Christian Wulff
Photo: Gil Yohanan

German democracy at risk

Op-ed: Studies show decline in Germans’ trust in democracy, growing wish for ‘strong leader’

BERLIN – the expected yet very late resignation of German President Christian Wulff is not just another affair involving a politician suspected of wrongdoing being caught. It is yet another step in undermining Germany’s democratic system, a trend accelerated in the past decade.


In the post-World War II Germany, the president of the federal republic is meant to serve as an obstacle to exploitation of democracy by non-democratic forces, as a lesson of the Hitler precedent. The president’s role is mostly symbolic, yet he holds powers that allow him to decide on issues of vital importance to the state.


Wulff is the second German president in a row to end his term by resigning. His predecessor, the esteemed economist Horst Kohler, was the first ever president to resign, about a year and a half ago, after facing harsh criticism over a statement he made regarding Germany’s right to militarily protect economic interests beyond the country’s borders.


Kohler was accused of colonialism, and when no government member came to his defense, he surprised observers with a dramatic resignation.


The current Merkel government will be remembered as the “government of resignations.” On top of the two presidents who made negative history, the government’s first defense minister resigned after it turned out that his office hid information about the army’s involvement in operational activity that caused many civilian casualties in Afghanistan.


The second defense minister resigned after it turned out that his Ph.D. dissertation was partly plagiarized. Merkel’s previous deputy, the former chairman of the Liberal Party, was forced to resign after leading it to an unprecedented nadir in public opinion polls. However, despite the pressure he kept the foreign affairs portfolio, while watching from the sidelines how his party continues to plummet.


Don’t preach to others 

The Liberal Party was considered in the last elections as the great hope of voters fed up with the large parties’ rule. Following a long tenure in the opposition, the Liberal Party turned into a protest party and allowed for a political revolution, which proved greatly disappointing.


Protest voters first shifted to the Green party, from there moved to the “Pirates,” who are already part of Berlin’s district parliament , with all polls predicting that that they will make it into the Bundestag in the next elections, in about a year and a half.


Studies undertaken in the past decade show a significant decline in Germans’ trust in democracy and growing support for a “strong leader.” Corruption affairs have hurt the image of most established parties, with sympathy growing not only for the “Pirates” but also for far Right parties, including the neo-Nazi party, which was not yet outlawed despite its clear involvement in terror against immigrants.


All of the above attest to the consistent weakening of democracy. Hence, instead of preaching to others, the German establishment would do well to wake up quickly.



פרסום ראשון: 02.20.12, 17:50
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