Publishing this post may be a terrible mistake. The idea is to eventually tell you which party is getting my vote in Germany’s election on Sept. 24. More importantly, I want to walk you through my key deliberations. Discussing electoral decisions in public is rather unusual in Germany. For good historical reasons, the secrecy of the ballot is held in high regard. Even asking a friend who she is going to vote for can often be borderline.
(Hier gehts zur deutschen Version dieses Textes.)
I am not a member of any political party. One and a half decades ago, I briefly joined the Social Democrats, motiviated by Schröder’s Agenda 2010 reforms. I quickly left the party again after it started to campaign against its own policies in the 2005 election. Moreover, I always felt a bit queasy about the membership. I always wondered how being a party soldier can be reconciled with my job as an independent journalist.
This it the first of two blog posts discussing my personal deliberations ahead of the Sept. 24 election. My views are personal, and they may be distorted as I have lived in the UK for the last eight years. I’m moving back to Germany right after the election, so at least I have some personal interest in getting a good government,
You may have different political priorities, and almost surely will disagree with some or all of my arguments. Fair enough. The only thing I would ask is to make up your own mind, get out to the polling station on Sept. 24, and vote for a party different to the AfD and other fringe parties.
What’s at stake?
Each federal election is really important, but this one is probably particularly crucial. For the first time in decades, a far-right party is on the cusp of entering the Bundestag. Tough decisions are imminent over the coming four years.
Germany is on track to miss its carbon emission targets by a mile. It will either have to follow Trump in flouting the Paris treaty or phase out lignite coal mining quickly.Toxic diesel emissions in cities are a real public health threat, and driving bans may be the only proper solution. More than a million Syrian war refugees have to be integrated into the society and the labour market. Economic inequality is rising. The tax system needs a overhaul. There is a lack of affordable housing. Europe and the Euro is in dire need of a fundamental overhaul. The auto industry may enter an existential crisis, as it has so far missed out on electric mobility. (One in ten German industrial jobs are dependent on petrol and diesel engines.) Getting the balance right between preventing attacks by militant Islamists and protecting our civil liberties will be tricky.
True, the TV debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz was utterly depressing. Many key issues were not addressed at all, and you could get the feeling that even Schulz will vote for Merkel on Sept. 24. But please, please, please: don’t be turned off by the borefest. And granted, Merkel will almost certainly be Germany’s next Chancellor. However, it really matters which coalition is going to run Germany for the next four years.
I found it harder than usual to make up my mind. There is no perfect choice. I think you do have to start from the premise that every decision is a compromise, and does come with material downsides. But abstaining is the worst of all options. People went to prison for the right to vote, people died for it. It’s a key privilege of a modern, civilised society. Ignoring it is just irresponsible.
So who to vote for? I think the best way to come to an answer is to work out who not to vote for. So let’s rule out the worst option first.