April 27, 2016
German grand coalition at 50.5%
Here are the two latest German polls. The Insa poll came out yesterday, and has the grand coalition at a combined 50.5%, whereas all the other parties add up to 45.5%. There was a reason the Germans refer to the grand coalition as grand. It used to be big. The two largest parties used to have over 80% of the votes not too long ago. Germany is going down the same way as the Netherlands and Austria. The grand coalition is now a simple coalition. And we expect that soon it will no longer be possible for CDU/CSU and SPD to form even a small coalition. They will need another party to be able to do that. The Emnid poll has the coalition at 55%, and is marginally more comforting for the government:
Berthold Kohler writes in the FAZ that the strategy of the German Social Democrats in particular to equate all right-wing populists with extremists is no longer working. On the contrary, the more the established parties try to stigmatise the AfD in Germany or the FPÖ in Austria, the more voters they drive towards those parties. Core SPD voters, including workers and lawyers, have defected to the AfD. The SPD's public support is now barely ahead of that of the AfD itself.
The reasons he says is the trend towards unity government. The Germans already feel betrayed by the way the Greek crisis was handled. But the ultimate reason for their divorce from the political establishment has been Angela Merkel's open door refugee policy. The governments has failed in one of its principled tasks: to make people less afraid. The grand coalition in Vienna originally supported Merkel's policy, but then quickly turned around. Even that didn't help them. The German grand coalition ignores the popular insurrection altogether, and still hopes it will past. Kohler's prediction is that it won't.
We don't agree with Kohler's innate conservatism - he wanted refugee quotas all along. Merkel was always right on that point. This would have been impractical. But Kohler is right in his observation that grand coalitions drive voters to the extreme parties. In our view, the SPD would be best advised to get rid of Sigmar Gabriel, shift to the left, and rebuild its profile in opposition. The two terms of the Grand Coalition have provided politicians like Gabriel and Steinmeier with ministerial positions and limousines as the expense of their own party, whose public support has haemorrhaged. The SPD's leadership is still clinging on to the observation of the past that it can only win elections from the centre. That is no longer true because Merkel herself occupies that position.