Canine Democracy

It’s been close to five months since Germany’s September 2017 election, and the politicians are still trying to form a coalition government. That’s something you expect to see in Belgium or the Netherlands; but Germany?

Yup. The election produced a splintered result. Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) came out weakened; her former Social-Democrat coalition partners (SPD) more so. Now what? The hard-right AfD and the hard-left Linke aren’t coalitionable for the mainstream parties. Mrs. Merkel’s initial attempts to form a coalition with the Free Democrats and the Greens failed. Subsequent negotiations with the SPD proved arduous. From bitter experience the party knows that life in Mrs. Merkel’s political embrace is a kiss of the spider woman: you slowly die. Then again, the SPD would fare even worse in a new election than it did back in September. Seeing no alternative, the SPD leadership narrowly voted for a pact with the CDU—and resolved to submit the decision to a vote by its roughly 460,000 members.

Who exactly are those members? Well, the Bild Zeitung (a mass-circulation tabloid with a readership like Britain’s Sun: they don’t care who runs the country so long as she has big, umh, breasts) tried to register Lima for the vote. Lima is a dog —who promptly received a membership card and a ballot. (“Dear Lima: I am delighted about your decision to join the SPD.”)

That caused an uproar. Andrea Nahles, the SPD’s parliamentary leader, firmly declared that Lima would not get to vote and, moreover, that a human’s impersonation (so to speak) of a dog is strafrechtlich relevant, meaning a potential violation of the criminal code. Listen to this apparatchik for 30 seconds: you wonder why the SPD has any members.

You also wonder about the rank display of speciesism. Dogs can and do in fact vote, by rapid nasal exhalation. Unlike the SPD the dogs know who is or isn’t a member of the pack. According to experts their procedure isn’t quite fair: the lead dog gets to sneeze first, and all dogs may sneeze more than once. But then, that’s also true of the SPD. Its leadership has voted, and its members (whoever they are) already voted back in September, in the ordinary fashion. Who or what entitles them to a do-over?

Nobody in Germany wants a full-scale do-over, in the form of a new election. Nobody really wants another CDU-SPD coalition, either, for fear that the muddle would further strengthen the fringe parties. So? Germany is doing just fine, thank you, without a government. The economy is humming, and Die Mannschaft is favored to win another Soccer World Cup. Politically speaking, though, the country looks like it’s going to the dogs.