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Author Topic: German Elections & Politics  (Read 466077 times)
Franknburger
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« Reply #200 on: December 28, 2013, 11:32:11 am »

The honeymoon seems to be over:

In an unusual coalition, Greens and the ADAC (German motorist association, more than 18 million members) have simultaneously criticised the envisaged introduction of a motorway toll (rumoured to range around 100€/year): "Bureaucratic nightmare that is only creating jobs for public officials but hardly yields additional funds for road infrastructure"; "Flat-rate for long-distance drivers, encouraging fuel wastage". A (temporary) rise in fuel taxes would, at substantially lower administrative cost, be more socially just, environment-friendly, and also have foreign users participating in the cost of the German motorway system.

The CSU was quick to reply that they stick to the plan, noting that introducing a road toll by 2016 at latest has been put down firmly in the coalition agreement. SPD: "Yes, but under the condition that the toll corresponds to EU regulation, and no domestic car owner is paying more than he has to do now.." That will be difficult to achieve, since vehicle tax on small cars is well below 100€/ year, and any other form of direct compensation to German car owners is likely to be challenged by the EU. Angela Merkel has remained silent so far. Well, she is on holidays - but she also knows that pensioners,  her most loyal base, would be over proportion hit by a motorway toll.

This will be fun to watch over the next months...

Coming up next:
-Opening of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport postponed to at least 2015, further significant cost increase (says a usually well-informed friend of mine who is civil engineering consultant in Berlin) ->Federal transport budget in need of review...
- Deutsche Bahn suffers heavy losses due to increased competition by long-distance buses (which the Grand Coalition did not want to subject to the motorway toll that is already levied on trucks) ->Federal transport budget in need of review...
- After 40 years of use, crucial parts of the German motorway system require fundamental renovation [last summer, severe structural damage of the A7 bridge over the Kiel Canal, built 1972, was discovered, leading to temporary closure of the bridge to heavy traffic. Just when emergency repairs of that bridge were finished a few weeks ago, structural damage of three smaller bridges on the A1 north of Lübeck (built in the early 1970s) has been revealed, leading to restrictions on heavy traffic.] 3.100 km of motorway have been built in the 1970s in West Germany, plus several hundred km in East Germany (partly, e.g. Berlin-Rostock, not yet renewed). That is more than a third of the main grid - later additions were mostly secondary or feeder lines. it is estimated that 15% of German motorway bridges are in dire need of renewal ->Federal transport budget in need of review (financing gap estimated at 6bn Euros). 
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Secret Cavern Survivor
Antonio V
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« Reply #201 on: December 28, 2013, 12:28:38 pm »

The Grand Coalition is now talking about extending the legislative term from 4 years to 5 years

Horrible idea. From my French experience, I can testify that 5 year terms are waaaay too long.
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change08
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« Reply #202 on: December 28, 2013, 02:16:30 pm »

The Grand Coalition is now talking about extending the legislative term from 4 years to 5 years

Horrible idea. From my French experience, I can testify that 5 year terms are waaaay too long.

They really are. Four's about right, I'd say.
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Franzl
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« Reply #203 on: December 28, 2013, 02:31:15 pm »

I'm sure they'll pass the 5-year terms...
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Tayya
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« Reply #204 on: December 28, 2013, 03:30:05 pm »

Experience tells me that any institutional/meta reform supported by the two main parties is to be avoided like the plague. This is no exception. I'm sorry for your loss, Germany.
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Franzl
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« Reply #205 on: December 28, 2013, 04:21:36 pm »

Experience tells me that any institutional/meta reform supported by the two main parties is to be avoided like the plague. This is no exception. I'm sorry for your loss, Germany.

Very very true.
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minionofmidas - supplemental forum account
Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #206 on: December 29, 2013, 08:02:44 am »

I would say, from looking at the world, that the US House's two years are too short and anything longer is too long. Tongue
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #207 on: December 29, 2013, 09:28:51 am »

I would say, from looking at the world, that the US House's two years are too short and anything longer is too long. Tongue

So, you favour the Australian or NZ way (3 years) ?

Wink

I generally have nothing against 4, 5 or even 6 year terms because stuff gets done and the government or the country itself is likely a bit more stable than if there were changes every 2-3 years.

