to the spirit of the Basic Constitutional Law. It is only a little help to point out the fact that Helmut Kohl already went this way of the ‘distrust on order' in 1982. This way remains unconstitutional.
An accepted commentary on the Basic Constiutional Law says: ‘The shortening of the legislative period should only be possible if both specific and serious reasons are given. That means that, only then, if the abilitiy to govern seems to be no longer provided for due to the political balance of power in the Federal Council during the current legislative period.' Schröder could rely on this annotation due to the left wing opposition within his party, and a Federal Council which even with a parliamentary majority could no longer provide for efficient work in Its governmental practice.
Whether Köhler, the Federal President, will respond favourably to this change we don't know. If so, he may consider that all parties, and the majority of the population will embrace this way and that they want re-elections.
In addition, it is obvious that Schröder - compared to Kohl in 1982 - is free of self-interest because the red and green coalition will probably lose the election in autumn.
At this point a change within the Basic Constitutional Law should be considered in line with the reformation of the constitution, which under certain circumstances i.e. the acceptance of all parties should allow the suspension of parliament.
4. This is an election campaign with direction
In his editorial article ‘Suspension will happen ' of the ‘DIE ZEIT' magazine no. 22 25.05.2005, Giovanni di Lorenzo writes: “The farewell of a generation which has ruled society for decades, even longer then the politics has been initiated . This change of government leads to great heights, but also to risky successions. … The withdrawal of the generation which since 1968 has left a mark on this society in all areas, and which has nowhere been as successfull as in Germany has started… For the correct alignment of the society of the Federal Republic of Germany, this change in generation is a more decisive thing than a simple change of government.
Therefore, it is the greatest trump in the hands of the CDU - above all its political concepts, the party can and wants to start a social comeback.
On the other hand the Red and Green Coalition is facing more difficulties. Because what do they want to change in comparison to past changes? Furthermore, the common ground of the coalition seems to be exhausted: Everybody says that he went the election campaign alone, without making any statement regarding the coalition for the future . The red and green camp is perishing and secretly longing to form an opposition, where a restoration of their own image becomes possible – even though they wouldn't admit this during their election campaign.
A directional election campaign. This also means that this election campaign for the major issues will be carried out with the great seriousness of the 70's at the entering of negotiations concerning politics towards the East.
Wrong alternatives and shortened polemics will then be set up e.g. Müntefering: “Social market economy against market radicalism. The GREENS: ‘expressing solidarity or neo-liberalistic policies.'
Politically - What do they want?
Reformation of the nursing care insurance, and of the pension scheme
A more simple taxation system
Reduction of bureaucracy
Reformation of Federalism
Improvement of Hartz IV
Haven't they already wanted to achieve all this, but failed in its implementation?
Socially - What do they want?
They want a free and liberal alternative to the conservative world view of the CDU/CSU which is described as the ‘black republic' with all its constraints and fears.
In fact – it is more about policy than it is about values. “It is more about stopping the phase of dramatic destruction of values, which took its toll on national and European levels,” says Michael Rutz from the ‘Rheinischer Merkur' and adding afterwards, “Therefore a people which has departed from moral and ethical principles has to be rooted back into its beliefs - which serve the common welfare and the reciprocal solidarity which is based on the will to achieve the highest level of efficiency."
It is again about values and ethics. What should be cultivated, and kept up in Germany? Is high efficiency worthy to be cultiviated, or is it already in suspicion of being pushy, elitist and snobbish. Is human dignity a godly legislation, or is it a ‘cue ball' of the social majority? Is the freedom of scientific research boundless, and can it realy be exerted only without any ethics? Upon which concept of freedom is this based? Are marriage, family and children, as the real living cell of people worthy to be protected in a special way; and are they considerd to be important enough to be cultivated, or has homosexual partnership to be put on a par with marriage for the sake of neo-liberalism? And haven't we as Europeans, frivolously denied our christian heritage in the constitution although each culture of this continent is rooted in it?
This is something sure: the decision about who will govern Germany for the next few years is not only important on a national level, but also on a European level; and of course it also has a global importance.
Seen from the outside, it is a matter of reviving the economy through financial relief, and of improvement in the labour market. Actually, this election campaign is about a directional change in our society, a change towards old values which in previous times were rooted in our country, and which brought us to the first place in world opinions. But in the broadest sense, it is a matter of spiritual renewal of our people – and the outlook is not bad at all, openness is growing.
The state has the role to supply the political framework in order to enable and cultivate a spiritual renewal of our people. The Federal President, Horst Köhler, has always been a bold inspirer and a forerunner.
5. A very interim election prognosis
The prevailing mood among the people is targeted towards a change of government; the Chancellor has also noticed this. His time is over, and by his coup to attain re-elections he has arranged a good personal departure from his party, and for his party he has arranged a controlled withdrawal. His personal prognosis is good but NRW showed that the candidate factor has a certain importance, but the prevailing mood has a more decisive importance.
However, this means:
The people will not elect Angela Merkel because of her views, but because they want a change.
