June 13 saw many elections in Germany: European elections (which are the only nationwide elections between two Federal general elections); state parliament elections in Thuringia and local elections in 6 of the 16 German federal states.
The elections were a disastrous defeat for the SPD, the party of Chancellor Schröder. These results are a resounding judgement on Schröder’s Agenda 2010. the most vicious attack on the German working class in the post-war period.
The SPD lost 2.8 million votes, won only 5.5 million or 21.5 per cent (1999: 30.7 per cent). The result is even more dramatic, if we take into account that the 1999 election result was already a disaster for the SPD, a backlash after their 1998 general election victory. One analyst compared the results with the federal election result of 2002 and concluded that the SPD lost about two million of their 18 million voters to other parties— while another 11.5 million stayed at home! Of course it is normal for a party to have fewer votes in a European election because of the traditionally higher abstention rate, but a loss of more than two thirds of voters is breathtaking to say the least. In opinion polls 51 per cent said that their voting was motivated by issues related to German politics. Fifty-eight per cent said, that the SPD deserved punishment at the ballot box (even many SPD voters said so).
The CDU and their Bavarian counterpart CSU, the main bourgeois opposition parties, claimed to be the winners of the European election. In fact they lost 1.6 million votes, gaining 44.5 per cent (1999: 48.7 per cent). If this is a victory, we wish them more results such as these.
The Liberals (FDP) celebrated, because they returned to the European Parliament after ten years. But their gains were smaller than the losses of CDU and CSU: 6.1 per cent (1999: 3.0 per cent).
Paradoxically the Greens, which are part of Schröder’s government, gained most in the elections: an increase of 1.4 million votes, from 6.4 to 11.9 per cent. In big cities like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt they got more votes than the SPD!
There are different reasons for this: Their traditional voters are better off, younger, more qualified people, who are less affected by the welfare cuts. They have more illusions in the EU and were more motivated to participate in the elections (only 28 per cent of Green voters said that they were motivated by German politics).
In addition the Greens tried to portray themselves as champions of ecology (against GM food etc.) in opposition to EU policies — which is quite hypocritical, since they are part of a government which is a champion of corporate profits at the expense of both workers and environment (both nationally and in Europe). In addition they have a more radical image because of their origin in grass root and protest movements. They foster this image by constantly protesting against anti-ecological and anti-immigrant measures — and then vote for them in government. In reality they are even more radical champions of neo-liberal economic policies than the SPD. About a million voters went over from the SPD to the Greens to support that wing of the government which seems to them to be more progressive. However, as they are rapidly finding out, Green party spokespeople are interpreting their support as a stronger mandate for harsher neo-liberal attacks on working class living standards.
PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism, which originated 14 years ago from the Stalinist state party of the former East Germany and whose leadership today has transformed itself into an open supporter of capitalism) was another party that gained from being seen as "left" of the SPD. They gained some more votes in spite of a lower turnout, reaching 6.1 percent (1999: 5.8 per cent). In East Germany they achieved 25.1 per cent (more than the SPD) in the West only 1.7 per cent. However, their vote confirmed that they can’t reach the millions of people in the West who turn away from the SPD in disgust. Their result in the East was mixed, too. In some states they gained, in Brandenburg they reached 31 per cent and became the strongest party. (In the state elections in Thüringen they got much more votes than the SPD, too.) But significantly they lost in Berlin (from 16.7 to 14.4 per cent) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (from 24.3 to 21.7 per cent), where they are part of the state government and participate in cruel welfare cuts. (In both states SPD and CDU lost, too. In Berlin the Greens gained massively, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern smaller parties.)
Socialist councillor elected
In the local elections in the East German city of Rostock SAV (German section of the Committee for a Workers’ International) won its first council seat. Christine Lehnert was elected to the city council on the basis of 2.5 percent of the city-wide vote (4,000 votes – as every voter had three votes this probably means approximately 2,000 voters). A second seat was only narrowly missed. SAV campaigned against social cuts, lay-offs, privatisation of a local hospital and privileges for the councillors. The campaign proved that a socialist programme combined with campaigning activities can win votes.
Unfortunately the disgust with government policy, and the absence in many areas of a campaigning left alternative, brought gains for far right parties. They increased their vote from 2.1 to 3.6 per cent. The "Republikaner" gained nearly half a million votes (1.9 per cent, 1999: 1.7 per cent), which is a slight increase. The neo-fascist NPD increased its share from 0.4 to 0.9 per cent (more than 240.000 votes) which means, that they will get financial support from the state (which every party receives, that gets more than 0.5 per cent). In Saxony, far right parties reached 8.1 per cent ("Republikaner" 3.4 per cent, NPD 3.3 per cent). In the state of Saarland the NPD gained 1.7 per cent (1999: 0.3 per cent).
There were even more dramatic results in the local elections. In Saarbrücken (capital of Saarland) they gained 4.4 per cent, in Völklingen they will have five councillors (with 9.6 per cent). In Dresden (capital of Saxony) a coalition of NPD, "Republikaner" and neo-fascist DVU gained about 4 per cent and three seats. In other towns of Saxony the NPD had alarming successes.
The growing alienation of voters was partly reflected in even more abstention than last time. There were higher votes for small parties, too, which gained two million voters and 8 per cent (1999 3.7 per cent). Another indication of the mood is the increase in blank votes from 409, 000 to 744,000.
One election result was especially symptomatic for the mood in Germany. At a SPD election rally in Mannheim on 18 May, Jens Ammoser, an unemployed teacher, slapped Chancellor Schröder in the face. He was a SPD member and even candidate for the local elections in Bollschweil. He was expelled from the SPD and is facing a court trial, but for legal reasons it was not possible to remove him from SPD electoral slate. In the state of Baden-Württemberg, where Bollschweil is, there is a complicated local election law: voters have as many votes as their are seats in the council, they can give up to three votes to one candidate and they can transfer candidates from one slate to an other. Ammoser got 294 votes; the other seven SPD candidates together got only 458 votes (on average 65.4 votes per candidate)!