Germany. Three state elections held in March were seen as
a first test of the so-called large coalition that took
office last fall. According to
CountryAAH, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government
seemed to get approved; her Christian Democratic CDU won in
Baden-Württemberg and Saxony-Anhalt, while the Social
Democratic SPD remained the largest in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Somewhat worse in the two elections in September. In the
crisis-hit Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the SPD rebounded
from 40 to 30% and could only re-form a government with the
leftist PDS, with only a small margin. The National
Democratic NPD gained just over 7%; the state thus became
the fourth in T. with right-wing extremists in parliament.
In Berlin, the ruling SPD strengthened its position
slightly, while the coalition partner PDS lost support. The
result was nevertheless a new "red-red" coalition.
At the federal level, opinion polls were increasingly
failing during the fall for Merkel. Perhaps many voters felt
that the "forced marriage" between Germany's two major
parties led to too many political compromises in politics.
Nevertheless, several comprehensive reforms were carried
out: the retirement age was increased, parental insurance of
the Swedish model was launched, the heavy-handed legislative
work was simplified by a power shift from the states to the
federal government and a comprehensive restructuring of the
healthcare system was adopted to bring down costs in the
world's third most expensive system.
The economic development was favorable. Growth was good
and unemployment fell to below 4 million in November - the
lowest level in four years.
SPD got a new party leader when Matthias Platzeck
resigned in April, after only six months on the post. Kurt
Beck, head of government in Rhineland-Palatinate, became the
new chairman of the party.
Foreign policy approached Germany under Merkel's
leadership again the US, with which the relationship has
been frosty since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Concerns
that domestic right-wing extremists or Islamists would
strike during the summer football World Cup came to shame.
As a nation, Germany was considered to win a lot of goodwill
at the tournament which became a folk party without more
serious incidents. The host nation salvaged the bronze medal
and celebrated as if it were gold.
Shortly after the Soccer World Cup came a reminder that
the country was not immune to terror when two bags of
explosive charges were found on commuter trains in Dortmund
and Koblenz. According to the prosecutor, they had caused
extensive damage if they had detonated. Two young Lebanese
were arrested on suspicion of interference and several
others were taken in for questioning.
The author and Nobel laureate Günter Grass aroused great
resentment when he revealed that he was a member of the
Waffen-SS during the Second World War. Grass, known as a
peace activist and truth-seeker on the left, had previously
stated that he was a soldier during his teens - not that he
belonged to the Nazi elite.
The German self-image also got a thorn when media in
October published photos from Afghanistan of German soldiers
who violated corpses and posed with skulls. The images
caused a storm of protest, but also raised concerns about
the security of the more than 2,700 Germans in the ISAF
force in Afghanistan.
In November, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe found
Moroccan Mounir Motassadeq guilty of assisting in murder for
his involvement in the terrorist attack against the United
States in 2001. The sentence will be set by a Hamburg court,
which thus takes Motassadeq's case a third time. He was
first convicted of assisting with murder, but second only to
membership in a terrorist organization.