Latest update: August 28th, 2013
Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
The German general elections next month will decide the future of Europe’s largest nation and economic powerhouse. The elections are likely to be close. Left and Right are almost equally large blocs in Germany. A recent poll gave the Christian-Democrat CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Liberal partner FPD, who form the present center-right government coalition, 46% of the vote. Exactly the same percentage went to the opposition parties on the Left.
Hence, as before, a small margin of voters may decide whether Angela Merkel will continue as Chancellor after the September 22nd elections or whether her challenger Peer Steinbrueck, the leader of the Social-Democrat SPD, will take over in a coalition with the Greens and other smaller parties on the Left.
With the outcome of the elections so close, the votes of Germany’s large Muslim immigrant population are immensely important. In the September 2002 general elections, the Social-Democrat Gerhard Schroeder beat his Christian-Democrat opponent Edmund Stoiber with the slightest of margins – barely 8,864 votes. The overwhelming support of the almost 1 million Islamic voters for Mr. Schroeder decided the outcome of the 2002 elections in favor of the Left.
Most of Germany’s Muslims are of Turkish origin. On a total of 80 million inhabitants, Germany has over 3 million citizens of Turkish origin, forming over 4% of the population. Polls indicate that up to 90% of the Turkish voters intend to cast their votes — a much higher percentage than among indigenous Germans of whom only 70% turned out in 2009. According to the polls, 43% of the Turkish voters intend to vote for the Social-Democrat SPD and 22% for the far-left Greens, while Merkel’s CDU would only get 20%.
In an attempt to attract Turkish voters, all the major German parties have put Turkish candidates on their lists. This policy is slowly paying off for Ms. Merkel. In 2009, the SPD could still count on 50% and the Greens on 31% of the Turkish support, while Merkel received less than 11.5%. A new phenomenon is the League for Innovation and Justice (BIG), the German branch of the AKP, the governing party of Turkey. It is currently polling at 7% of the German Turkish vote. BIG was founded in 2010 by adherents of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey. Mr. Erdogan has denounced assimilation of immigrants as a “crime against humanity” and has exhorted Turkish immigrants not to become Germans.
At the moment, with less than a month to go until election day, one third of the German voters indicate that they are still undecided for whom they might vote. Given the popularity of Ms. Merkel, this is remarkable. Another remarkable occurrence was that, until last week, the crisis involving the euro, the common currency of 17 of the 28 member states of the European Union (EU), has hardly been a topic in the elections.
There is huge dissatisfaction among the Germans with the fact that German taxpayers have been made to bail out many of the Southern European countries, in order to save the euro. Germany’s major parties, however, including Merkel’s CDU and Steinbrueck’s SPD, favor the costly operations to uphold the euro. They have both, therefore, tried to keep the euro debate out of the electoral campaign.
Last week, however, Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, announced that next autumn, the eurozone countries, to save the euro, will again need to bail out Greece. This third bailout of Greece will cost the Germans many billions. Merkel, while acknowledging that there would be a third Greek bailout, has refused to say how many billions this operation will cost the German taxpayers. “We do not know this exactly yet,” she said.
She was then attacked by her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, who accused her of lying. Schroeder’s move is an indication of the desperation of the SPD leadership, who have so far kept the euro out of the election debate. Like Merkel, the SDP also supports the euro rescue operation and therefore has nothing to gain. Moreover, former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is the German politician who allowed Greece to join the euro-group even though Athens did not fulfill the requirements to do so. As Volker Kauder, the CDU Secretary-General, pointed out in a reaction to Schroeder’s attack on Merkel: “It was Schroeder’s government which undermined the stability of the euro by allowing Greece to join.”
Leaders such as Schroeder pushed through the common EU currency for strictly political reasons – the establishment of a supranational European superstate. This was done against the will of the European peoples and made no economic or monetary sense. The current economic and monetary crisis in Europe is largely the result of this.
As then-German Chancellor Schroeder himself said in June 2001, in an interview with Business Week: “A common currency imposes on us a duty to cooperate more on policy. Indeed, the creators of the euro envisioned it as an instrument to promote political union. Whatever the details of union may be, there’s no doubt we need more policy coordination in Europe.”
Mr. Schroeder, a shrewd politician, is gambling that the CDU’s support for the unpopular euro rescue operations will cost the CDU more in the forthcoming elections than the SPD’s support of the same operations will cost the SPD. Last February, a group of conservative economists founded a German anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). This party attracts mostly disenchanted conservative voters. Schroeder clearly hopes that it will draw more voters away from the CDU than from the SPD. The CDU leadership shares this view. It is doing its best to convince voters not to vote AfD. A vote for AfD, they say, will benefit the SPD and make a coalition between the Social-Democrats and the Greens more likely.
Since both CDU and SPD support the euro and the EU’s ambitions to transform itself into a federal state, German voters already know that, whatever the outcome of September’s elections, the move towards a restriction of German sovereignty and more EU political integration is likely to continue. As a result, there is little enthusiasm for elections that, whichever party wins, will bring only more of the same. It is no surprise that the turnout, at least for indigenous Germans, is expected to be low. The Islamic immigrants, however, hope that by turning out massively for the elections, they will be able to support candidates who, when elected, will favor further Islamification of Germany. What the future will bring for Germany after the elections seems clear. More European integration, more Islamification.
About the Author: Peter Martino is a European affairs columnist for the Gatestone Institute.
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