FOR Angela Merkel to get re-elected on Sept. 22,notes John Vinocur, the most conservative commentator working for the New York Times, in the International Herald Tribune,
a risk she must avoid is arousing German voters’ fears of painful economic reforms by the governing coalition. On that score, so far so good, according to Renate Köcher, who runs the Allensbach Institute, one of Germany’s elite polling organizations. In her view, stoking those fears is a big part of a potentially winning formula for the opposition — but she adds that “an overwhelming majority are not concerned about having to face such reforms in the foreseeable future.”
All the same, she writes that only 19 percent of the voters think continuation of the Merkel-led, right-of-center governing coalition is a good idea. In spite of the chancellor’s general popularity, Köcher believes the election to be “everything other than locked up” and the campaign so far without a decisive theme.
How about this one: Germany embarking on an economic “paradigm change,” which means standing its old export-export-export/save-save-save model on its head. The idea would be to encourage growth through higher German salaries and consumption, more imports and, in a sense, less competitiveness.
This theme entered the election campaign picture last weekend with what seemed like a careful leak to a newspaper. “It’s so enormous that no one in Berlin will talk about it publicly,” the weekly Die Zeit reported. As its sources, the newspaper cited both “an official” said to be helping to formulate the government line, and “other members of the government” who insist the policy turnabout plan is for real.
Theoretically at least, this could be a political bombshell because the shift in approach equals a move away from the creed of austerity that Germany has preached to the rest of Europe. Die Zeit — its seriousness embodied by Helmut Schmidt, who serves as its co-publisher — wrote, “Silently and softly, Angela Merkel is planning the next big change in the economy.”
But maybe a little skepticism should enter here. …