BERLIN BULLETIN No. 115 August 15 2016
Soul-searching is often on the agenda for people who long for peace, better lives for everyone and for the rescue of our planet. November 8th the USA is one case in point, but I refrain here from announcing my own decision in my New York, a “safe” state.
Germany also demands soul-searching – not only with the refugee question. On the national level, stout, commonly self-assured Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democrats (SPD), is less popular than ever and so is his party, now down to 22 % in the polls. As usual before elections, due in a year, it has been sounding more leftish than usual, trying to set itself off from the coalition government in which it is the junior partner. This is not all too convincing and Gabriel’s party throne is very shaky.
As for the two “Christian” parties, a very un-Christian jealousy has dented hopes for family harmony. The Bavarian sister party, led by big, sarcastically smiling Horst Seehofer, is cashing in on media-fostered animosity toward the many immigrants (aided by some recent crimes) to demand tougher rules for them – and ways to get rid of as many as possible. Angela Merkel, long the admired ” Mutti” (“Mama”) of the nation, has led her cohorts in the same direction, though never harshly enough for German nationalists and ugly racists. Her popularity ratings are now below the halfway mark. Who can she ally with next year after the all-German vote? Will the Social Democrats again buckle under? Or the Greens move further rightward? Who knows?
Not in a year but in just four weeks two states will open their polling booths -with no electronics here, just crosses on paper, for a candidate and for a party. In northeastern Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, luckily shortened informally to “Meck-Pom”, no big dramas are expected.
But they are in the city-state of Berlin, where every second lantern pole is adorned with party posters. At present the Social Democrats are senior partners, the Christian Democrats (CDU) are juniors. But, as on the national level, their coalition gets chillier and chillier the closer elections approach and the SPD sounds ever more progressive and open to popular demands. One is less gentrification. Affordable apartments are an urgent need for the many refugees while people, young and old, move here from all Germany and far beyond. Berlin, pleasant and desirable in many ways, is less expensive than Paris, London or other capitals – but tougher and tougher for less prosperous local people.