Saturday, September 17, 2005

Two Elections That Might Change the United States

Both Afghanistan and Germany hold elections this evening as America sleeps.

Security, especially in the south and east where the Taliban are most active, has been the main worry in the run-up to the parliamentary and provincial elections but Afghan and U.S. officials say they are confident polling can be held.

"I think that tomorrow what we are going to have with the elections here, we're going to have a record turnout," Eikenberry told Reuters in an interview at the main U.S. base in Kabul.

The Taliban, who have denounced the polls and called for a boycott, have claimed responsibility for killing several candidates, the latest shot on his doorstep early on Friday. They have vowed attacks on foreign troops over the election period.

Eikenberry said security for the $159 million U.N.-run elections was good but he expected more trouble.

"We are up against an enemy that will not hesitate to attack unarmed election workers ... to try to attack innocent Afghan citizens trying to express their will in a representational government," he said.

Obviously, it would be a real coup for Al Qaeda if the Taliban could convince the regional warlords (not hard to do to be honest about it) to switch sides, and repudiate these elections and by extension, the United States. That would then give them two nearly contiguous nations to control (Iraq and Afghanistan) with only Iran in between.

Do the math.

Also note this tidbit:

But Eikenberry said the insurgents would not succeed.

"Tomorrow that election is going to go. There will be some violence, but it's going to go," he said. "Tomorrow, when you think about this, in a country of 26 million, we're going to have over 10 million people that go out and express their will to put a representative government in place."

Meaning voter turnout, under the threat of guns and bombs, is expected to be higher than the last US Presidential election, percentagewise. Sad how we frittered away our democracy.

In Germany, things are poised for some real changes to US foreign policy.

Relations between President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are businesslike after a period of estrangement over the Iraq war. But Bush may be dealing with a potentially more supportive leader in Berlin if Schroeder loses parliamentary elections Sunday to Angela Merkel.

Merkel has made it clear she wants to improve relations with the United States, although some analysts say the difference would be more a matter of tone than substance.

Schroeder has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war and this has been an irritant in his relations with Bush. But Merkel has also said she wouldn't send German troops to Iraq.

Couple of points on this. First, Merkel is pretty solidly behind Bush as indicated above, however, she is also firmly against Turkey joining the EU, which means Turkey, altho a solid democracy, would start to see more of the opposition fundamentalist Muslim population gain favor. Excluding Turkey, a staunch US ally, from the EU is an huge mistake, in my opinion.

So how's the election stand?

On Sunday, an estimated 69.1 million Germans -- among them 2.6 million first-time voters -- will head to the polls to elect a new parliament with 3,648 candidates vying for 598 seats. Polls will open at 8 a.m. CET and close at 6 p.m.

Latest opinion polls show support for the conservative alliance of Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) at between 41 and 43 percent and about 8 percent for their preferred coalition partners, the free-market liberal FDP.

Schröder's Social Democrats (SPD) came in second at 32 to 34 percent, while their junior coalition partner, the Greens could take six to seven percent of the vote.

Sounds like a slam dunk for Merkel, but German politics is weird. No one candidate ever gets a controlling faction in the government. Second, the undecided category in this election, less than 24 hours away, is 20%.

One in five voters haven't made up their minds. Add to this a new liberal faction, the Left Party, could steal up to 8% of the vote and align themselves with the SDP, you might end up seeing a coalition government of the CDU and the SDP.

Put it this way: it would be like our elections used to be, where the VP could be Republican and the President Democrat. Imagine President Kerry and VP Bush, and you'd have an idea of what a ruckus Germany is in for.

Keep a close eye on these two elections, especially Germany.