Political ethos, made in Germany

Formal negotiations on Germany’s «grand coalition» government between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who won a tissue-thin victory at the September 18 elections, and the Social Democrats of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will continue into next week. That was to be expected as the makeup of the future Cabinet, a relatively small group featuring politicians with different ideological backgrounds, is not some minor, procedural detail. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Germany’s two mainstream political parties have already displayed a strong degree of political responsibility. Their attempt to join hands in order to push the necessary reforms to revitalize the faltering German economy demonstrates that they have put the public good above narrow partisan interest. The short-term party damage stemming from such a grand coalition is expected to be greater than the benefits as the uneasy alliance could push many voters into the arms of smaller parties including the pro-business Free Democrats and the new Left party, a collection of former Communists and disgruntled Social Democrats. The Green party is also expected to recover its strength after the elections swept it out of power along with Schroeder’s SPD. However, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats are the strongest parties in the strongest country of Europe, and not some second-rate political forces seeking ministerial posts in a country on the European periphery. They both know that the big parties are truly big only when the country sees progress and prosperity. That’s why they have alternated in power over the past 60 years. One dares not think how Greece’s political parties might react to a similar political predicament. On one hand, we would likely see opportunistic alliances aimed at securing the largest share of power, and, on the other, successive elections until collapse or exhaustion hits. After all, there is the sad precedent of the 1989-1990 period. One hopes that Greece’s political leaders will be inspired by these Teutonic lessons of political responsibility.