Can Europe Make It?

Has German politics suddenly got interesting?

Christoph Heuermann
16 May 2014

The European elections are ahead. Only two weeks more and Europe can vote. This time indeed, voting makes more sense in Germany than ever before. The German Constitutional Court decided to abolish the minimum threshold clauses which prevented minority parties from gaining seats in the European Parliament. This will make the Parliament probably more colourful, while voter turnout may increase significantly as well.

However, the political parties have led a highly boring campaign. Their posters are even more meaningless than in national elections. So meaningless, an insurrectionist German satirical party has gained much popularity. "Die Partei" ("The Party"), which is led by the popular TV comedian Martin Sonneborn, makes the march towards the elections much more endurable. Their slogan "Yes to Europe, No to Europe" teases the monotony of other parties' campaigns. Now, without the threshold clause, they have a serious chance to gain seats in the European Parliament. In this case, they already promised to abdicate every week in order to give all their members the possibility to experience the advantages of an EU-politician. They may make watching the debates of the European Parliament a prime time TV event.

The ascendance of both radical left and right political parties, and their increasingly strong chances to gain seats in the European Parliament, will lead to much more controversial and fun discussions. There won't be only one Nigel Farage anymore. This, of course, may be funny for some audiences, but for the work of the Parliament it is not.

What else to say about Germany? Actually, all established parties are more or less united in favoring more European integration. Their only serious opposition comes from the Eurosceptic party "Alternative for Germany", which sees itself as a liberal alternative, but is closer to becoming a right-populist protest party. Slogans like "Washington spies, Brussels dictates, Berlin obeys" or "Gender, Gherkins, Megalomania. Stop Brussels!" announce this quite clearly. Although they are opposed strongly and have to endure comparisons with the national socialists, which even in their case goes too far, they will gain some seats in the new European Parliament after narrowly failing in the German national elections.

More cheerless is the situation for the Free Democrats who also failed narrowly in the national elections. They still have not recovered from their disastrous election results, still following their old path of European politics, which seems to be the main reason for their decline. Although their new programme for Europe is not too bad, they fail to communicate it clearly. Whether their new candidates can ameliorate this is doubtable.

For the bigger parties, apart from their ideological differences, there is not much debate. Interesting, however, will be the vacancy of the new President of the European Comission. With Jean-Claude Juncker on the conservative side and the German Martin Schulz on the socialist side as most promising candidates, this has and will spark some controversy. Major German newspapers already headlined the incompetence of both, while the Bavarian CSU have attacked their coalition partner Martin Schulz. For example they called him "director of criminal African emigration agents", because he, in one good proposal, advocates receiving more boat refugees from Africa.

To be honest, I have not really followed the news concerning the European elections much. I will go voting, but am unsure what. Helping the satirists gain one or more seats seems to be an option because there is no party I can seriously vote for. Only the secessionist "Bayernpartei" ("Party of Bavaria") has a programme worth reading, but is too regionalist in the end.

Germany will have many parties in the new Parliament. I guess there will be at least eight different ones. Combined with the developments in other countries, this will make decision-making much more complicated. Whoever will gain the majorities, either in the transnational parties or for the presidency of the Comission, they will have to endure much more than before. This can, but will not necessarily, make Europe more democratic. It will also cause new frontiers which will make the future of an united, democratic European Union much more difficult. This is sad, because the challenges for Europe are huge. What to do in my opinion? I will divulge in my last blog before the European elections. Just let me tell you one thing: if you care for Europe, go voting!

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