Yesterday, German voters went to the polls to elect a new government after the crash elections called by Gerhardt Shröder. However, it looks like the result of that election is a major deadlock as center-right politician Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU barely beat out Shröder’s left-leaning SPD. These results aren’t good for anyone as the excellent German-focused blog Davids Medienkritik points out. Shröder has said no to any grand political alliance with Merkel, which throws German politics for a loop. Merkel is calling the embattled Shröder to resign, but he doesn’t seem to be willing to do so.
This situation doesn’t bode well for future German-American relations. Merkel is fairly pro-American and was one of the few German politicians with the moral fortitude to support the removal of Saddam Hussein. The SPD has used anti-American propaganda to great effect, and the German media tends to be viscerally anti-American in their outlook. Merkel would be willing to reach out to the US, but Shröder’s use of anti-American propaganda means that he’s not exactly a friend to this country.
Domestically, Merkel would give the German system a decent push for necessary structural reforms. The German economy is in the worst shape it has ever been since the end of World War II. German unemployment is in the double digits, and the German economy is barely treading water. The problem is that the German tax and labor systems ensure that it is virtually impossible for the economy to grow and produce new jobs. Shröder has tried some incremental reforms, but they’ve been too little too late, and they’ve alienated some of Shröder’s allies on the far left, such as the Green party.
Merkel is an adept politician, but blew much of her massive lead through some major political mistakes. At this point, neither leader has the requisite political capital to push through a package of reforms that will do much towards easing German’s economic slide. Even though the pro-market FDP (Free Democats) did well, the old tradition of German statism is alive and well. Sadly, it appears that the German political system will be deadlocked for some time, which does not bode well for Europe’s largest economy. As Germany goes, so does much of the EU, which is why Europe’s structural problems may yet lead them deeper into the economic doldrums.
Half a world away, the people of the newly-freed nation of Afghanistan once again headed to the polls for the first parliamentary elections in that nascent democracy. In four years, Afghanistan has gone from one of the most repressive states on Earth to a place in which hope lives again. Especially for women, who were treated as something less than chattel by the Taliban regime, there is a new sense of hope. Who would have imagined four years ago that Afghanistan would see the likes of parliamentary candidate Sabrina Saqeb, a brave young woman who is trying to get Afghan youth – especially women – involved in the democratic process. Make no mistake about it, this is the future of Afghanistan.
The voting went off with very little violence and over half the electorate voted according to early estimates. Given that Afghanistan is a rugged and isolated country, that kind of turnout for a parliamentary election is impressive – especially with Afghanistan’s limited history of democracy.
It may be some time before the results are known, but the fact that Afghanistan has had two elections with little violence and solid turnout indicates that the people of that formerly ravaged nation are working to build something better for themselves. They undoubtedly have far to go and many obstacles to overcome, but these first few steps are taking them in the right direction.
These two elections show the face of our world today – a Europe beset by challenges, and a developing world that is rapidly developing into something no one could have imagined a few short years ago. As Europe tries to cope with the failure of its attempt at creating a postmodern political and social order, the nation of Afghanistan takes its first tentative steps towards democracy and stability. In 50 years, the face of our world could be very different – but if one thing is certain, even with all the problems that democracy brings for both Germany and Afghanistan, the future belongs to countries who base their system of government on the consent of their people.