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The Agony of Choice (October 14, 1994)

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The question remains which coalition would have the greatest ability to act. A newly extended Christian-liberal coalition, with its outdated fiefdom principle for assigning ministerial positions, the impending struggles and frustrations surrounding the Kohl succession? A red-green coalition, in which the romantics of both parties could easily outstrip the realist politicians? A red-yellow-green “traffic light” coalition*, in which economic liberals and environmental activists continually get into each other’s hair? Or a grand coalition, which, after years of having been forced to cooperate as Bundesrat majority and Bundestag majority**, honestly sets out for the purpose of refurbishing the social welfare state?

No one can relieve the voter of the agony of choice. It has grown because expanding specialization has changed our society into a niche society. Everyone sits alone in the corner, preoccupied with his own advantages and prejudices. Under those circumstances, no one party can cover the entire spectrum of interests and priorities. Every individual must set his own personal priorities and then mark an “x” on the ballot, at worst voting for the lesser evil. Hardly anyone will be able do it without some teeth-gnashing.

The voters are the pieces of the puzzle on October 16. Politics will have to put them together. Whatever the outcome will be, half of the country will be left with a feeling of discomfort and dissatisfaction.

* Red symbolizes the SPD, green stands for the Greens, and yellow represents the liberal FDP, together the colors of a traffic light; black is the color for the CDU/CSU – eds.
** Up until the passing of the federalism reform in 2006, more than 50 percent of all bills required the consent of both houses of parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, to become law. In recent decades, those majorities were often divided between the two major parties, CDU/CSU and SPD, often forcing the parties to cooperate in the Bundesrat while opposing each other in the Bundestag – eds.

Source: Theo Sommer, “So wenig Aufbruch war noch nie. Deutschland vor einer schwierigen Wahl: Die Regierung ist erschöpft, die Opposition zeigt wenig Kraft” [“Never Before Was There So Little Enthusiasm for a New Beginning”], Die Zeit, October 14, 1994.

Translation: Allison Brown

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