Who will the Irish in Germany be voting for?

Our group is divided on Angela Merkel, but unanimous on one thing: anyone but the AfD

Bernie Duffy: ‘Local politics, and activism, is very much alive and kicking here.’

Bernie Duffy: ‘Local politics, and activism, is very much alive and kicking here.’

 

Germany goes to the polls on Sunday to elect the 19th Bundestag. Who do Irish Times Abroad readers living there think will win, and who will they be voting for if they can?

Bernie Duffy, Hamburg: ‘There’s no impetus for change’

I am a computer games author and lecturer from Dublin, and have been living in Hamburg since 2009. I have not opted for a German citizenship, so my voice is limited to only local [state] or European elections, which is frustrating given the amount of taxes I pay.

Local politics, and activism, is very much alive and kicking here but national elections seem to elicit no response at all. Faces go blank if the subject comes up. I get it; the feeling is that Germany is not broken, so why fix it? Compared to what has been going on in the UK, the US and France in the last year, it’s almost a love-in between the main parties. There’s no impetus for change.

Data shows the areas most opposed to refugees are those with the least of them. There is fear in the unknown

But the blankness will quickly turn to frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of AfD [the far-right Alternative für Deutschland]. So much can only be expected in liberal Hamburg, which currently hosts some 40,000 refugees. Most people here, including me, see the influx of new arrivals as a boon. Data shows the areas most opposed to refugees are those with the least of them. There is fear in the unknown.

It is looking likely that AfD will win some parliamentary seats with the rural vote, although the likelihood of any other party making a coalition with them is null. A far-right party with seats in the Bundestag will be a shock for Germany, but given the current trend of normalisation of far-right rhetoric in the western world, will be nothing new.

David Hegarty, Tübingen: ‘There is an underswell of discontent’

David Hegarty: ‘I think I will be voting for the Greens and the SDP, to do my best to level the political field.’
David Hegarty: ‘I think I will be voting for the Greens and the SDP, to do my best to level the political field.’

I was born in Ireland but have dual Irish and German citizenship, so I can vote here in southern Germany where I have lived since 1989. I am married to a German and we have two children.

I think the “Mutti factor” [the term German children use for their mothers] will see Angela Merkel back at the helm, but only after some serious wrangling to form a coalition. I predict that the political field will get tilted to the right, after the AfD achieve more votes than many in my circle – middle-class, urban, cosmopolitans with university degrees – seem to think is possible.

He wants the AfD to shake things up and then – he is convinced – they will self-destruct

One of my neighbours has submitted a postal vote, and admits openly that he has voted for the AfD. This is despite his acceptance of multiculturalism, freedom of religion, and open borders, and him being in favour of Germany fulfilling its international obligation to welcome refugees. I think he may be symptomatic of an underswell of discontent at the mounting heap of government incompetencies, including the diesel emissions scandal, the five-year delay in the opening of the new Berlin airport, and locally, the Stuttgart railway station, which is also long-overdue and massively over budget. He wants the AfD to shake things up and then – he is convinced – they will self-destruct.

After much confusion, and consulting the Wahl-o-mat [a website and app which matches voters’ preferences on a range of topics to the various parties, provided by the federal office for political education], I think I will be voting for the Greens and the SDP, to do my best to level the political field.

M Schütz, Saarland: ‘This election is my first’

Originally from Sligo, I have been living in Saarland since 1992. I work as a freelance translator and have two teenage children. I gained citizenship in 2014, motivated entirely by a desire to vote at national level so this election is a first for me to actively participate in.

This campaign is generally being described as “boring” but it makes we wonder what it is being compared to – the bullying partisanship of US politics? The yobbish lies perpetuated throughout the Brexit campaign? The avoidance tactic of voting associated with France’s presidential election? Or the darkness prevalent in Hungarian or Russian politics?

Important issues have shifted into the spotlight in recent weeks: pensions, healthcare, employment, education and broadband

The German election campaign comes across as grounded and fair. Every now and then one candidate takes a verbal swipe at another but it is, for the most part, kindergarten tussling; with the exception of the new right-wing AfD party which seems more intent on rabble-rousing than problem-solving.

