Germany is an advanced democratic nation and is ever stronger since West Germany and East Germany were united. Chancellor Merkel represents both the Christian democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU). They will not compete in the federal election according to their mutual agreement since they share similar ideology. Since CDU and CSU didnot win more than 50% of the parliament seats of last election, they must unite with other parties to organize a coalition government. Since 2013, CDU/CSU has cooperated with the Socialdemocratic Party of Deutchlands (SPD) to form a ruling government governing the entire people. Unlike many other pseudo democratic systems, the coalition governments in Germany are very stable and effective owing to the fact that Germans are very disciplined, respectful to the fundamental principle of democracy – Majority Rules and generally quite knowledgeable in political issues.
Merkel has served three terms as Chancellor. Her skill and ability in organizing and managing a coalition government is fairly recognized by the German people; as a leader she is well respected by the leaders in the international community including the powerful nations, China, the U.S., Russia and UK. In German elections, the polls are generally very stable and accurate, however, in this year, the refugee and immigration issue has created a crisis in Germany which causes a few percentage point of swing in the poll and the election. Merkel’s Union Faction and SPD generally accept refugees and have more moderate attitudes towards immigration laws. However, a new party, called “Alternative for Germany” (AFD), established in 2013 has emerged as the strongest opposition party. The AFD party positioned itself as a center-to-right focusing on the middle class and recruiting highly educated people thus earned a nickname as professors’ party. In 2013, AFD only won 4.7% of the votes lower than the required 5% to earn any parliament seat, but in 2014 it won 7.4% and this year, it claimed a big victory to have won 13% as the third winner next to CDU/CSU (33%) and SPD (20.5%).
The rise of AFD is not a smooth one, highly influenced by current events. The party has had a split and its party platform has evolved from center-to-right to far-right. Its political platform may still change but for now its major positions are: advocating direct vote system, dissolving or splitting European Union, anti-immigration, opposing same-sex marriage, promoting German Identity, denying climate change policy and pushing privatizing social benefit system and government owned enterprises. On the refugee issue, AFD calls for zero immigration, closing borders and opposing family reunion for refugees, a clear far-right position in contrast to Merkel’s mainstream moderate policies. In September 25th 2017 election, CDU/CSU received only 33% votes, the lowest since 1949. Her partner SPD also received its lowest score (20.5%) since post-WW II. SPD’s leader, Martin Schulz, served as the President of EU Parliament, is a well known figure in Germany, so his loss to AFD is significant. There is no question that the 2017 election result will have a big impact to Merkel and Germany. Schulz already announced that SPD will be the opposition party not joining CDU/CSU to form the “Grand’ Coalition. Merkel would have to choose two small parties, Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green party to form a ‘Jamaica’ coalition (so named because the colors of three partners are black, yellow and green, the same as the color of Jamaican national flag). The Jamaica coalition will have less parliament seats than the Grand coalition. Merkel has promised to form the new government by Christmas. We expect she will make it to show her ability.
The rise of the right in Germany represented by AFD has its traces in global changes – signs of nationalism and setback on globalization. This was also observable in the 2016 Presidential Election of the U.S. Ironically, AFD used the slogan “Lock her up” against Merkel, the phrase Trump used against Hillary Clinton. The speed of propagation of propaganda is extremely fast in the age of Internet. Thus, Trump’s success in creating a movement in the U.S. helped some of that ‘conservative right’ to propagate to Europe. However, in the Internet age, it is also possible that fast come will fast go. The Trump Administration is presumably acting on a mandate but the mandate was never that clear just like the ‘left’ and ‘right’ are no longer clear or black and white as several decades ago. Advocating competition and freedom used to be simply ‘right’ and promoting equality and socialism being ‘left’, but today, we see capitalist countries adopting socialistic programs; when programs bankrupt financially, they turn back to privatization and competition. On the other hand, socialist countries sometimes adopt capitalistic economic development and financial policies; when wealth gap widens too much, they turn back to socialism to redistribute wealth. So the ‘right’ and ‘left’ are co-mingled in many complex patterns varying in time depending on how the situation is evolving and who (leaders) are trying to fix the situation. Just in EU alone, they are plenty of such kinds of examples.
Since WW II, Germany has come a long way to reestablish itself as a major economy of the world with a stable and effective government strengthened by the reunification of the West and East Germany. In the last couple of decades, we see the rise of other new powers such as China who experimented through a clear left political system to a self-defined ‘left and right’ co-mingled China system. Her success in economic development and many areas in science and technology, especially in agriculture, manufacturing, construction and transportation even in space and communication engineering have raised challenges in the capitalist camp led by the U.S. While the U.S. seemingly makes a turnabout from globalization, China is promoting globalization as the engine for achieving world prosperity. It is not surprising that UK adopts Brexit and AFD rises in Germany. It is clearly a challenging time for country leaders. But judging on Merkel’s ability and past performance and German people’s patriotism, I bet Germany will come out alright.
Germany as a re-unified country with a stable political system is a good example for others to study, especially Taiwan. Taiwan can draw a lesson from Germany’s reunification; unification of the West and East strengthened the united Germany because German people all identify with one nation. Coalition governments work so long people have the wisdom to elect capable leaders. Taiwan needs to learn how to form coalition government to serve the people. Martin Schulz not to join the coalition to take a government position is thinking he can better serve the country to be on the opposition perhaps moderating AFD. Parties can have different political platforms but they must agree they ultimately serve the people under the principle of majority rules. Opinion polls are like pulse measurements checking people’s health. German opinion polls never have wide swings but Taiwan’s political polls are all over the place which shows that the polls are dishonest and the people are really sick. No matter how the world changes, the Germans’ patriotism does not change, so Germany will remain strong. Taiwan’s people must think hard on what is Taiwan’s real identity? What does reunification mean under patriotism? (A united West and East Germany strengthens and prospers, so will China and Taiwan.) What does independence mean under artificial division of the people and denial of people’s historical identity? (East Germany would be struggling and become a third world economy, so would Taiwan).
Taiwan’s people must wise up to get rid of the separatists and elect a capable patriotic leader to move to reunification.