The people will not elect the CDU because they understand what the party wants, but because the SPD failed to convince them about their policies.
The CDU presents itself in a confident mood, and if it had a charismatic leading figure (a ‘Father'), it could obtain the absolute majority, and rule together with the FDP.
The SPD, which is in a negative mood right now, hopes that it won't lose too badly. The party is in danger of losing its statute as a large ‘Peoples Party'. This would be fatal for the democracy which needs a strong opposition due to the larger CDU group.
In addition, the party has been weakened by voters who have left and turned towards left-wing politics, towards the WASG or the PDS. There is not much time for the SPD to form a common party on the left of the SPD, despite Oskar Lafontaine's efforts. Both of them will hardly reach the 5 % hurdle, apart from the PDS, which could push the hurdle distance by use of three direct mandates . Nevertheless, both parties will attract voters from the SPD.
In large directional election campaigns, the voters concentrate on the ‘Peoples Parties'. This will be felt by the ‘small parties' – as it was in the NRW, for example, where the FDP and the GREENS had to put up with heavy losses and passed the hurdle with only a narrow 6.2 %. This directional election campaign is a matter of survival for both junior parties.
After the bad result of 0.9 % each, the NPD and the REP in North Rhine-Westphalia; the right-wing groups seem to be on the fringe of politics.
The Federal Council will hardly change in the next few years, because the following local elections will only concern the parts of the country where the majority voted for the CDU. Or those parts where the majority voted for the CDU/FDP: Baden-Wuerttemberg (2006), Saxony-Anhalt (2006) or regions which anyway are not in the grip of the CDU: Berlin (2006), Mecklenburg-Western Pomarania (2006). Therefore, the new government will be able to exert its political views for many years.
Gerhard Schröder plans to call for a vote of confidence at the Federal Diet on 1 st July – and he expects to come off badly; at the same time by announcing re-elections he asks all the people for a vote of confidence - and he hopes to come off well.
In fact, confidence makes all the difference. Confidence is very necessary as a foundation for an upwards trend - for entrepreneurs as well as for self-employed people. Confidence grows through reliability. People need to understand the political framework for their plans, otherwise they will abstain from spending and from investment. This is the reason why there is no upwards trend in the economy, because there is a lack of confidence among the people concerning domestic demand. And this is not too surprising: if you look at public finances, the unemployment figures, the condition and the future of the social system, at the education system difficulties, and also at the policy for Europe which is apparently ‘kept hidden away' from the people.
Confidence? It was there in 1998. Actually, much of it! But it melted away. Politics must be palatable for the people, the economy and foreign countries. The point is, that the Chancellor needs to say what he thinks, and do what he says. There were too many course corrections, and there were always new laws which had to be borne by the economy.
However, in one area, the Chancellor stuck to his target without deviating: he held fast to the Reformation Agenda 2010. This will be to his credit in history - Christian Wulff, the prime minister of Lower Saxony who reached 81 % and was thus ranked first in the popularity charts of his state, gave the following answer when he was asked about his formula for success:
to make no promises before the elections, but honestly name the necessary sacrifices
to do what you said in your pre-election promises.
to continuously explain to the people why it will not work the other way.
He says that a Father – and in a way this is what a prime minister is for his country - should always be approachable. “you can tell your father everything“, he says. This is how confidence grows?
2. The challenge
If the change of direction was to take place in autumn through re-elections, then no other government before in Germany with a majority in the parliament could have ever reached such a strong 2/3 majority in the Federal Council like the CDU right now. This means that a clear and consistent line has to be followed, but at the same time the expectations for a new beginning will be very, very high in all areas. Therefore it would be good for Angela Merkel to open her ears and listen to Christian Wulff, instead of promising tax reliefs without naming any financial resources. It would be better if she honestly said, if, and how much the VAT has to be raised in order to consolidate the budget again. Until now, the CDU has always avoided a cut back of subsidies to the Federal Council, but it has therefore demanded for everybody a monthly per capita lump-sum payment totalling several billion euros without presenting a clear financial resource.
The CDU/CSU is facing its hardest challenge since 1945: namely, to agree by July, together, where all systems (taxation reforms, health reforms, education reforms and reforms in the employment market) intertwine together. This will prove that only with God's help these things will be successfull and serve for the best of the country.
At the same time it becomes obvious that for this national upwards trend, the best people in the country have to make themselves available to Angela Merkel. This mainly concerns the squad of prime ministers, which when in chairmanship unanimously voted for Angela Merkel, but now maintains a low profile when it comes to taking over of governmental responsibility.
We must look at it with lucidity: If even after 2 – 3 years this government fails, and does not have a good account for its actions, if it destroys the voter's confidence, then the democracy in Germany will be in danger. Because then, some will no longer vote and the others will tumbledown to the empty words of the demagogues and migrate to extremes, mainly to the right-wing.
And then – God have mercy on us!
3. My vision for Germany
On 20 th May, 2 days before the election in North Rhine-Westphalia took place, and before re-elections were announced in the Federal Diet, I wrote down the following thoughts during my quiet time while I was listening to God. The wording is changed:
If we want to see changes in Germany in future, then we need to recognise the main strategical points, and pray them through.
