From the rise of the Pirate Party to a defence minister’s shamed departure, the German body politic has kept news-hounds on their toes all year. We’ve pulled together our favourite five political stories of the year.
Although the art of coalition building – which can turn political upset into something far less exciting – continued, fortune smiled on some and frowned at others with more clarity than normal in Germany this year.
1) Pirates ahoy! – winners of the year. The Pirate Party sailed into Berlin’s state parliament in September, winning 15 seats with nearly nine percent of the vote – from a previous nothing. A collection of young, tech-savvy people who could find nothing of interest in the conventional parties, the Pirates stirred up the capital’s election and gained support nationwide.
The upstart Pirate Party scored a big win in Berlin’s state elections on Sunday, gaining 15 seats in the state parliament. As Moises Mendoza found, its young members are both enthusiastic about and dazzled by their success.
2) Guttenberg’s implosion – loser of the year. Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned amid a scandal over his doctorate which was found to have been heavily plagiarized. The slick aristocratic darling of some German media and rising star of the Bavarian conservatives quickly became an object of derision, now known as Baron Cut-and-Paste.
Embattled German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned amid intense political pressure following revelations he plagiarized large parts of his doctoral thesis.
3) Replacing Westerwelle – fudge of the year. Junior coalition party the Free Democrats failed to wash ousted leader Guido Westerwelle out of their hair completely, installing youngster Philipp Rösler at the head of the party but keeping Guido as Foreign Minister. This was just one factor which consigned the party to continually diminishing polling figures, making the year a disastrous one.
Unloved, ineffective and on his political deathbed, Guido Westerwelle has become a foreign policy liability for Germany, writes The Local’s Marc Young.
4) Going Green in Baden-Württemberg – political upset of the year. The generally conservative voters of the wealthy south-western state delivered a slap in the face to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and elected Winfried Kretschmann’s Greens to lead the state – the first time the environmentalists have headed a state government. The enormous protests against the Stuttgart 21 rail project damaged the ruling state coalition, and increasing fears of nuclear power following the Japanese tsunami.
Winfried Kretschmann was sworn in as state premier of Baden-Württemberg, the first Green politician to hold such an office, after turfing out the conservative Christian Democratic Union who had held power there for nearly 60 years.
5) Merkel’s power – survivor of the year. Named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine – again – Angela Merkel must be desperate for a day off. Hustling from summit to summit and prising step-by-step compromises from her European Union colleagues, Merkel is a towering figure on the world stage, even as she is criticised for her handling of the euro crisis. And despite a lacklustre performance domestically, she has managed – just – to keep her governing coalition together and competitors from within her party at bay.
Forbes magazine named German Chancellor Angela Merkel the world’s most powerful woman, calling her the “undisputed” leader of the European Union and head of its only “real global economy.”