(By Ray D.)
Troubling Election Results Rock Eastern Germany
For the past year, the German media has dedicated an enormous amount of time to covering US politics and the upcoming presidential election. At the same time, that same media has under-reported troubling political changes going on right in their own collective backyard. Over the past couple of years, Germans have been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the ruling Socialist-Green government led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and its failed attempts at reform. One election debacle has followed the next for Schroeder, but most members of the media, particularly those on the left, have shied away from making the government's slow implosion into a burning issue. Now the troubling election results in two eastern German states, Brandenburg and Saxony, have made internal discontent an issue that simply no longer can be ignored. Here's why:
Shocking: Neo-Nazis (NPD) in a Virtual Tie with Schroeder's SPD in Saxony
For starters, the big winner in the Saxony state election is Germany's neo-Fascist NPD, which made the largest gains of all parties to win representation in the state parliament with between 9 and 10% of the vote. The NPD's result puts it in a virtual dead-heat with Schroeder's SPD, which also finished with a projected 9 to 10% of the vote. The NPD has called for the restoration of German lands lost in World War II and has labeled the United States the "world's arsonist."
In Brandenburg state elections, another hard-right party, the DVU, also captured just enough of the vote to win representation in that state's parliament. The DVU was already represented in Brandenburg's parliament coming into the election and has won renewed representation this time around, reclaiming more than 5% of the total vote.
The Communist Party (PDS) also a Winner
In both Saxony and Brandenburg, the Communist PDS, which formerly ruled East Germany as a member of the Warsaw Pact prior to 1990, made significant gains and increased its level of representation in both states' parliaments. In Brandenburg, the Communists scored an increase of 4.7 percentage points, upping their result from 23.3% to 28%. In Saxony, the PDS gained over a point in receiving 23.6% of the vote. In both states, the number of votes going to extremist parties on the right and left was alarmingly high, accounting for over one-third of all ballots cast.
Mainstream Parties Big Losers in both Elections
In both states, the two major German mainstream parties, the SPD (Social-Democrats) and the CDU (Christian-Democrats) suffered considerable losses. Voters, particularly eastern Germans, are fed up with attempted reforms of the welfare system and the general feeling that the nation is stagnating. At the moment, it appears that the CDU has lost its absolute majority in Saxony, but will likely continue to govern in a coalition with the FDP. In Brandenburg, the SPD and CDU will again likely combine for a "large coalition" to keep the DVU and the PDS out of the government.
Maybe the US Media Should be Concerned about German Elections
With all of the concern and wringing of hands going on in the German media and the nation at large about the US elections, perhaps it is the US media that should be worried about the trend towards extremism manifesting itself more strongly with each passing day in German politics. The German media would also be well advised to pay greater attention to internal political affairs and the failings of Germany's leaders. Granted, It certainly wouldn't be as profitable as bashing George W. Bush and the United States, but it might save the nation from future election embarrassments.
When Fascists and their sympathizers win a claim to power in two German state parliaments and Communists lay claim to so much of the total vote, it should certainly set off alarm bells anywhere that democracy is valued. Let's hope the German media finally starts pulling its weight on this...