(This posting is from Ray D..)
What the German media hyped as a neck-and-neck race in the Hamburg city elections the entire past week turned out to be a blow-out of historic proportions. The Christian-Democrats (CDU) and incumbent Mayor Ole von Beust ran away with the absolute majority in the Hamburg city parliament and handed Gerhard Schroeder’s Social-Democratic Party (SPD,) and its colorless mayoral candidate Thomas Mirow, the party’s worst election loss ever in Hamburg’s history.
The CDU gained a whopping 20+ percentage points and won around 47 percent of the votes. The SPD dropped 5 percentage points to just 30 percent in a city that it governed and dominated politically uninterrupted for over 50 years from the late 1940s to 2001. The Greens finished a distant third with 12 percent of the vote. The election result significantly turns up the heat on the SPD-Green government in Berlin, which expected to gain momentum from an election victory in Hamburg. The loss highlights the SPD’s recent and numerous failures on a national level and is a grave omen for the Schroeder administration for 2004, a major election year in Germany.
The other big story of the election was Hamburg’s Schill Party. Also known as Partei Rechtsstaatliche Offensive (PRO), the Schill Party rocketed to success on its platform of law and order in 2001. This winter the party collapsed and split-apart after its founder, Ronald Schill, unsuccessfully attempted to blackmail Mayor Von Beust with allegations that he had a homosexual relationship with one of his ministers. Schill’s blackmail attempt led to the termination of his party’s governing coalition with the CDU and the FDP, making a new election necessary in the first place. Schill’s collapse, combined with the SPD’s incompetence on a national level, were the main factors behind the CDU’s massive election gains.
This week, with more than 8 months to go before the US Presidential election in November, the influential German leftist magazine Der Spiegel is running a cover depicting President Bush as a small, frightened cowboy facing a much larger opponent (Kerry) with the headline “Will America be Democratic Again?: Five to Twelve for George W. Bush”.
It seems that Spiegel’s premature headline would have been far more appropriate and timely for Schroeder and the SPD, a leader and a party rapidly running out of time and votes.