Wednesday, 20 May 2009

60 years post-war Germany and presidential election

2009 is an important year for Germany. On Saturday Germany will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the post-war democratic Federal Republic of Germany (later on this year we will be able to celebrate 20 years of re-unification which brought democracy and liberty to former communist East Germany).

Also on Saturday the new German president (Bundespräsident) will be elected. For those not so familiar with the German political system: The president is not a powerful position even though formally he (and so far it has always been a "he") is the highest representative of the German people. But the actual governmental power is with the chancellor. So the power of the president is in the power of his/her words. You find similar political systems in Austria, Italy or Portugal.

There is no direct election of the president in Germany. The person is elected by a constitutional assembly (Bundesversammlung) which only gathers for this single purpose and consists of all members of the German parliament ("Commons") and an equal number of members sent from the federal states.

For the last five years Horst Köhler has been president. He is running for a second term and is supported by the conservative and the liberal party which are close to having the majority in the electorate assembly.

The second candidate for the coming election is Gesine Schwan. She was already candidate five years ago. She is supported by the center-left Social-Democrats and by the Green Party.

I could happily live with either of the candidates. Horst Köhler has done a solid job over the last five years and gained a lot of popularity. Gesine Schwan would probably be the more interesting person with more forward looking ideas. Her chances are not the best to be elected since the camp supporting her doesn't have enough votes. But you never know - perhaps some people in the electorate believe that they should vote for change rather than continuation, and for a remarkable lady. On Saturday we will know....

Monday, 11 May 2009

Relevant link of today: Europe - the place to be

In a recent blog entry my colleague Arnaud LeHors states that
"it seems worthwhile to underscore that Europe is really playing a major role in getting our industry to move forward".
He gives a good analysis of European initiatives to promote standards and open source in ICT to the benefit of technical progress and increased competitiveness of the ICT industry.

Read the full blog entry on Arnaud's Open Blog.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Ralf Dahrendorf celebrates his 80th birthday today

Today is Ralf Dahrendorf's 80th birthday. As the Sueddeutsche Zeitung put it: He is the only genuinely liberal thinker in Germany. I have always found great inspiration reading Ralf Dahrendorf's books - I have got several of them at home and enjoy to browse them from time to time.

In almost every German newspaper there is an article of appreciation today. One of the best ones I found in yesterday's edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung - also available online:
"Politik muss nicht originell sein
Der Soziologe Ralf Dahrendorf hat die Planstelle des einzigen genuin liberalen Denkers der Bundesrepublik besetzt. Jetzt wird er achtzig. [....]"
One of Ralf Dahrendorf's focal points is that a liberal and progressive society needs to use its conflicts properly. Conflicts are a source for progress - they should not be surpressed, but managed.

I am certainly looking forward for many more books and articles from Ralf Dahrendorf. One of the great personalities in post-war Germany.