In Austria the main parties, the conservative Austrian People’s Party and the lukewarm Social Democrats, had maintained an uneasy coalition until July, when the former quit, forcing the new elections. It paid dearly for this, losing severely and getting only 25.6 percent. The Social Democrats also lost, nearly 6 percent, and though they remained the strongest party, with a total of 29.7 percent, another unhappy coalition between the two, as in
The true winners, now beaming broadly with their crooked smiles, can afford to yodel. Both extreme right-wing parties – the smaller one led by the notorious demagogue Joerg Haider, the other by an equally bigoted man named Heinz-Christian Stracke (their split was more about personality issues than policy) climbed from under 16 percent in the last election to an alarming 29 percent this time. If they should reunite they would be the strongest political force in the country. Their success was due to general dissatisfaction with the main two parties, a lack of enthusiasm about the European Union, which the government had favored, but most of all, their ranting against foreign immigrants, the same racist strategy increasingly and dangerously menacing North America and most of
Bavarian voters also caused a sensation. For over 40 years this South German state, where
The Social Democrats did not profit at all from the losses of their traditional opponents, getting only 18.6 percent, their worst result in history. Their only thin joy after the Sunday vote was schadenfreude – satisfaction at the loss of the others.
But The Left, the young party which finally broke through the 5 percent hurdle in four West German states in the past year, failed to make it in largely rightist
Thus, as in
It would seem that Bavarians are worried about problems like jobs, schools, wages and prices, they are disappointed by both the two main parties, but are looking neither leftward nor to the extreme right for solutions.
Things looked rather different in Sunday’s elections in East German Brandenburg, the state surrounding
And the neo-Nazis? As in Austria, they have two parties here, but the two cooperate and divide any spoils. One of them got 1.8, the other 1.6 percent, which does not sound like much, but enabled them (with no 5 percent hurdle in local bodies) to get seats in all but one of Brandenburg’s 14 counties, and in the city councils of Potsdam and Cottbus. Though only 1, 2 or at most 3 seats, this was enough to make trouble and work for further gains in coming elections.
Angela Merkel is still quite popular on a national scale, but her party (or its Bavarian sister) took heavy beatings in Bavaria and Brandenburg, while the Social Democrats were stuck at much the same level as before their recent leadership crisis. The Left was able to move forward, but needs more street action outside the various local and national legislatures if it is to buck the unchanging maltreatment by the media and nasty attacks by the established politicians of all other parties – and offer genuine solutions to harassed, threatened or jobless working people, especially younger ones, who are being wooed by the neo-Nazis. More state elections are due early in 2009, but most suspense now (after watching the outcome of US elections) is directed at the vote for the European parliament next year and, most of all, the national Bundestag elections in a year’s time. September 29, 2008
PS. According to later news, a special election held in the East German city Schwerin was won by the LEFT candidate, Angelika Gramkow. The previous mayor of Schwerin, capital of the northeast German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, was voted out of office after a scandal following the death of neglect by a young child and the off-handed treatment of the case by the local government and mayor. Six candidates competed to succeed him; the run-off between the two front- runners, from the LEFT and from the SPD, was on Sunday. The result was very close, 50.5 to 49.5 percent. Schwerin with its 100,000 inhabitants will be the largest city in Germany governed by a mayor from the young LEFT party.