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February 19, 2019

Lessons we can learn from German polls

Voters cast their votes at Moi Avenue Primary School. photo/PATRICK VIDIJA
Voters cast their votes at Moi Avenue Primary School. photo/PATRICK VIDIJA

I was reading a bunch of Spiegel articles about the German federal elections and the resultant coalition negotiations over breakfast a few days ago. Angela Merkel’s party, the CDU/CSU alliance, only won 33 per cent, so they will have to find partners to continue ruling. They are currently in discussions with the FDP (liberals – in the European sense) and the left Greens to form a so-called Jamaica Coalition.

The whole situation isn’t easy: The right-wing AFD won 12.6%, i.e. came third, which is worrying. A Jamaica coalition ‑ an experiment that Schleswig Holstein has also just started ‑ is not really an obvious alliance. There are also continued challenges with respect to the EU, to immigration and the treatment of refugees etc.

And you know what? After weeks of being immersed in Kenya’s politics and protracted election crisis, thinking about it every day, trying to figure out the scenarios, the impact, the forecast, it was oddly soothing to read about this.

Why? Because there are actual parties that have an agenda, and actual policies, and tough negotiations about how each partner can realise their priorities, and how they can find enough common ground. Because the fact that there is no new government yet doesn’t appear to upset anyone ‑ if you weren’t reading the news, you wouldn’t know (and yes, the flipside of this means that people take it for granted that things work, which lands us with presidents like Donald Trump).

This is not to say that there are no problems or challenges, or that Germany is perfect. It’s also not meant to be a comparison. It would be an unfair one. You can’t really compare the coloniser and the colonised. Germany had many more decades to practice statehood, and to build its institutions. And not all of this was Germany’s own achievement: the country started two horrific world wars, and industrially murdered millions of Jews in the second one. After that, the country – rightly so – had its sovereignty taken away temporarily, and the constitution was written with the input and under the supervision of the war winners.

This also stuck with me: The Spiegel also pointed out the value that lies in good personal relationships. You may be in different political parties, but if you either get on with your counterparts, or make an effort to do so, it’s much easier to find agreement on technical issues.

So not a comparison. Just maybe a reminder that there will ‑ eventually, hopefully ‑ be alternatives? This week, I also enjoyed pictures of the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, cycling over to meet the king. And yes, I’m definitely judging you, overlapping ‘honorable’.

Poll of the day