Tuesday, September 29, 2009

German Elections and Afghanistan

Salon has a good analysis of the recent German election (disclaimer: at least good as in readable--I am not an expert on Germany so they could have gotten stuff wrong). It is pithy as is typical at Salon:

The nationalist and anti-Islamic Christian Middle - for a Germany according to GOD's commandments flew across the finish line on a wing and a prayer and held fast with a solid 0.0%.
I am particularly interested in this election since I was in Berlin in June, talking to members of Parliament (among other folks) about Afghanistan, and perhaps it is not surprising that my follow up question via email this summer did not get a response as the election was approaching.

Do I expect to see less restrictions on German forces in Afghanistan now that a more center-right coalition has replaced the grand coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats? I would say probably not much for two reasons:
  1. The annual mandate process where the Bundestag has to approve the mission and specify some of the key limitations (but not all) is likely to produce similar outcomes as the Ministry of Defense and other elements of the government will seek wide support for the mandate, rather than just crawling over the 50% line. Moreover, divisions exist within the Conservatives over Afghanistan, so it is unlikely that the party will push for significant changes in how Germany operates on the ground.
  2. The move from a Grand Coalition to a center-right actually raises the risks of the Afghan mission for the government now that the Social Democrats are no longer tied to it. They can oppose it and join the stronger Greens and Left in pushing for tighter caveats or at least push against looser ones.
And, aargh! The Pirate Party did pretty well but fell short of the threshold needed to get into the Bundestag:
The Pirate Party came in at 2% nationwide, a thoroughly respectable result for a brand-new party and about what its youthful members expected. The Pirates won 3.35% of the vote in Berlin alone, polling 6% in the trendy Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. Since an overall minimum of 5% is needed to receive a mandate, this means they will not be boarding the Bundestag any time soon.

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