On ther other hand, elections every 2 years like in the US are good for us, who like to follow them and like to make maps - but rather bad for the country because of the constant campaigning which leads to standstill ...
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Franzl
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« Reply #208 on: December 29, 2013, 09:31:48 am »

The US is a special case with the way campaigns are. In most places, having an election every 3 years wouldn't really be that much trouble. I'd certainly rather go in that direction than further up...
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #209 on: December 29, 2013, 09:35:10 am »

The US is a special case with the way campaigns are. In most places, having an election every 3 years wouldn't really be that much trouble. I'd certainly rather go in that direction than further up...

Yeah, but we can also see it as a cost-cutting measure: Holding an election every 5-6 years instead of 3-4 saves you worth a total election after a few years. And that's not a few cents ...
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #210 on: December 29, 2013, 09:41:56 am »

Coming up next:

-Opening of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport postponed to at least 2015, further significant cost increase (says a usually well-informed friend of mine who is civil engineering consultant in Berlin)

Woah, that is one big mess ... Tongue

Will it likely impact the state election as well, or is it more about Berlin rather than BB ?
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minionofmidas - supplemental forum account
Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #211 on: December 29, 2013, 09:44:40 am »

I would say, from looking at the world, that the US House's two years are too short and anything longer is too long. Tongue

So, you favour the Australian or NZ way (3 years) ?

Wink
That's the least bad option available in practice, but I meant the post exactly as I wrote it - three years already is too long.
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Beezer
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« Reply #212 on: December 29, 2013, 09:59:53 am »

There are so many reasons that present a far bigger roadblock to getting sh**t done than the length of the legislative term (for starters the role of the Bundesrat, whose powers should be severely curtailed while introducing real federalism to Germany). And the costs of holding an election are minute compared to the other crap we spend money on. So no, I'd rather keep the 4 year term or even decrease it to 3 (while having 5 year terms in state elections) which might make it more likely that a government has a majority in the Bundesrat as well (after each federal election, the governing coalitions tends to do poorly in the states...maybe a 3 year term would then ensure that the unpopular coalition is ousted with the new government enjoying a governing majority in the upper chamber as well...not sure if I've thought all of this through properly).
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Secret Cavern Survivor
Antonio V
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« Reply #213 on: December 29, 2013, 10:05:09 am »

Yeah, 3 years is the right term length. It's such a shame Sweden got rid of 3-year terms in the 90s. Sad
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excelsus
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« Reply #214 on: December 29, 2013, 10:16:41 am »
« Edited: December 29, 2013, 06:50:05 pm by excelsus »

The Grand Coalition is now talking about extending the legislative term from 4 years to 5 years

Horrible idea. From my French experience, I can testify that 5 year terms are waaaay too long.

At least the French can elect their President and the National Assembly both separately and directly.
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fondue_knight
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« Reply #215 on: December 29, 2013, 06:47:12 pm »

The French senate is not directly elected.
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excelsus
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« Reply #216 on: December 29, 2013, 06:49:24 pm »

The French senate is not directly elected.

I see. Sorry!
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excelsus
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« Reply #217 on: December 31, 2013, 03:29:12 pm »

As a side note: Today Barbara Hendricks came out of the closet in a regional daily newspaper.
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Peter the Lefty
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« Reply #218 on: December 31, 2013, 07:45:33 pm »

Coming up next:

-Opening of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport postponed to at least 2015, further significant cost increase (says a usually well-informed friend of mine who is civil engineering consultant in Berlin)

Woah, that is one big mess ... Tongue

Will it likely impact the state election as well, or is it more about Berlin rather than BB ?
It was Wowereit's pet project, I'm pretty sure.  Frankly, it does seem time for him to go.
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Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #219 on: January 01, 2014, 09:41:41 am »

God, no. Wowereit inherited that mess (and failed entirely to solve it, partly because it would have required cutting prestige losses long before the planning disaster was apparent to laymen, something politicians are of course notoriously wroth to do.) The actual culprits are, in ascending order, Manfred Stolpe, Eberhard Diepgen, and Helmut Kohl.
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Franknburger
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« Reply #220 on: January 01, 2014, 05:11:20 pm »

God, no. Wowereit inherited that mess (and failed entirely to solve it, partly because it would have required cutting prestige losses long before the planning disaster was apparent to laymen, something politicians are of course notoriously wroth to do.) The actual culprits are, in ascending order, Manfred Stolpe, Eberhard Diepgen, and Helmut Kohl.

