Sunday, March 26, 2017

Did Señor Trumpanzee Inadvertently Help Merkel Win Today's Saarland Election?


Germany will go to the polls September 24 to elect a new parliament (Bundestag). Right now Merkel's right-of-center Christian Democratic Union has a coalition government with the slightly left-of-center Social Democrats (emphasis on "slightly"). Her party holds 311 seats (41.5%) and the Social Dems hold 193 seats (25.7%) of the 598 members. The only other parties with Bundestag seats are The Left (64 seats) and the Greens (63 seats). The AfD, the neo-Nazi Putin-Backed Alternative for Germany Party of Frauke Petry is trying to break into Parliament in the upcoming elections.

Today there were state elections in Saarland, the smallest of Germany's states, tucked between Rhineland-Palatinate and France, with a population of just over a million people. The election was the first in a series leading up to the big federal elections in September, with Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia coming in May. The Social Democrats, who have been gaining popularity over the last few months with a new leader, Martin Schultz, were looking to knock Merkel off her stride. They didn't. Early returns showed voters defied polling showing a close call between Merkel's CDU and Schultz's SPD. And Putin's neo-Nazi allies were a mere asterisk.
CDU- 40.7%, up from 35.2%-- 24 seats
SPD- 29.6%, down from 30.6%-- 17 seats
The Left- 12.9%, down from 16.1%-- 7 seats
AfD (neo-Nazis)- 6.2%-- 3 seats
Greens- 4.5%
FDP (right-wing CDU allies)- 3.0%
The SPD had been hoping to form a state coalition with themselves as the senior parter with The Left and the Greens (as they've done in Berlin's local legislature), but instead, they are likely to be back as the junior partner with the CDU. The neo-Nazis did go over the 5% mark, making them eligible to have members in the state Parliament. Currently they have members in 10 of German's 16 state parliaments.

Why did Merkel's CDU do so much better than polling showed it would? There was some speculation that Saarland voters rallied around her when news broke over the weekend that the universally detested Trump had handed her an invoice for $374 billion (including Señor Trumpanzee's demand for $62 billion in interest) when she visited the White House last week, back payments, he contends, are owed for German participation in NATO.
The bill-- handed over during private talks in Washington-- was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.

“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

Trump has criticised a number of NATO countries-- Germany among them-- for insufficient military spending, leaving America to pick up more than its fair share of the tab. He wants them to honour a commitment made in 2014 to invest 2% of their GDP in defence-- a target met at present only by the US, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

Trump appeared to go one step further during his meeting with Merkel. Taking 2002 as a starting point, his officials calculated the extent to which German defence spending had fallen short of the 2% target each year, added the amount together-- and then put interest on top.

...A source close to Merkel was dismissive. “The president has a very unorthodox view on Nato defence spending,” the source said. “The alliance is not a club with a membership fee. The commitments relate to countries’ investment in their defence budgets.”

Merkel is said to have “ignored the provocation,” but did commit to raise German defence spending gradually, although she asked for spending on international development to be taken into consideration.
Ignoring the evil clown Trump seems to have paid off for her-- at least in Saarland. But Trump is so hated around the world-- outside of Russia and other fascist-leaning countries-- that campaigning in any way that resists him is a real positive.



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