Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Schroeder refuses to participate in German coalition government

Just weeks after being narrowly defeated in German national elections, after which he demanded in a televised speech that votes should be recounted, and counted according to different standards, and vowed that his Social Democrats would “never” enter into a coalition government with the victorious Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced that he would not participate as a cabinet minister in the newly-formed coalition government. Merkel will head that government.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Wednesday he will not participate in Germany's new coalition government, ending seven years in power marked by a newly assertive foreign policy and efforts to prune welfare benefits that were a drag on Europe's biggest economy.

In a speech to a trade union conference in his hometown of Hanover, Schroeder also took swipes at President Bush and Tony Blair, opponents in the debate over the Iraq war.

Schroeder's Social Democrats lost last month's parliamentary elections to conservative Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, and Merkel struck a power-sharing deal Monday to become Germany's first female chancellor.

"I will not belong to the next government, definitely not," Schroeder said in his televised speech.
He thanked union members for their support during his seven years of government and urged the new leadership to push through economic reforms while maintaining the nation's social welfare programs.

It’s no surprise that Schroeder felt the need to take parting shots at Blair and Bush. Like Jacques Chirac in France, Schroeder spent the last several years propping up his largely ineffective government by demonizing the “Anglo-Saxon speaking” countries. The “newly assertive foreign policy” referred to in the news article amounted to little more than the reflexive opposition of every American and British initiative, from the Iraq war to European economic reforms.

France and Germany share the same economic stagnation caused largely by an aging population collecting huge social welfare benefits and a socialist state in which wages and benefits are pricing their workforce out of the international market. Both countries have apparently permanent double-digit unemployment figures and negligible economic growth. Yet both cling to a socialist economic model, placing them at increasing disadvantage in competing with the emerging free market economies of Eastern European democracies like the Czech and Slovak Republics and the ever-more privatized British economy.

In Schroeder’s case, he went to the anti-American well once too often, trying to make the Iran nuclear issue and American economic policy the central issues of the German campaign. But his “I stand up to the Americans” schtick had worn thin with German voters.

Ironically, Schroeder had originally been elected promising economic reforms. But it quickly became apparent that he could accomplish nothing with respect to the bloated socialist welfare economy of Germany, and so in the absence of any other policy he made opposition of Britain in European affairs and America in all things the centerpiece of his administration.

A cynic might be inclined to assume that Schroeder, who appears to be unable to accept that he lost the election, is putting some distance between himself and the coalition government in order to be in a better position to return to power in the future.

For a post describing Schroeder’s bizarre post-election television appearance, and his apparent refusal to accept the election results, go here.

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