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For All Nails #114: Party On

Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
21 August 1974

"What are we going to do?" asked Acting Chancellor Angela Bitterlich, and
Science Minister Heinrich Kausler knew just what she meant.  The Germany Party
and its coalition partners had lost their majority in the Imperial Diet two
days before in the special elections, a fact made visibly apparent by the
absence of Labor Minister Karl Bemmler, who had lost his own seat in the Diet. 
Now, by the provisions of the Constitution of 1944 they had two weeks to
assemble a new majority; and if they couldn't, then the opposition Democrats
were free to try.

"As I see it," said Kausler, "we have four options.  One, bring in the Polonia
Party."

"Unacceptable," stated Defense Minister Horst Voth.

"Concur," added Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel.  "Not to mention the fact that
it would be political suicide.

Kausler nodded in agreement.  The Polonia Party were made up of ethnically
Polish citizens of the Inner Empire, [1] mostly in the eastern section of
Prussia that was once part of the old pre-partition [2] Kingdom of Poland.  The
Polonia Party sought to carve a new Kingdom of Poznan out of the
Polish-majority areas of Prussia, an idea to which Prussia's ethnically German
citizens were understandably opposed.

Still, sooner or later the Empire would have to do /something/ about the Poles.
 They refused to assimilate, and they kept winning more and more seats in the
Imperial Diet as demographics triumphed over gerrymandering. [3]  There was a
steady flow of immigrants from Poland to Prussia, and although the immigrants
themselves could not become citizens, [4] they frequently married into the
families of ethnically Polish citizens.  Add in the Poles' higher birthrates,
and what you had was a recipe for trouble.  If the demographers' predictions
were correct, by the year 2000 ethnic Poles would outnumber ethnic Germans in
the Kingdom of Prussia.  It was no coincidence that the National Party had
picked up a dozen seats among Prussia's alarmed Germans.

Dismissing demography from his thoughts, Kausler returned to democracy.  "Our
second choice would be to bring in the Socialists."

"Ach, they're worse than the Poles!" exclaimed Justice Minister Gerhard
Pritzker.  "The Poles just want to break up Prussia.  The Socialists want to
break up the whole Empire!"

It was, Kausler knew, a fair assessment.  The Socialists were avowed
anti-imperialists with strong republican sympathies.  They would grant complete
independence to the kingdoms of the Outer Empire and convert the Inner Empire
into a Neiderhofferian state.  Not even the Democrats would dare to form a
government with them.  At least, they probably wouldn't dare.

After a pro forma pause to allow anyone who wanted the opportunity to disagree
with Pritzker, Kausler continued.  "Our third choice would be to bring in the
National Party."

"Unacceptable," pronounced Merkel.

"I disagree," said Voth.  "While their program may be more extreme than we'd
like, they certainly have the best interests of the Empire at heart, which I
find to be a refreshing change of pace compared to most of the other minor
parties.  We must also consider the fact that they are the fastest growing
party in the Empire, and are now the second largest of all the minor parties. 
Far better, as Herr Skinner likes to say, to have them inside the tent pissing
out."

"I do not consider incontinence to be any sort of basis for an alliance,"
Merkel responded sardonically. [5]  "And their program is more extreme than any
sane person would like.  They make no secret of their admiration for the Madman
Bruning, and their calls for a resumption of the Global War exhibit a dangerous
indifference to reality.  The Nationals need to be opposed, not supported."

Kausler knew that Merkel had left unspoken another reason for his opposition to
the Nationals.  During the election campaign, their Party Leader, Herr
Dressler, had blamed Merkel personally for every reversal the Empire had
suffered for the last six years, from the riots in Moscow to the suicide attack
in Beirut.  Of course, Markstein had been responsible for the Empire's foreign
policy, but no one dared to cast aspersions on the martyred Chancellor, so
Dressler had chosen to make Merkel the villain.  The National leader had all
but accused the Exterior Minister of treason, and Kausler had no doubt that his
price for joining the government would be Merkel's dismissal.

"Move the question," said Communications Minister Marko Kranjec.

"Which question?" wondered Bitterlich.

"Herr Voth's proposal to invite the Nationals into the government," said
Kranjec with a straight face.

"Oh, I didn't know it was a question," said Bitterlich.  Kausler reminded
himself once again that choosing Angela as Party Leader had actually been a
good idea.  She was the most popular member of the cabinet, and the polls
showed that they would have lost even more seats without her.  God help them
all.

"All in favor of Horst's proposal?" Bitterlich continued.

Kausler held his breath while the usual suspects raised their hands. Voth
seemed to be counting on Merkel to stoically accept his expulsion from the
cabinet and support the new coalition out of party loyalty.  Kausler strongly
suspected that it wouldn't be too long before Merkel became fed up with a
cabinet dominated by Voth and defected to the Democrats, along with as many of
his supporters in the Diet as he could manage.  Did Voth know that he was
putting the unity of the party at risk?  Who could say?  Being a physicist,
Kausler understood the most abstruse conceptions of time and space that modern
science had produced, but he had never understood Voth.

"All opposed?"  Kausler raised his hand, as did Merkel's other supporters.

"Motion denied," Bitterlich announced.  But only by a single vote, Kausler
noted uneasily.  Interior Minister Hans Steiner had abstained, and so,
surprisingly, had Kranjec.

The Communications Minister now said, "And what was our fourth choice,
Heinrich?"

Fourth choice?  Ah, yes.  "Form a government of national unity with the
Democrats."

"Those cretins?" Pritzker said in amazement.  "I wouldn't trust them to run a
church raffle, much less a government."

