The federal chancellor ( der Bundeskanzler ) is the German "premier" and political leader. He/she is elected by the Bundestag for a four-year term. The chancellor can also be removed by a no-confidence vote, but this is rare. Following the September 2005 elections, Angela Merkel (CDU) replaced Gerhard Schröder (SPD) as federal chancellor. In November a vote in the Bundestag made Merkel Germany's first woman chancellor ( Kanzlerin ). Government "grand coalition" negotiations for cabinet positions had also continued into November. For the results see Merkel's Cabinet.
Excellent article, Kristian.
I haven’t studied this, so only have anecdotes from my own experience. My father was a German from the Sudetanland, who later was a prisoner of war in Britain and remained. Because of the ban on emigration from the East, he never saw his parents again after the war and they died in the 1960s. Technically, he could have visited them, but actually could not as he was very poor, mostly working on building sites and could never save the money for the trip. He was very bitter about the life his parents endured – he said that they lived on nettle soup for a while when they had their house in the Sudetanland confiscated by the state (building the house and paying for the materials with a bank loan was his father’s life’s work) and they were forcibly moved to East Germany along with my father’s sisters (for some reason all his brothers ended up in West Germany). He used to send them parcels but all the goodies were stolen by those controlling the postal system.
Later on, I met a few East Germans in my early 20s on a day trip into East Berlin and later visited them in East Berlin before the wall had come down. Their lives were grim – crammed into horrible, dark flats. When I visited the food prepared was pasta with tomato sauce – I think there wasn’t much variety of food available. My one friend was involved in the churchyard protests. She said she could away with it because her father was in the Communist party, so she had some protection against arrest.
Later still, I had an East German boyfriend. He did point out the disadvantages of reunification – notably that there was no longer full employment – also, his parents loved their new TV but it did breed discontent as they could now see how others in the West lived and had lived all these years (they were ignorant of this before) and they were still pretty poor. He, however, got a well-paid job in a brewery based in Hamburg, so he came out of it well. He used to say that when he was in University, four boys shared a dormitory and you knew that one of them was a Stasi informant, so you always had to be on your guard. For me, this is the most pernicious aspect of life under a totalitarian regime – no price can be put on freedom of thought and expression. He said that in any group of four, one was likely to be an informant.
Anyway, as you say, Seamus Milne doesn’t know what he’s talking about if he holds up East Germany as a country to aspire to in any shape or form.