The governing social democrats (SPD) were routed in regional elections in Lower Saxony and Hessen at the weekend. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s party lost power in his home state of Lower Saxony for the first time in 13 years and suffered its worst post-war defeat in Hessen.
Wolfgang Clement, the ’super-minister’ for Employment and Economics, admitted the result for his party was "a catastrophe". Yet the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder stated on 4 February that despite the historic defeat for his ruling social democrats (SPD), he would not resign. However, according to the London Independent (4 February 2003), "Schroder’s days are numbered."
The SPD-Green coalition was re-elected to power with a narrow majority in September’s general election. Commentators have suggested Schroder could be replace by his de facto deputy, Clement.
Interestingly, Oskar Lafontaine, who is seen as the main Left opposition inside the SPD, remarked, "The government is practising neo-liberalism wrapped in red cotton wool".
Opinion polls now put the former Finance Minister, ’Red Oskar’, running at 30% support "to return to mainstream politics." The Independent commented, "The [election] rout is likely to provoke a struggle between Left wingers and moderates in the SPD".
Members of SAV (German section of the CWI) comment on the recent elections below and on the very credible result of an SAV candidate standing in Kassel.
Governing SPD routed in federal elections
The turnout was only 64.4%, which is 2% less compared to the last federal state elections.
In Lower Saxony the SPD went down from 47.9 to 33.4% of the vote, the lowest result ever. The CDU went up from 35.9 to 48.3% of the vote, failing to win an overall majority only by a few votes.
The turnout was 66.7%, compared to 74% in the last federal state elections. It was the lowest turnout ever. In both provinces the Greens were able to increase their votes (to 7.6 in Lower Saxony and 10.1 in Hessen).
In the last weeks, the SPD has tried to use the war issue to save them selves. This clearly failed. Domestic problems like unemployment or the series of social cuts were by far more important to voters. A huge layer of social democratic voters stayed at home, as the low turnout shows. Nevertheless the SPD lost 10-20% of the votes among blue and white-collar workers.
The media is openly questioning whether Schroeder is going to resign. Although at the moment this seems to quite unlikely, Schroeder has made no press statements, so far.
Now that the Christian Democrats have a clear majority in the federal state parliament, the Schroeder government will be forced to negotiate with the CDU. This could lead to some kind of informal ’grand coalition’, which already existed for the new labour legislation.
The SAV election campaign
We stood one candidate during the elections, in Kassel. It was only for the first vote and only in one part of the city. Although it was only a limited election campaign, the comrades got 357 votes (1.0%), and in the Nordstadt-Area we got 2.9%. We mainly concentrated our work in this area.
The SAV comrades are pleased with the result. It is a good start for the next local elections in 2005.