The jubilee and memorial year 2009 and the shadows of elections

Institute for European Politics
The national elections on 27 September 2009 cast a shadow on policy making and public debates in 2009. Chancellor Merkel will run again for the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) while Foreign Minister Steinmeier is the candidate of the Social Democrats (SPD) for the chancellorship. Steinmeier will prefer to lead a SPD/Green/FDP coalition as chances for a red-green majority are quite meagre. If the CDU/CSU/FDP, the so called bourgeois camp (bürgerliches Lager) will not gain a sufficient majority, a ‘grand coalition Merkel II’ with a however weakened SPD is most likely. National elections are preceded by the election of the state president (23 May 2009). The significance is that the two parties of the grand coalition nominated their own candidate so that the outcome will indicate the strength of the two opposing camps (CDU/FDP versus SPD/Greens/Left). Moreover, 13 elections at the regional (Länder) and local level have been scheduled:
·         18 January: state parliament election in Hesse
·         7 June: local elections in Baden-Württemberg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt (partly), Saxony (partly), Thuringia
·         30 August: state parliament elections in Saarland, Sachsen, Thuringia
·         27 September: state parliament election in Brandenburg
2009 is a year full of historic dates to be remembered. Media have already started to work through the long list:
·         60 years Federal Republic of Germany
·         20 years fall of the Berlin Wall and hence
·         20 years of (re-)unified Germany
·         70 years onset of World War II
It will be interesting to note in how far the European dimension, e.g. in the case of 20 years of fall of the Berlin Wall will be reflected. It will tell us a lot about the current state of mind and feelings of Germans, who, according to a recent survey,[1] by a large majority consider post-war Germany overall as a success story. However, there are still notable differences in the perceptions of West and East Germans: Whereas 83 percent of West Germans consider post-war Germany as a success story only 61 percent of East Germans share that view. That does not mean, though, that East Germans look particularly favourable at the time of the communist German Democratic Republic: Only 28 percent of them see the time of 1949-1989 as the best time for Germany in the 20th century against 58 percent who favour the time after the German reunification. West Germans in contrast show a larger extent of nostalgia with about two-thirds considering the time of the ‘old Federal Republic’, i.e. (West) Germany before reunification, as the best time for Germany.
The inauguration of the first African American President of the US triggered a debate on “would Obama be possible in Germany?”, meaning when, if ever, can we imagine a Chancellor or President with a migrant background? This continues the debate on failures and innovations in migrant integration policy.
Moreover, the implications of the crisis of the financial system and the world economy for Germany and the EU and how to protect the EU and manage the crisis will remain high on the agenda.
German troops in Afghanistan and a revision of the Afghanistan strategy will intensify also in public debate as the new strategy of the Obama administration takes shape.

[1] Cf. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Eine Erfolgsgeschichte, 28 January 2009.