"They don't seem to have any trouble running the provincial governments in
Mecklenburg and Bavaria," Merkel observed.  "It's true that they've been out of
power at the federal level for sixteen years, but I'm sure they'll have no
trouble picking it up."

"I don't trust them, period," said Voth.  "They're little better than the
Socialists, with their talk of 'loosening the bonds of Empire'.  Cutting the
bonds is more like it.  Move the question."

Now quicker on the uptake, Bitterlich spoke.  "All those in favor of a national
unity government?"

Kausler raised his hand, along with the rest of the Exterior Minister's
faction.  He saw to his dismay that they had less than half of the cabinet with
them.

"All opposed?"  Not only Voth's people, but also Social Welfare Minister Klaus
Klima and Commerce Minister Ludwig Ratzenberger.  With a sinking feeling,
Kausler understood.  Ratzenberger was a Liberal, and Klima was a
Bohemian-Moravian.  If a national unity government was formed, there would be
no need to include them, and every reason to exclude them.

"Motion denied," said Bitterlich.

Which left them right back where they started.  There was silence in the
cabinet room for a few moments before Kranjec, with a slight smile, remarked,
"I notice that nobody has mentioned the Peasants Party."

"Nobody has mentioned them," Pritzker pointed out, "because they only have 26
seats in the Diet.  Even if they joined the government, we'd still be eight
seats short of a majority."

Suspicion dawned within Kausler.  "Unless," he said, "you happen to know where
we can find an additional eight seats."

"God help us," exclaimed Pritzker, "you're not talking about the Bloc Franšais,
are you?"

True, the Bloc controlled twelve seats, but . . . "I don't think Marko is
referring to the Bloc Franšais," said Kausler.  "I think he's got something
else in mind."

Kranjec smiled his tiny smile at Kausler.  "Quite right, Heinrich.  The eight
seats I'm referring to are currently controlled by the Democrats, but I think
they might be persuaded to join us - if we were to offer them the proper
inducement."

The number eight, plus the fact that it was Kranjec talking, made it easy for
Kausler to guess at his meaning.  "Do you mean Pavlin's faction?"

"I do," said Kranjec.  Kausler could see what the Communications Minister was
implying, and he was sure the rest of the cabinet could as well.  Unlike the
Poles and the Bohemians, the Slovenians didn't go in much for ethnically-based
parties, tending to vote for the national parties such as Germany, Democratic
and Liberal.  Tomaz Pavlin, Member for Celje, was the senior member of the
Democratic Party's eight-person Slovenian delegation.

"And what sort of inducement," Voth said, glaring at Kranjec, "would Herr
Pavlin be looking for?"

"Oh, nothing outrageous, I assure you," said Kranjec soothingly.  "Nothing
unprecedented.  Merely that Carniola-Gorica be upgraded in status to that
accorded the Kingdom of Lorraine." [6]

"Wonderful," Voth said sourly.  "So instead of one Lorraine and one Bloc
Franšais, we'll have two."

"Still," said Merkel, "better them than the Polonia or the Socialists.  If a
second Lorraine is the price for a new majority, then so be it.  Move the
question."

Voth, predictably, voted nay, but the motion passed with a comfortable margin. 
Perhaps it was Voth's earlier mention of Skinner, but Kausler found himself
thinking of the recent elections in the CNA.  Skinner had brought down
Monaghan's government by luring members of the governing party over to his side
(carving a tiny slice from a roast hog, as the new Governor-General put it in
his odd rural vernacular). [7]  Now, the Germany Party were going to do the
opposite: keep the government from falling by luring members of the Opposition
to their side, sustaining themselves with a thin slice of the Democratic hog.

As the cabinet meeting adjourned, Kausler noted uneasily that Kranjec was still
smiling.

Notes:

 [1] The German Empire is structured as follows:

A) the Inner Empire, including the Kingdoms of Prussia, Hanover, Saxony,
Bavaria, Bohemia, Lorraine and Carniola-Gorica, as well as various archduchies,
duchies and margravates, is represented in the Imperial Diet.
B)  the Outer Empire, consisting of the Kingdoms of Austrasia, Poland, Hungary
and Croatia, is not represented in the Imperial Diet, but is entitled to
representation in a consultative body called the Imperial Council.
C)  the External Empire includes the Associated Russian Republics as well as
various other nominally independent states such as Arabia, the Ukraine, France
and the Netherlands.

[2] See note to FAN #69, "Waiting for the Chancellor".

[3] The art of drawing the boundaries of legislative districts to maximize
government seats and minimize opposition seats.  Named after Elbridge Gerry of
Henrytown, Jefferson, who created the first congressional districts in the USM,
in the process cementing the Continentalists' hold on power for the next 20
years.

[4] Like OTL's Federal Republic of Germany, citizenship in the German Empire is
strictly hereditary, so that the children of noncitizens are also noncitizens.

[5] Mature posters etc.

[6] As related in FAN #28, "Sour Krauts", the Kingdom of Lorraine has a greater
degree of internal autonomy than the rest of the Inner Empire, along with
various tax breaks and government subsidies.  Carniola-Gorica probably won't
get the same subsidies and might not get the same tax breaks, since unlike
Lorraine it isn't an economic basket case, but you never know.

[7] Skinner's actual quote was: "y'all can get some mighty good eatin' off'n a
roast hog by carvin' one little ol' slice at a time".  Needless to say, it
loses a lot in translation.
-- 
Johnny Pez
Newport, Rhode Island
September 2002