Saturday, February 26, 2005

German Visa Scandal (III): End of the Line for Fischer?

Joschka Fischer, Germany´s Green Foreign Minister, has lost his place at the top of the "Most Important Politician" ranking for the first time in three years, as the implications of the so-called "Visa Scandal" start to take effect.

As we wrote here last week, Fischer´s ideologically-correct, highly relaxed immigration policy resulted in hundreds of thousands of eastern European illegal immigrants entering the European Union. Up until now, it looked as though Fischer´s personal popularity might see him through. But the latest "Politbarometer" (from Germany's ZDF channel) shows that he has lost his place to the opposition CDU's Christian Wulff, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony.

It seems Germany may finally be tiring of its favourite son, whose personal predilections and developments so closely embody the nation's own. Fischer's youth was spent as a street-fighting peacenik, a policeman-beating anti-Establishmentarian. The Green party he helped found was to be an "anti-party", positioning itself as detached from mainstream "corrupt" politics. When Fischer became a minister, he ostentatiously continued to wear sneakers 'n sweaters into parliament. Like so many of his countrymen, part of him is a corpulent Feinschmecker (epicure), the other an austere, marathon-running fitness freak. He's been divorced four times and his current girlfriend, 28 years his junior, is young enough to be his granddaughter.

But despite his obvious fondness for the trappings of power, and his seamless shift from sneakers to pinstripes, his role as German Foreign Minister has protected him from political unpleasantness, or association with unpopular policies. He has been free to strike idealist pacifist poses on behalf of "World Peace", attitudes which are still so loved by pacifist-minded Germans. And somehow he can combine moral superiority of this sort with the stated wish to sell more arms to China and not be laughed out of court.

Many among Europe's political elite, of course, are up to their necks in such contradictions. But it may be that voters are beginning to see through them and their limitations. The more so in the wake of President Bush's European visit and the small green shoots of success of his policies.

That's what seems to be happening in Germany right now as far as Fischer and his Greens are concerned, anyway. At the very least, it'll prove a big vote-loser for the SPD/Green coalition in the upcoming regional elections in North Rhine Westphalia. At the other extreme, Fischer could be forced to resign and this would spell the end of the current German government. - Fischer verliert Spitzenplatz auf Top Ten Liste

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