EDITORIAL

The German alternative

The federal election in Germany (September this year) is getting closer and the remaining time, of course, permits the launching of new political parties capable to offer alternatives to the electorate. After all, the appearance of new parties is a natural thing in democracy, especially in a fast-changing local and international social and political context. During this period, the financial and economic crisis affecting the eurozone, Europe and the world in general, coupled with a severe austerity, as well as unprecedented technological breakthroughs as a cardinal feature of the web age, is exactly the fertile season for a diversification of the political offer. Mainstream political parties are under siege and appear to be losing the battle. Remember, for instance, the party of Beppe Grillo in Italy, that won in the recent legislative election a  quarter of the vote counting on the use of new social media and innovative proposals referring to the expression of the voters’ will.

The mainstream establishment is in for hard times, threatened by the novelty and non-conformism and accused of inadequacy to the voters’ needs – especially young electorate – as well as of being a prisoner to an unbecoming immobilism.Such a party was launched on Sunday, April 14, which is called ‘the Alternative for Germany’. The main message of this new party is ‘putting an end to the euro’, in other words it is very similar to other recent political expressions in various Western European countries of which the Independent Party in the UK is perhaps the best known one, militating for the country leaving the European Union. The resemblance consists of the express idea that the euro should be dropped and the supporters’ hope is to end the existence of the common European currency in the very perspective of the EU.

One of the founders of this alternative German political party is an economics professor from the University of Hamburg, Bernd Lucke, who wants ‘a controlled abandonment of the euro’   as the currency ‘divides Europe’. The title assumed by this new party is a genuine anti-establishment programme, because it is, in fact, a polemic with the argument ‘there is no alternative’ used by Chancellor Angela Merkel to secure the continuity of the single European currency. ‘If the euro fails it doesn’t mean Europe will also fail,’ Lucke said on Sunday. To the founders of this new party, the return to the former national currency – the Deutsche Mark – is an alternative, therefore an option other than the euro. The political programme release on Sunday includes a claim regarding the right of the 17 eurozone member states to democratically decide if they want to keep the single currency or go back to their respective national currencies. An idea is also advanced for the introduction of a Swiss consultation of the electorate by referendum on new plans of financial bailout of bankrupt eurozone members, as well as on other important matters. In the past few weeks, when an initiative group announced the intention to set up the party, a total of 7,000 members have already come together (the founding meeting on Sunday brought together in Berlin 1,200-1,500 members, mostly middle-aged). The new German party is not at all spared the accusations. It is blamed for having set up a new pole bringing together far-right elements and the founders started a process of verification of the democratic trustworthiness of membership candidates by checking their Facebook pages (the increasingly present influence of new social media in the political process) to track possible extremist political views by usage of specific language clichés. Furthermore, it is claimed that the party will be non-ideological in its approaches, quoting in support of the theory the political itinerary of its founder – Lucke was Christian Democrat for 33 years until 2011, and 700 other members of the new party come from the same party (or its Bavarian branch). Several other hundreds of members – organisers say – come from the current partner party in Chancellor Merkel’s coalition, the Free Democrats, and the big number of academics indicates a certain influence at the level of the university community. This highlights also the possibility that this new party may have a certain echo in the educated segments of the German electorate. Recent German opinion polls indicate the following scores that would be obtained by political parties right now: 41 per cent for the Christian Democrats, 26 per cent for the party coming second, the Social Democrats, 14 per cent  – The Greens, 8 per cent – the Left Party, 5 per cent – the Free Democrats, 3 per cent  – the Pirates (another new creation which, upon foundation about a year ago, had 10 per cent, counting on new social media for stepping up cohesion, but falling once framed in the establishment). In other words, the new party would be classified as ‘miscellanea’, meaning with about 1 per cent voting intention, but it is barely at the beginning.  What draws the attention of the analysis of German political stage is the fact that small parties, though the number of votes taken away from mainstream parties, can influence the result of the election. In this respect, the recent Lower Saxony election is quoted, where the Christian Democrats and their allies lost to the party running in their neck by a margin of 400 votes.

The small ‘Free Voters’ party on the other hand gained 39,000 votes. Recent opinion polls show that 27 per cent of the German voters are for abandoning the euro, and that’s a massive pool the ‘Alternative for Germany’ addresses. Some of the German analysts already fear a massive erosion of the electoral support for keeping the euro currency – now almost 70 per cent – should further massive financial interventions be required for saving big EU economies such as Italy or Spain. If we also consider the spread of the theory that the logic of the evolution of the euro crisis could mean that Germany quits the eurozone, the country opposing the establishment of Eurobonds, believed to be a safe success recipe – as George Soros was suggesting in a recent article – the chances of this party are not to be neglected this coming autumn. Especially if, as a German commentator says, these ‘frustrated economists and professors’ were led by ‘a populist’, the party would be truly ‘a hazard’. Anyway, it is not a coincidence that new political creations in important states of the eurozone, pleading for exiting the single currency area in a seemingly endless crisis – such as those in Italy and now Germany – could be the announcers of a European political trend supported by an electorate growing as the solution to the crisis is delayed further and necessary bailouts increase in number.

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