Well, that is a bit oversimplified, Let me summarise the main things that went wrong, as I have been told by my usually well-informed friend in Berlin. There are a number of points that aren't clear to me, I am also not able to put a name and date on every issue, but I hope nevertheless I can make the situation a bit clearer:

1. The original feasibility study for the airport came out with a construction cost estimate of some 1.3 billion Euros. For some reason and in some mysterious way, the cost estimate that was presented to the public was only 800 million Euros. When construction was tendered - surprise, surprise - offers ranged around 1.3 billion. The tender was cancelled, with suspected price-gouging given as official reason. Instead, the construction was split-up into individual lots that were tendered separately, with the airport company assuming the coordination role. When tendering was finished, no information on the total costs of all these lots was made available to the parliaments concerned, but according to my friend, splitting up the project into several lots did as well result in a contract total of around 1.3 billion.

2. It is usual for such projects that some details are changed during implementation. Any such changes are cost drivers, as the contractors can freely put forward extra expenditure, without being bound to original tender bids (it is quite common to go into tenders at cost price, in the hope of drawing profits from subsequent changes). In the case of the Berlin-Brandenburg airport, however, we are talking about more than just details. In order to increase revenue-generating retail space, the complete layout of the public areas was remodelled, and the building size increased from 200,000 to 340,000 m². No idea how much that increased the total cost - it seems negotiations among all parties are still on-going - but the re-modelling should have had quite an impact.

3. There had been substantial protest from people residing in the envisaged airplane approach paths, which was partly downplayed, partly encountered by the Brandenburg government publicly out ruling certain approach paths. For "technical reasons", some of these out-ruled paths lived up again in the spatial planning process ("Raumordnungsverfahren") for the airport. The thing went to court, over several instances, and the final, unchallengeable verdict obliged the Airport to ensure that certain maximum noise levels inside residential buildings are not exceeded. By the time of the verdict, construction was too far advanced to leave the airport with any other possibility than equipping all houses in question with 3-4 layer noise-insulating windows. This - as my friend calls it - largest job creation programme Berlin's and Brandenburg's construction business has ever seen will alone account for some 2 billion Euros extra cost.

4. As if that hadn't been enough, parts of the fire protection system - to be installed by five different contractors - had no accreditation with German authorities. That is more than a mere technicality - any such accreditation also includes binding specifications for equipment installation. In the absence of such specifications, it is 99,9% certain that, even if the equipment should retroactively get accredited, it will not be possible to document that it has been installed according to specification. In other words - the system may need to be completely removed and replaced by an accredited one that is installed in line with specifications. We are talking sensors, alarm signals, water pipes and sprayers, automatic doors, ventilation, etc. here - essentially, you may have to tear down and rebuild the whole terminal building, except for the outer walls.

5. When the problems with the fire protection system became obvious in late 2011 / early 2012, the coordinating engineering team, lead by Hamburg-based architects gmp, was fired. Legal dispute is on-going - gmp blames the problems on re-modelling on behalf of the airport company, and frequent political interference [As the case is pending in court, public access to information is restricted]. Whoever is to blame for what - the whole technical team had to be replaced, and the new team had to get acquainted with the situation and available documentation. This alone meant some 6-9 months interruption. Each moth delay costs at least 30 million Euros (interest, security, etc.),  some sources speak of as much as 40 millions, if possible compensation to airlines and Deutsche Bahn is included. You can do the math yourself...

