Socialist Worker

Have German voters shifted to the right?

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2171

Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party was re-elected in Sunday’s German elections.

The result will see Merkel end her partnership with the Labour-like SPD and go into coalition with the right wing FDP.

The FDP is a party that stands for cuts in taxes on the rich and slashing public spending.

Bosses were quick to greet Merkel’s victory as a chance to implement the pro-business agenda they crave.

“German politics now has a chance for a clear profile, especially in the field of sound, market-orientated policies,” said Wolfgang Kirsch, head of Germany’s DZ bank.

The British media has called the election a shift to the right under the weight of recession.

But that idea is not borne out by the results, says Stefan Bornost, editor of German magazine Marx21.

“The total vote for the centre right parties rose by just 3.4 percent, while the total vote for the left fell by 5.4 percent,” he told Socialist Worker.

“There was a significant redistribution of the vote among the right wing parties – in particular the CDU lost votes to the FDP – but this does not a reflect a general thirst for pro-market policies.”

In fact, says Stefan, recent social attitudes surveys show the opposite is true.

“Around 59 percent of Germans think there should be more social solidarity, compared to 31 percent who think there should be more competition.”

That feeling was reflected in the votes for the radical left.

While the SPD saw its vote collapse to just 23 percent – its worst election result since 1953 – the results for Die Linke, its new left wing challenger, were very encouraging.

Die Linke took 11.9 percent of the vote, up 3.2 percentage points on the previous general election, and won 76 MPs – 22 more than last time around.

It overtook the Greens, who also had a record-beating election.

“Fear of the reaction to cuts is already making it difficult for the new government,” says Stefan.

“On the day the results were announced, Merkel was forced to say she will stand for ‘social needs’ – despite the fact that bosses are baying for cuts.

“Nevertheless, there are going to be big battles ahead.”

Faced with a reduction of tax revenues of up to 20 percent, the government is preparing to order cuts in public expenditure across the board.

Core

Die Linke fought its election campaign on core issues – the immediate implementation of a minimum wage, taxing the rich, troops out of Afghanistan, repeal of the harsh unemployment benefit laws, and no to raising the retirement age to 67.

The election saw Die Linke rise to being the biggest party in most states in the former East Germany.

Party leader Oskar Lafontaine says the key tasks ahead include joining governments in order to block federal legislation, winning future elections, and taking to the streets to protest against cuts.

However, joining governing coalitions at a time of budget cuts would almost certainly mean implementing policies that hit the party’s working class supporters, says Stefan.

“You cannot say that a vote for Die Linke is one that will defend public services, while at the same time making cuts,” he says.

“But the pressure to take office is great. The revulsion with the CDU is such that the vast majority of Die Linke’s voters say they want our party in government.”

Other key questions for Die Linke will be how it responds to the economic crisis, and how it relates to millions of disillusioned working class SPD supporters.

“We need to forge a united front to fight back against the attacks that are coming,” says Stefan.

“That doesn’t mean letting the SPD leaders off the hook, but it does mean organising to fight against the bosses and the Tories alongside their rank and file.”

Two supporters of Marx21 magazine, Christine Buchholz and Nicole Gohlke, were among the Die Linke candidates elected to the national parliament


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International
Tue 29 Sep 2009, 18:27 BST
Issue No. 2171
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