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Sep 08 2008

First prize for Germany: A short reform period

Published by at 10:31 pm under Europe,Opinion

First published on 3/6/2005 on my old blog

In the days after it became clear Germany would (or might) be going to the polls in September this year, public polls predicted a comfortable win for the opposition under Angela Merkel. I suspect this “comfortable win” will gradually evolve into “a tight race” as we get closer to election day in September. 

As the electorate learns more about the reform plans of the opposition and as it hits home that: 

* reforms can’t be avoided by voting for the opposition and
* that the reforms planned by the opposition might on balance bring just as much pain. 

And, I suspect, Merkel’s people realise this… 

Thus, the temptation will be huge to keep the details of the reform program away from the voters until after the election in September. 

But, if they could resist this temptation, they might just do the country a big favour. 

Because a short, powerful and cleverly managed reform period after the election, would be the biggest gift politicians could give Germany. 

And, in my view, a “window of opportunity for quick reform” could be opened by clear communication before election day. 

How? 

In my view, bad communication contributed a lot to “the Schröder downfall”. This came in many forms, including half-truths and untruths. (Remember the over-optimistic economic forecasts used to fight the last election?) 

Would the electorate not appreciate a party which communicates clearly during the run-up to the election – sticking to the issues and avoiding petty politicking? 

I think so. The best the opposition (or any party) could do on this front is to release a clear, understandable, consistent reform plan. Detailed and with a time schedule. All on paper. 

If this could be done before the election, the victorious party would have a clear mandate for reform in the months thereafter. 

In turn, this would enable the new government to proceed fast and without having to look over its shoulder to often to see if the voters are still in tow. 

In this way, the reform period could be kept short(er) and sweet(er) (with less political bickering). 

All of this could result in business and consumer confidence returning to the economy (and in politicians regaining some of their lost stature) sooner after the election and for the economy to start ticking over sooner. 

This will be the biggest present the Merkel and Schröder camps could give Germany. 

But, if the Merkel clan fell to the temptation to withhold as much as possible from the voter before the election, then the fight for the voter’s support will go on after the election and the reform process will drag on (yet again). 

Then the chance to reform quickly would have been lost. And Germany’s period of low growth (which started in 2002) could extent well beyond 2007.

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