und das ist gut so! - in Berlin

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sun Oct 21 10:13:43 PDT 2001

Exit polls broadly confirmed by the first estimates show major changes in the politics of Berlin.

The SPD has been proved right to shatter the Grand Coalition of CDU/SPD even at the cost of having to consider an alliance with the PDS.

Already in national politics the lead of the SPD over the CDU that had been down to 1% had in the last week increased to 5%. But in Berlin (all figures compared to 1999) the SPD has leapt up from 22% to 31% (a gain of about 8%)

This has been achieved with its new candidate, who announced he is gay just one week before taking over as interim mayor, and will clearly be confirmed as such.

The CDU fell massively from a dominating 40.8% to approx 24%, a loss of about 17%. It will have lost almost half of all its seats in the assembly. Although its young leader was seen as weak, this has been despite the fact that the SPD is in power and likely to alienate protest votes, and despite the fact that the CDU has moved past the worst of the scandal about illicit donations, (and despite the fact that the CDU very much kept Helmut Kohl away from the campaign!)

Even the Greens may have gained slightly, coming close to 10%. The second biggest winners are the FDP (liberals) who have moved up from a marginal 2.2% to about 10%. This could suggest further weakening of the CDU in the coming years.

Most interesting is that the PDS, admittedly with a brilliant and witty advocate as their mayoral candidate, have further consolidated their percentage, moving up yet again, this time from 17.7% to well over 20% and probably getting 21.5% or even more.

This despite the probable solidarity with the SPD/Green government at this time of war, and the fact that the PDS are the only major party directly to oppose the war. It also faced sustained attacks on their credibility because of the past.

Despite the gains of the SPD and the FDP the arithmetic makes it look difficult for a new coalition consisting of them and the Greens alone. Considering the previous regime of CDU and SPD was meant to be a unity regime, the PDS has a very strong claim to be part of the new coalition as it is expected to win a massive 48% of the votes in the former eastern boroughs. This last statistic shows that in breaking with the former SED, the PDS has succeeded in articulating a vision of democratic socialism that remains for easterners strikingly different from the capitalism of the west.

It seems unlikely the SPD would have broken with the CDU without contempating either a direct coaliton or an extensive basis for support from the PDS.

Nevertheless the finances of Berlin are so bad after the expenditure of the previous regime and the lack of dynamism of the economy, that the PDS is likely to continue to be able to represent a platform for the easterners, who still feel they are second class citizens in a united Germany.

Another permutation is that Berlin may form a close relationship in planning with the SPD dominated surrounding Land of Brandenburg. It is clear that the national SPD is not publically ruling out any coalition. Gysi has subtly suggested that a traffic-lights coalition (SPD, FDP, Greens) will not be very stable.

Woworeit has just stated his preference for an administration that will be stable for 5 years, that he will start discussions of course with the Greens, but will have discussions with other parties.

Overall this is one of the biggest and most signficant swings in German regional elections, with implications for the centre of gravity of all German politics that will work through for some years. The weakness of the CDU candidate is ominous for their chances in national elections in view of their lack of competitive candidates.

In all ways, Berlin has swung left. Not least the message for bourgeois democratic rights that a candidate who happens to be gay, can be elected, and elected with substantial success.

This result will to a small but appreciable degree also have implications for the centre of gravity of world politics.

And that's OK.

Chris Burford


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