No politicians’ republic in the world provides leadership beyond politics. Not one. The French tried to do this in three constitutions, those of the Second, Third and Fourth of France's five republics. All ended in failure. Recent events in Germany show that their attempt to recreate the advantages of a constitutional monarchy in their Federal Republic has not been successful.
…crisis in the Federal Republic….
According to a report by Kate Connolly in The Guardian ( 14 June and republished in The New York Times and around the world), the German government has been weakened by a string of disagreements and intense infighting over austerity cuts, policy reform and the departure of senior conservatives.
In a recent poll, 53% of Germans said they expected the government to fall.
Criticised for her handling of the euro crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel has put through a four-year €80bn (£67bn) austerity package in an attempt to reduce Germany's deficit. It seems to be most unpopular. Polling indicates almost 80% of Germans believe the cuts to be socially unfair, while 67% want an increase in the top rate of tax, which the Chancellor has strongly resisted.
Meanwhile the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has accused the Germans of creating an atmosphere that will stifle growth in Europe at a time when it should be stimulated. This is serious; France is Germany's closest EU partner and together they have dominated the Union.
In such a crisis a constitutional system needs a core institution which is above politics, one which provides stability and continuity. This is especially so in a country whose first republican constitution did not prevent, but actually allowed, the commissioning of one of the most evil regimes known to man. This was the appointment of Adolph Hitler as Reich Chancellor in January 1933.
…a federal Westminster republic….
Germany today is a federal Westminster style republic. But in the current crisis the presidency is unable to provide that leadership beyond politics to which we are so accustomed in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the other Commonwealth Realms. Indeed the presidency is part of the problem.
The Guardian refers to the President Horst Koehler’s resignation on 31 May 2010 after being re-elected last year as “unexplained”. He had claimed he was standing down because of criticism about a radio interview he gave after a brief visit to Afghanistan earlier this month. He had said that for an export-orientated country like Germany, it was sometimes necessary to deploy troops "to protect our interests… for example free trade routes".
The BBC's correspondent in Berlin, Oana Lungescu, said Mr Koehler’s shock resignation could hardly have come at a worse time for the government. “Polls,” she said “ show that the government's approval rating has plummeted to a four-year low, mainly due to its management of the eurozone crisis.”
…presidency a political prize ….
The new president is to be must be elected by a convention consisting of all members of the Federal Parliament and an equal number of representatives of the State Parliaments. So this is not the direct election which conservative proponents of an Australian presidency warn would politicise the institution.
As The Guardian’s Kate Connolly writes: “All eyes are now on June 30, when politicians will vote for Germany's new president – either the Merkel-backed candidate, Christian Wulff, state premier of Lower Saxony, or the opposition-backed, East German-born Protestant vicar and human rights activist Joachim Gauck."
" A growing number of FDP politicians are pledging to support the pastor, snubbing Merkel. If Merkel's candidate loses, the common consensus is that the chancellor's position would become untenable.”
“She would then be likely to face a vote of no confidence in parliament – an event that has happened three times since 1949 – which could ultimately lead to a switch in coalition partners, or more likely, new elections.”
The Presidency is no more than a prize in the political crisis, rather than being above politics.
No wonder Australia’s republicans consistently refuse to reveal anything about the politicians’ republic or the new flag they are trying to force on to an uninterested population.
Apart from their annual whinge this year on the public holiday for The Queen’s Birthday, their current leader kept such fundamental information to himself.