August 27, 2005

September Elections and the Free Liberals

The German and New Zealand elections are both coming this September, and the situations are roughly similar. Both are social democratic incumbents seeking third terms despite rocky terms in office and both electoral systems are mixtures of proportional representation (PR) and member districts (MDs). The German Christan Democrats and Free Democrats are essentially populist conservatives and free liberals, roughly akin to the New Zealand National and ACT parties. Of course, the German CDU is more conservative than the the Nationals, and the New Zealand ACT is pro-Iraq war while the German FDP isn't so much.

Germany will probably see Angela Merkel as Prime Minister in September, hopefully leading a coalition with the FDP. The Free Democrats aren't my personal favorite for foreign policy (no German party has anything like a foreign policy platform befitting a would-be permanent member of the UN Security Council) but they are the only ones backing anything remotely like an American-style free-market system. Were I German, I'd send my party vote to the FDP. It's been considered that a grand coalition of the CDU and SPD might come out of the election, with the Greens, Left and Free Democrats left to the side. Here's rooting for another CDU-FDP government.

New Zealand is looking like Labor ("Labour" they call it) will win anothe term. Things could change, of course, and it's quite doubtful Labor could pick up an outright majority. More likely, Helen Clark will work together a makeshift coalition like she has now, with support of variuous fringers like the Progressives, Greens, United Future (formerly a Christian-centrist party) and New Zealand First. It's possible she'll enter into an alliance with Winston Peters' political self-indulgence the New Zealand First party, in the process giving him all sorts of concessions about spending, welfare, nationalization and of course limiting foreign influence (it's a sort of centristy nationalist grouping with awkward appeal, since Peters himself is a native Maori). That would greatly suck. It's also possible that National might pull ahead enough to get NZ1 to side with them, but that'd take a pretty decent electoral showing.

ACT is looking, as usual, like it won't even win seats in parliament at all. Of course, it's looked that way every year then it bumps up right at the end. They're making a hard push to win an electorate so that they're not totally subject to meeting the 5% party hurdle for entrance to Parliament. Were I a Kiwi, I would party-vote ACT as well as support whatever candidate they ran in the local electorate.

Person for person, ACT probably has the best MPs in New Zealand. It would be a shame to lose the lot of them, given the work they do both in keeping the government honest and in influencing the issues up for debate. They've been so successful at the latter that the ACT positions on welfare, taxes, Waitangi and so forth that were almost obscure a few years ago are parroted by most of the other parties. And unlike the german FDP, ACT is a force for a more deployable, more effective New Zealand military and would be a more reliable ally with Australia and the US (though bear in mind Clark eventually sort of sided with the US by sending very few soldiers to Iraq, at one point limited to a single Kiwi).

Even if the CDU and FDP win, I don't see the US endorsing a German permanent seat on the UNSC. Aside from the politics of adding along India, Brazil and Mexico along with Germany, I think the Germans really shot themselves in the foot by going gaga over obstructionism in 2002. They are not as reliable an ally as they ought to be given our otherwise close connections (trade, military and otherwise). It would really suck having to deal with China, France and germany as permanent members, threatening to veto everything we ever did. The one thing Germany would bring is being one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the world.

If National makes it to government with ACT, we could see a few things. One, no more Kyoto in NZ. It's already unpopular after an unexpected economic boom turned NZ from an anticipated net gain under Kyoto to an anticipated net-loss under it. Not enough Kiwis believe in the cause of Kyoto to spend money on it, because it only passed with the assumption that it would give the government a nice big check for having more carbon sinks (forests) than carbon production. Two, the nuclear ban on ships in NZ harbor would be lifted. It's already been shown that AUckland hospital is FAR more of a radiological hazard than ships at dock in NZ, and a Cold War-era protest makes no sense after the Cold War's ended, so the only reason left is to spite the US and France. The prospect of reactivating the ANZUS alliance (Australia, New Zealand, United States) is more valuable than petty spite, but so is the free trade deal to follow; the nuke ban is the single largest obstacle preventing New Zealand from getting free trade with the US like Australia has, and the US isn't going to move on an NZ-FTA until the ban is lifted.

Germany and New Zealand have been stuck with selfish, conniving, manipulative opportunists of the social democratic persuasion. It won't be a shoo-in, but here's hoping that united center-right parties can bring some common sense back to both of these countries.

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