July 04, 2017
On the CDU’s programme
An expression that has recently caught the German political debate is "asymmetric demoblisation". It came from a pollster, Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, who had identified this as Angela Merkel’s electoral strategy in 2009 and 2013. It means ensuring that the opponent's voters stay at home because they are no longer afraid of you. The SPD suffered from extremely low turnout among its core supporters in both elections, and as a result ended up with disappointing results.
Virtually every stand-up comedian in Germany has taken on this subject and is trying to give their own definition of what it might mean. The problem with this discussion is that the CDU/CSU’s strategy of essentially imitating the other party’s agenda in order to neutralise them is now becoming painfully transparent - so much so that it might backfire. What might have been smart in 2009 and 2013 may not be so smart today.
We very much like FAZ’s comparative analysis of the programmes between CDU/CSU and SPD, which finds that they are essentially the same - with minor nuances. There is more disagreement within each of the parties than between them. The CDU/CSU promises 15,000 more police for the fight against crime and terror. The SPD is calling for an extra 15,000 police at both federal and state level. There seems to be magic in the number 15. Both the CDU/CSU and the SPD are promising tax cuts of €15bn, about 0.5% of GDP. There are minor discrepancies on distribution, but even these are relatively subtle. There is, for example, no disagreement on the top tax rate.
We noted a comment by FDP chief Christian Linder, who said that the CDU’s programme reflected the ghost of the grand coalition.
There are several other areas too numerous to list in a note like this where the party programmes are literally identical.
There are some oddities though. The CDU/CSU wants to halve the number of unemployed by 2025, which seems extraordinary given that Germany must be running at close to full employment. The only way to achieve a further 1.25m cut in the jobless figures would clearly involve continued wage repression. On the eurozone, the parties also have more in common than what divides them. Both favour a European Monetary Fund, while the SPD explictly supports a common eurozone budget but without giving any details. The CDU/CSU said it is ready to develop the eurozone together with President Emmanuel Macron, but it categorically rejects debt mutualisation.