Germany in the Election Year 2013: Political and Economic Perspectives

On Tuesday, January 15, 2013, AICGS hosted a discussion with Dr. Michael Inacker, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Handelsblatt (a leading German language business newspaper). The discussion focused on developments in German politics and the economic outlook for the transatlantic relationship in 2013.

The overall consensus from the U.S. side is that the euro crisis is coming to an end after a long period of “muddling through.” The risk of this crisis overwhelming the entire continent has been addressed step-by-step, with no master plan. The German public approves of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach even if they do not understand what exactly is going on. There is a general trust in her party’s ability to handle taxpayers’ money.

The main competition to the CDU comes from Peer Steinbrück of the SDP. He does not claim to want to revolutionize the economic system in Germany and Europe, but to make the current system better. This approach attracts the middle voters and eases fears of a move too far to the left. However, Mr. Steinbrück is having to spend time clearing up the scandals that have risen recently involving his participation in the Supervisory Board of ThyssenKrupp and the large amounts of money he has earned giving keynote speeches for large corporations during his government tenure.

Two new topics that may affect the outcome of the elections are rising energy prices in Germany and the vision for a “New Europe.” Foreign policy plays little to no role in the federal elections. Overall, candidates must work harder to attract voters in the midst of an increasing voter fatigue, as voter turnout is dropping steadily. There is a fear that extremist parties will be able to gain power more easily in this environment, because it would be easier to sway the opinion of a smaller constituency.

About the speaker: From 2009 to 2011, Dr. Michael Inacker was Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at METRO AG. From 2007-2009, he was Vice Editor-in-Chief and Head of the Berlin office of the German economics weekly WirtschaftsWoche; before that Dr. Inacker worked as Vice President of the Department of External Affairs and Public Policy (EAPP) at DaimlerChrysler. Dr. Inacker studied at the Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms University of Bonn and the Center for International and Strategic Affairs (CISA) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


Kimberly Frank

January 15, 2013