Rebels have a history in Kiel. It was here in 1918 that a rebellion began, which later evolved into a revolution that brought down the Kaiser and led to the founding of Germany’s first Republic. That Republic’s fate did not end well − it lost its capacity to govern, as well as the trust of the people.
The state election results on May 6 in Schleswig Holstein were not made of a revolution, but they did signal that there are rumblings among the citizens unhappy with the government. Yet, those same citizens are uncertain about what alternatives are preferable − a lot of them did not even bother to choose.
The governing conservative coalition in Kiel between the CDU and the FDP was tossed out, but there was no majority for the opposition SPD or Greens to form a government, even though they both gained support. Any hope of forming a governing coalition will depend on the unique presence of the party representing the Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein − the Südschleswigscher Wählerverband (SSW) − with their three seats in the Parliament. Meanwhile, the FDP was happy with its results, even though its support dropped significantly from the last state elections. Without the sheer force of its long-term main face in Schleswig Holstein – Wolfgang Kubicki – the results would not have been as pleasant.
Then there were the newcomers – the Pirates – who managed to secure as much support as the FDP on their first run at the state parliament. However, they explicitly stated they did not want to be part of a governing coalition. It is probable that the Pirates prevented the SPD and the Greens from achieving a majority in the Parliament.
So what to make of these results? Almost half of the eligible voters did not show up at the polls − who is to blame for that? In a state that is facing some severe economic problems, that result is little testimony in trust in the available leadership to solve them. When the two large parties − the SPD and the CDU − together can attract less than two thirds of the votes (of less than two thirds of the eligible voters) there should be some questions raised about the credibility of the message and the messengers. On the other hand, the smaller parties the Greens, the FDP and the Pirates − all exemplify the capacity to mobilize core voters. However, they also represent the difficulty of mobilizing enough support for a viable government. Indeed, the problem of forging a persuasive platform for governing is becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish.
If the SPD and the Greens can form a government in Schleswig-Holstein, it will likely only be possible due to the one vote majority it can muster with the SSW, which exists nowhere else in Germany and has three thousand members. Similarly, the CDU could forge a majority with the Greens and the FDP, but the basis of a consensus for a credible political platform among those three parties is not evident.
There are arguments that state challenges are sufficiently great to warrant a coalition between the two large parties, the CDU and the SPD. There are, for that matter, several other states in Germany being governed by this very equation. Indeed, Germany was governed by such a coalition under Angela Merkel’s first term as Chancellor (2005-2009) and some say that it was a coalition able to help deal with the global economic collapse of that period. However, the effects of the economic storms remain at all levels of government, leaving both the elected and the electing uncertain of paths ahead.