6. In order to get the technical problems under control, the airport company in Summer 2012 recruited Horst Amann, previously chief planner at Frankfurt airport, as new Technical Director. Amman's approach was to systematically collect and inventorise all shortcomings, and then step by step work on overcoming them. On pressure by Federal Minister of Transport Peter Ramsauer, in December 2012, the airport's CEO, Rainer Schwarz (previously CEO at Düsseldorf airport), was replaced by Hartmut Mehdorn. Mehdorn, born in 1942, is former CEO of Deutsche Bahn and of Air Berlin, which is a bit delicate, as both companies claim compensation from the airport company (Air Berlin has already filed a court claim, when Mehdorn was still their CEO). He is known for his hands-on, pushy and often confrontational management style.
Unsurprisingly, the chemistry within the new management team wasn't optimal (to put it mildly). Mehdorn, trying to speed up things, proposed to experimentally already open one wing of the airport to the public, while Amann wasn't prepared to risk his head for partly opening an airport that does not have an approved fire protection system, and as such would be illegal to operate. Following mutual complaints against each other towards board members and in the press, the board in October 2013 finally decided to discard the position of the Airport's Technical Director, but keep Amann as CEO of a subsidiary in charge of the airport's utility systems (said subsidiary, however, so far has no other staff than its CEO). [In other words - everybody waited for Ramsauer to be removed as Federal Minister of Transport after the election, in order to be able to also get rid of Mehdorn, and get the one and only person in the team who ever has built an airport to the position where he belongs.] Achievements in 2013: 60,000 shortcomings have been documented, but hardly any action has been taken on them yet. And the taxameter is running...

7.  Did I say "hardly any action"? Unfortunately, that is not fully correct. It is not yet clear which parts (if any) of the fire security system can be maintained, and how much time and money will be needed to get the airport to German and EU fire security standards, Nevertheless, Mr. Mehdorn, in order to speed up things, has already given out the contract for a new fire security system to Siemens. Apparently free-handed, without international tender as is mandated under EU common market regulation. [Just in case you didn't know - his buddy, former Minister of Transport Peter Ramsauer, is from the Bavarian CSU. And Bavaria's largest employer is, of course, Siemens].

Oh yeah, and then there is the Investigative Committee of the Berlin House of Deputies, lead by the speaker of the Pirate faction - a guy in the late twenties, obviously quite intelligent and committed, but also pretty inexperienced. From my memory, here an extract of a TV interview with him some months ago:
"The fundamental problem is the legal construction of the airport company. It is at the same time in charge of running the existing Tegel and Schönefeld airports, and building the new airport. That legal construction has obviously been selected to make it more difficult to trace money flows."
Q: "But haven't you been warned in advance to not get too much into the project's history, thereby getting lost in irrelevant details, instead of looking at current processes, mistakes, and possibilities for damage control?"
A: "Well, I think it is important to study the development of the airport project from its initiation .."
That poor kid had obviously no idea of what he was dealing with!
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Gustaf
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« Reply #221 on: January 02, 2014, 06:43:57 am »

Yeah, 3 years is the right term length. It's such a shame Sweden got rid of 3-year terms in the 90s. Sad

Hm, I'm not convinced. I think 3 years gives too little time from when you've settled in and can start implementing reforms until it's time for an election campaign again.
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #222 on: January 06, 2014, 06:09:28 am »

German Chancellor Angela Merkel injured in skiing accident

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that the Chancellor fell while cross-country skiing in Switzerland.

As a result, some meetings have been cancelled - including the planned visit to Poland on Wednesday and a reception for the prime minister of Luxembourg on Thursday in Berlin.

More to come ...

http://www.dw.de/german-chancellor-angela-merkel-injured-in-skiing-accident/a-17343329
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #223 on: January 06, 2014, 06:17:20 am »

3 new state election polls (all of those states will have state elections this year):

Brandenburg/Forsa

34% SPD
25% Left
23% CDU
  5% Greens
  4% FDP
  4% AfD
  5% Others

Sachsen/uniQma

49% CDU
17% SPD
15% Left
  6% Greens
  6% AfD
  2% FDP
  2% Pirates
  1% NPD
  2% Others

Thüringen/INSA

35% CDU
27% Left
18% SPD
  7% Greens
  5% AfD
  2% FDP
  6% Others
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Tender Branson
Mark Warner 08
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« Reply #224 on: January 06, 2014, 06:19:06 am »

The Brandenburg poll is good news for the SPD, if true.

Other recent polls have shown the CDU gaining and moving into a tie with the SPD here.

Also, the CDU reaches a 10-year high in Saxony - but I have never heard of that pollster before.
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