Merkel coalition may shrug off Bremen poll
14 May 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Grand coalitions, which bond major parties and push the small fry into opposition, are supposed to be poison to the grandees in the German political system. Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) both saw their support decline Sunday in a poll in the Bremen, Germany's smallest state. Merkel, who has sworn to give up the poison by the next federal elections in 2009, is likely to be glad there are no mor
14 May 2007
Hamburg (dpa) - Grand coalitions, which bond major parties and push the small fry into opposition, are supposed to be poison to the grandees in the German political system.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) both saw their support decline Sunday in a poll in the Bremen, Germany's smallest state.
Merkel, who has sworn to give up the poison by the next federal elections in 2009, is likely to be glad there are no more state legislative polls in Germany this year to reinforce such an erosion of voter support.
The outcome suggests dissatisfaction with Merkel's rule since 2005, as much as with a local tandem of SPD-CDU that has run Bremen since 1995.
However, Bremen is hardly typical of Germany as a whole.
The city-state is a peculiarity in the German political system, having acquired the same rights as big states like Bavaria because of its history of proud independence.
The poll Sunday proved a boon to the Greens, often written off as a spent force, and the Left Party run by former East German communists, which has never before won legislative seats in the states of the former West Germany.
The Greens were headed for more than 16 per cent and the Left Party more than 8 per cent of votes.
Analysts were quick to point out that neither party can nurse much hope of doing the same at the national level.
Bremen, almost all urban, suffers from poverty, and its politics have always been a shade further left than the German average. Rural voters and prosperous regions have little sympathy for the Greens or the Left Party.
A re-run of Bremen's grand coalition, representing more than 60 per cent of voters, is more than possible.
In the past, Bremen's Social Democrats have preferred the local CDU over the Greens as allies, believing that a unity government can solve problems including public debt and a large segment of the population living on welfare.
The state's social-affairs senator resigned in October after the body of a 2-year-old boy in the care of her department was found stuffed in the refrigerator of his drug-addict father.
The CDU stumbled in Bremen by complaining that the city was employing as a schoolmistress a former terrorist who had been convicted in the murder of one of West Germany's top bankers 30 years ago.
Few voters seemed bothered that Susanne Albrecht, 56, was on the city payroll.
For SPD national leader Kurt Beck, who took over a year ago and has suffered from poor popularity ratings, a switch in Bremen from the CDU to the Greens as a coalition ally could prove attractive.
Beck, a provincial premier who has no federal cabinet seat, might want to signal to voters that the alliance with Merkel is not forever. But he has not publicly ordained any strategy for the Bremen SPD.
Beck met Sunday with Merkel, and their parties' top leaders are set to confer Monday.
The polls suggest Merkel and her federal coalition, formed after the CDU and SPD emerged with a draw from the 2005 federal election, still have broad support.
No other coalition was practicable then, and surveys suggest that if an election were held tomorrow, this would not change.
With Germany's economy growing steadily and unemployment down nationwide, even if it remains painful in Bremen, minor parties have their work cut out to mount a credible threat nationally to the Merkel government.
Subject: German news