The following op-ed by Hans Heckel was written just before the German election, but the author’s take on the likely result turned out to be accurate.
Many thanks to JLH for translating this piece from Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung:
Rebirth of Parliament
Difference of opinion returns to the Bundestag — good for democracy
by Hans Heckel
September 20, 2017
A great nervousness is rattling the final days before the election. We are approaching an historic date.
The 2017 Bundestag election will leave deeper marks on the history of the Federal Republic than any election since 1990, when Germans decided on the direction of their only recently united country.
The SPD may be facing its worst defeat since the end of the War. The CDU will win, but is reduced as a party to the dolorous task of carrying its leader’s train, which presages an uncertain future for it. According to polls, the AfD — nemesis of the establishment — can expect a result twice as good as that of the Greens when they first entered the Bundestag in 1983.
The expectation that everything will remain the same is only superficial. Merkel will be chancellor again, with three possible coalition partners—SPD, FDP, and the Greens.
This bizarre juxtaposition of a serious unsettling of the party system on the one hand, and the governmental leadership’s predictable adjuration to “Keep on keeping on” on the other, is reflected in the mood of the people. Here, the poll-takers and opinion researchers recognize a calm and contentment in the foreground, behind which bubbles deep-seated insecurity, even fear — and great rage. This double disjointedness — both above and below — brings on an aggressive edginess that is palpable in the waning days of the campaign. Standing opposite those who shout “Merkel must go!” are the politicians and media who know no moderation when dealing with the AfD.
Several times, it looked as though people might be pulling themselves together. But Sigmar Gabriel’s outburst, that the AfD entering the Bundestag was the same as if the Nazis were entering, was only the visible tip of the coarsening of the discourse.
So what remains of the election of 2017 is clear. It will go into the history books as one of the roughest phases in the history of democracy in the Federal Republic, but also a time of paralyzing incrustation.
The optimistic view is that the entry of the AfD into parliament will mean more than just an answer to the long march to the left. It will strengthen the role of the Bundestag as the institution that does the business of every democratic parliament: controlling the government and giving the opposition a voice. In existential questions such as asylum, immigration, border controls or Euro politics, a large part — if not the majority — of the people have often had no representation in the Bundestag. Members of the “Grand Coalition” were in agreement on such things across party lines. This may well change with the entry of the “blues.”
As citizens we greet this development as the rebirth of our parliament.
|1.||A 5% minimum of the total vote is required to enter the Bundestag. The Greens got 5.6% in 1983.|
|Photo(not shown): The “Grand Coalition” gets some competition