These are issues which are of importance for God and many other people.
Therefore we need (a) political know-how, (b) continuous and deep revelation (prophetical interpretation) and (c) faithfull, reliable prayers (a mighty army - Ez. 37.10)
According to my present knowledge the following strategical points (strongholds) are of main importance for Germany right now:
A change of government must come with the elections in 2006 in Berlin. The time is over for the 68 generation, and its perception of values.
Something new has to start, a new and brighter era.
The government must change. Thus the political framework and the spiritual premises (which depend on leadership) for the free movement of the Holy Spirit in our country will be given.
God grant many godly servants (ministers) in the new cabinet.
3.2. In the last few years God granted a sensable openess towards spiritual things among the peope of our country, in the economy as well as in the media. This openness needs to grow and at the same time, Christians should lose their timidity, to naturally share their faith in Jesus with others.
3.3. The social-political importance of Christians and the church must increase
through political prayers for the city and the country
through on-site prophetical actions,
through prophetic encouragement for people in responsibility, in positions in the economy, politics, police etc.
through political and personal commitment.
3.4. The reformation of the social system must go on. It can only be successfull if there is a heart-felt change of attitude in each one of us.
If our people, including associations, the economy, the banks etc. will not turn into a kind of ‘solidarity community' then the stuggle for resouces will ruin our country and the poor will fall (indebtedly) behind. In his speech in Tübingen, Horst Köhler pointed out that according to Luke 10 (the parable of the good samaritan) such a ‘solidarity community' has a christian core, and that the European society in particular, is marked by it. God is deeply concerned with the solution of personal egoism, as well as with the solution for egoism of whole groups, because this is where the personality of God can be reflected: LOVE.
God is concerned with a large spiritual uprising in Germany in order to save our country from a deep downfall. The fact that we distanced ourselves from God, is the reason for our downwards demographic development.
By means of a personal faith in a living God
young men and women can again have courage to believe in a lifelong partnership i.e. to get married and have children;
only that way they will have confidence for the future and hope for the next generation;
according to statistics, by faith and for the sake of children, couples will be willing to do without amenities, and a certain high standard of living.
whoever believes that children are a gift from God will never abort not even one of them.
3.6. Europe has to be rebuilt with rationality. Whoever rejects God will be rejected by God. God crashed the hubris of the European statesmen through the NO's of the French and the Dutch. The Chancellor was the reason for the split within the German Federal Diet - only one week after having almost unanimously agreed with the ratification in Europe. Thus the Chancellor's politcal career has come to an end.
God wants Europe back. He wants to bulid Europe up according to His standards:
A constitution with a clear mention of God and the Christian heritage;
Expansions to Europe are no longer wanted without clear standards, and without the implementation of them;
No access for Turkey into the EU .
3.7 . Islam is a final but decisive stronghold in the future of our country and of Europe. God wants to help us if we as people, and as the body of Christ consciously turn to him. It is mainly about a spiritual dispute, and it is also a matter of polical measures.
prayer against the powers of darkness in this religion, and prayer for the release of the people from this burden.
The readiness of the church and christians to get trained in order to receive a better understanding of Islam and to learn to interact properly with moslems
the readiness to visit, to get to know moslems, and to talk easily about Jesus
clear laws concerning immigration, and helpful measures regarding the integration of women in particular
secret service success regarding the disclosure of islamic terrorist groups. Protection for the agents involved.
Germany is on the edge of a new era and needs much, very much prayer, in order to be able to enter this door of the future. God is the one who sees future things and he therefore knows what the right thing is for today. Therefore everybody should listen to how and what should be prayed. Here is some advice:
Above all the storms – ‘He is seated in a place of great authority, and conducts everything rightly' Lord let us see your glory, and prophetically understand your intentions.
A directional election campaign – ‘ One wise man can make a city/state flourish but no matter how many heathen there are – their city/state will be made desolate.” (Sirach 16,5) – Let us pray to God as representatives of our country and choose blessing for it. God hears us. This will bring the actual change of direction in this directional election campaign.
The Lord appoints the rulers of a country, and he brings them down. Even in the future, God continues to make the leadership policy. Therefore, democratic votes are no problem for Him, because ‘HE directs their hearts like a watercourse'.
Let us pray for more democratic parties which have a majority and which are able to rule, whether they gain an absolute majority, or the majority in a coalition.
Let us pray for good ministers in the cabinet, who reflect confidence because they are competent and trustworthy. May Angela Merkel succeed in gathering the best people .
Let us pray for realistic election concepts; full of hope, despite clearly worded sacrifices.
Let us pray for a new confidence among the people and in the economy, and that after one year this confidence may increase in relation to the election campaign (just as it was with Wulff).
Beyond this theme of ‘Elections', the article 'Vision for Germany', also contains major themes for our country which request prayer.
Michael Rutz, Zeigt, was ihr könnt! Rheinischer Merkur 26.5.2005