Important issues have shifted into the spotlight in recent weeks: pensions, healthcare, employment, education and broadband. And each party is jumping on the bandwagon with new or recycled ideas which can only be good for Germany.

Fionnuala Zinnecker, Südpfalz: ‘I am as affected by political decisions as much as German citizens’

Fionnuala Zinnecker: ‘Like many people, I’m unsure of where I would mark the ballot paper.’
Fionnuala Zinnecker: ‘Like many people, I’m unsure of where I would mark the ballot paper.’

On Sunday afternoon we’re having friends over for coffee and cake. It’s Wahlsonntag – election Sunday – and I’ll be living vicariously through my husband and our friends. They’ll all have been out to vote for the new parliament. I, as an Irish citizen, will not.

It is a funny situation to be in, since I live, work and raise my children in Germany and am as affected by political decisions as much as German citizens. I can’t complain though. It is a situation of my own choosing.

We all assumed that Brexit wouldn’t go through and Donald Trump wouldn’t win

In a way I am glad not to have a say in this election. Like many people, I’m unsure of where I would mark the ballot paper. The rise of the right-wing AfD is worrying but, having lived here for some time now, it is understandable in ways. Many Germans are concerned about their country’s security, priorities and political direction, especially since the huge influx of unvetted non-nationals in 2015 and 2016.

We all assumed that Brexit wouldn’t go through and Donald Trump wouldn’t win. It wouldn’t surprise me if the polls’ estimate of how well the AfD will do is lower than the reality will turn out to be.

Dearbhaill Kinsella-Schuler, Bonn: ‘No one can be in charge for 10 years without getting stale’

I’ve been living and working in Germany for 40 years and have always been engaged in German politics, even though I’ve only had a vote since 2005. I’m originally from Mullingar, studied German and English in Trinity, was married to a German for 45 years and have worked as a teacher and translator. I still have strong connections to Ireland and a great interest in Irish and European politics.

I feel strongly that the next federal government should be led by a different party and a different chancellor, mainly because no one can be in charge for 10 years without getting stale, running out of ideas and losing touch with the electorate. While I believe Merkel’s foreign policy to be good and have respect and admiration for her personally, the lack of reform in areas such as education, policing, infrastructure, housing and childcare – just to name the areas affecting most people and most discussed on a daily basis – has led to a widespread sense of the government – in German “die da oben” meaning “those above us”– having no interest in people’s everyday lives and problems.

The only party that had any chance of leading a new federal government at the beginning of the election campaign was the SPD, so I intend to vote for them, though I am not optimistic they will get enough votes to lead a new coalition.

Bernie Fischer, Stuttgart: ‘I see certain issues from a German point of view’

Bernie Fischer: ‘I see certain issues from a German point of view.’
Bernie Fischer: ‘I see certain issues from a German point of view.’

I am a teacher from Dublin, married to a German, who has lived near Stuttgart for over 20 years.

Having a family, and having spent most of my adult life here, I see certain issues from a German point of view. This is nicely balanced by my Irishness which causes me to analyse or even doubt the conviction with which decisions, also those for other countries, are made. Some of my British friends here have recently acquired German citizenship because of the uncertainties of Brexit, and are now voting for the first time.

People here don’t advertise their political allegiance with badges and bumper stickers, but they do take their vote quite seriously

People here don’t advertise their political allegiance with badges and bumper stickers, but they do take their vote quite seriously. This is where an online tool called a Wahl-o-mat can be helpful. It requires answers on currently relevant topics such as refugees, defence budget, employment/childcare/tax conditions, environment, etc. The idea is then to see which party closely represents your personal views. My answers corresponded 61 per cent, 64 per cent and 66 per cent to the policies of three of the major parties, CDU, SPD and the Green Party. So I’m back to sitting on the fence . . .

Margaret O’Hara-Behr, Bonn: ‘Above all, I hope the AfD does terribly’

Margaret O’Hara-Behr: ‘Despite my interest, I have not applied for German citizenship, so I do not have a vote.’ Photograph: Beatrice Mack
Margaret O’Hara-Behr: ‘Despite my interest, I have not applied for German citizenship, so I do not have a vote.’ Photograph: Beatrice Mack

I moved from Dublin to Bonn in 1971, where I am now married with three children and four grandchildren. I used to work at the Irish Embassy in Bonn before the government moved to Berlin. After that, I was employed at the Honorary General Consulate of Ireland in Cologne.

