The German Krankheit: Political party elites out of tune
While polls show that only a below-50-per cent margin of German voters still believe in the current political system, the political party elites are happily out of tune, unable to face the music.
The story bubbled in late December: In the German state of Bavaria, prime minister (governor) Edmund Stoiber's office chief was caught spying against one of his boss's critics, county chief Gabriele Pauli. Pauli had been a strong critic of Stoiber's role as prime minister and chief of the ultra-conservative political party CSU which has dominated state politics in Bavaria for almost 60 years. Both, Stoiber and Pauli are members of CSU.
Stoiber's slow decline had begun after a messy decision process in which he initially was the self-designated federal German minister of economy, only to announce he was staying on as prime minister (governor) in Bavaria over terminal indecision on the weight he could have in a grand coalition government, formed about one year ago. Apparently, Pauli had called for Stoiber not to run for the office of Bavarian prime minister in 2008.
The battle turned ugly when Pauli was threatened with "excommunication" from CSU on the grounds of "parteischädigendes Verhalten" (harmful beavior for CSU's interests). Now, that Stoiber's popularity is dwindeling amongst the Bavarian electorate as well as inside his own political party, the elites (state ministers and the party beauocracy) try to choke calls for the selection of candidate for prime minister in the 2008 state elections by general member ballot. The plan is to proclaim Stoiber as CSU's candidate as early as winter this year for the 2008 elections.
While Shakespearian scandals are not new to CSU, this episode casts a light on a more structural problem within German party politics, where even member votes have become a mere Potjomkin-ritual of democracy instead of the real thing - pointing at the elite being completely out of touch with the electorate and even own party members:
Besides the CSU-scandal, other parties are ridden by elitist arrogance:
- On a recent party conference of the German green party (B90/Die Grünen), the party conference flatly denied the board's proposal for a new logo. Apparently, the chiefs had not consulted the members over a period of over two years. Finally, the new logo which had already been applied to the conference hall had to be covered with a blue rug after a devastating vote against the proposal by delegates at the Cologne party conference in late 2006.
- Grand coalition member party, the Social Democrats (SPD) have lost 190,000 of originally 755,000 members between 1998 and 2005. The dramatic decrease is attributed by many observers to what was called "basta-politics" by ex-chancellor Gerhars Schroeder, pushing for a labor-hostile "reform" agenda by repeatedly threatening resignation, making the SPD loose its profile as advocate of the workforce, trading its former position for an all-too-close siding with corporate Germany.
- SPD dissidents, who formed the so called left wing WASG were expelled from the SPD only to install a Stalinist-style command organization, all but stripping its party members of elementary rights. Currently, in a bogus-unification process forced upon members with methods reminiscent of 1930's style German politics, a runaway leadership tries to hijack the positive image of what began as a grass root movement for a unification with ex-communist PDS, which is the legal successor of SED, the soviet-style communist block party forming the regime in Eastern Germany until 1989.
Self proclaimed party elites all over Germany are fast getting out of tune with just about any group outside inner leadership circles, with signs of wear starting to show fast. At this point, the only thing clear about German politics is that the current system has come to a point of irreversible decadence. How the extreme loss of confidence and the clear warning signals of wear will ultimately play out and in which direction the political landscape in Germany will polarize or even radicalize remains any one's guess.