I am interested in German politics and follow developments in the newspapers and on television. Despite my serious interest, I have not applied for German citizenship, so I do not have a vote in general elections.

In years gone by, I would have been an SPD voter (theoretically), but in the meantime I do not feel that there is sufficient difference between that party and the CDU – and the SPD has lost a lot of its supporters, as their traditional followers feel the party has gone too far away from the left.

I have a soft spot for the Linke, but I cannot imagine the CDU going into a coalition with them

I believe the CDU will win, but will be dependent on one or more of the smaller parties; FDP, Greens, Linke (left) or the right-wing AfD. The latter has gained considerable ground recently, for several reasons – frustration after so many years of Merkel, and concerns about the refugee situation, in particular. I do not think the SPD will manage to remain in the government; the CDU will probably form a coalition with the FDP and the Greens.

I have a soft spot for the Linke, but I cannot imagine the CDU going into a coalition with them. Although the SPD chancellor candidate, Martin Schulz, does not appeal to me at all, the combination of SPD, Greens and Linke would be interesting, but highly unlikely. Above all, I hope the AfD does terribly.

Peter Russell, Frankfurt: 'There is a dark cloud'

I have lived in Frankfurt am Main since 2002. I work as a banker in a large German financial institution. Currently, Germany has a vast current account surplus, a creaking infrastructure and an aging population; 80 per cent of Germany’s bridges need to be upgraded and the average age is 45. Germany’s huge automobile industry placed a bad bet on "clean-diesel" technology, which turned out to be a lot less cleaner than was advertised.     

Although Angela Merkel has done a formidable job of leading Germany since 2005, her fourth (and possibly final) term in office should be about cementing her legacy. I would prefer to see Merkel ditch the SPD in favour of a three-way coalition between the CDU/CSU, the FDP and the Greens. This would give Germany the appropriate kick-start it needs to address the many issues facing us domestically, from pension reform, to using the budget surplus to create a world-class infrastructure for the 21st century. Internationally, all three parties are pro-European and likely to be tough on Russia.

There is one dark cloud hanging over this election; members of the xenophobic AfD will be elected. This will be the first time members of an extreme right wing party will enter the Bundestag since the second World War.

John Warren, Stuttgart: ‘I would leave the country if the AfD got into power’

I’m half-Irish and half-German. I was born in Stuttgart in 1988 before my mother and father moved to Dublin. After they split up, my mother, myself and my unborn brother moved back to Germany in 1991. I’ve stayed here ever since but I try to get to Ireland at least once a year.

I have an Irish and a German passport so I can vote in the federal election. I worry about the right-wing AfD, because they’re simply scaremongering about alleged crimes of immigrants. I sincerely hope that they won’t get more than 10 per cent of the vote. The AfD is a neo-fascist party and I would immediately leave the country if they ever got into power.

I will vote for the Left party because I believe it is the only one which sincerely wants to improve the lives of people who have a lower annual income than €80,000.

I think people are a bit scared of the election even though most believe the next government will again be led  by Merkel and the Christian Democrats. I think Merkel is awful; she is not interested in change and has no ideas of her own.

Stephen Dorgan, Berlin:

I'm a Corkonian living in Berlin for 24 years, working as a teacher and caregiver in a home for children with social and learning difficulties. I'm also involved in the English language theatre scene and am co-founder of a theatre company. I have kept my Irish citizenship so do not have a vote in the upcoming election, but I am following it with great interest. My vote would go either to the Linke (socialist) or the SPD, the social democrats. I have friends who are active in the SPD who feel that Angela Merkel has, in a roundabout way, adopted enough of their policies on immigration and nuclear power to lessen the ideological divide between them and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The most worrying development is the high showing in the polls by the AfD who could be loosely compared to UKIP in Britain or any of the other right-oriented parties in Europe; their base is the most comfortable berth for those of extreme tendencies.

My tip for Sunday is basically more of the same, i.e. a grand coalition of CDU and SDP, in effect a national government with a centrist agenda with Merkel at the helm.

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