Germany’s rapidly rising Eurosceptics have dealt a fresh embarrassing blow to Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats party in state elections in Hamburg. Alternative for Germany (AfD), which wants to force crisis-hit countries such as Greece out of the single currency, looked likely to win its first seats in a west German parliament. The AfD vote was hovering just above the 5 per cent threshold needed to win seats in parliament in initial projections based on a partial vote count. The AfD made significant gains from Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who saw their share of the vote fall by a projected 5.9 per cent in one of their worst results in recent times.
Germany’s new eurosceptic party is poised to make strong gains in two regional elections this weekend, ratcheting up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces a threat on her right flank for the first time since taking power nine years ago. The small but fast-growing Alternative for Germany (AfD) poached thousands of votes from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in an election in Saxony two weeks ago, winning nearly 10 percent of the vote there with a focus on law-and-order policies and conservative values. It could repeat the trick in two other eastern states — Thuringia and Brandenburg — on Sunday. “Merkel has brought stability to the German economy and that has kept the conservatives in the CDU quiet,” said politics professor Nils Diederich at Berlin’s Free University. “But if the CDU starts losing votes, Merkel could come under pressure.” The threat from the AfD is not immediate. Merkel enjoys record popularity ratings of over 70 percent and is the undisputed leader of her party and government after leading the CDU to its strongest performance since reunification in a federal election last year.
Preliminary results show that as predicted, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s incumbent conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won Saturday’s state election in Saxony, receiving 39 percent of the votes and up to 59 of the 132 seats. This means Premier Stanislaw Tillich will continue to govern, but will need to seek out a new coalition partner, with the liberal FDP party receiving only 3.7 percent of the votes – failing to clear the 5 percent hurdle required for parliamentary representation. The eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party (AfD) won 10 percent of the vote. The AfD, with lead candidate Frauke Petry (pictured top), has capitalized on voter concerns about asylum seekers in its campaign. The party only narrowly failed to enter the national parliament and the state assembly in Hesse last year. It did, however, manage to garner seven seats in the European Parliament at elections in May. The right-wing, populist party drew voters away from the extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), whose re-entry into the state parliament is still unclear.
Czech Republic: How the Czech Social Democrats were derailed by a billionaire populist | Policy Network
The Czech experience is a reminder to social democrats that they need to think seriously about the deep undercurrents of anti-political anger bubbling up in European electorates – as well as distributional conflicts and coalitions. On 26 October after two terms in opposition the Social Democrats (ČSSD) emerged as the largest party in early elections in the Czech Republic with the near certainty of the forming the next government. Their political opponents on centre-right whose tottering three-year coalition government finally collapsed amid personal and political scandal in June were routed. The once dominant Civic Democrats (ODS) founded in 1991 by Václav Klaus to bring British-style Thatcherite conservativism to post-communist transformation, was cut down to minor party status with mere 7 per cent of the vote. Its one time partner in government, TOP09, which had championed fiscal austerity slipped to 11 per cent. The Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) – staged a modest recovery edging back into parliament with 6 per cent support, but remained – as they had always been in the Czech lands – a niche party. ‘Heads Up!’, the newly formed conservative eurosceptic bloc endorsed by former president Václav Klaus, scraped a humiliating 0.42 per cent.
The Social Democrats have won a narrow victory in early parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, but the composition of the next government is likely to depend on a billionaire who entered politics only two years ago. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) had enjoyed a commanding, albeit narrowing, lead for most of the two-month election campaign. However, its lead, once over 12 percentage points, shrank rapidly in the final days before yesterday’s and today’s vote, and its final tally, 20.5%, gave it just three more seats than the party of Andrej Babiš, a controversial industrialist and – since this spring – a media magnate. Babiš’s party, ANO 2011-Akce nespokojených občanů (Yes 2011 – Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), won 18.7% of the votes and 47 of the 200 seats in parliament. ANO took votes from all parties and its support was evenly spread across the population. While Babiš succeeded in recruiting a range of celebrities, polls suggest that the party’s late surge dates to a weekend blitz of interviews on television.
More than two decades after two far-right youths attacked him there and smashed his glasses, Karamba Diaby hopes to represent the economically ailing east German city of Halle as the first black member of Germany’s parliament. Senegal-born Diaby often felt isolated as a student at Halle University in then-communist, and overwhelmingly white East Germany in the 1980s. Nowadays he feels very much at home but says Germany still needs to do better at integrating foreigners. “There is definitely some catching up to do,” Diaby, a candidate for the main center-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in Sunday’s national election, told Reuters. Diaby, 52, is clearly frustrated that media attention has focused on his skin color, not his politics. “If it’s so sensational that I am running for the Bundestag (lower house), after living here for 27 years, studying here and being politically active, that’s because it has dawned on people that this hasn’t happened before,” he said.
With four days to go, Germany’s federal election is going down to the wire. Latest polls put Dr Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) three points short of re-election with its unpopular coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP). The opposition alternative – the Greens, Social Democrats (SPD) and Left Party – are also three points short of a majority. The election will be decided, not by personalities or policies, but by a modified voting system. So how do Germans vote? Every citizen over 18 has two votes: the first for a direct constituency candidate and the second for a party. This second vote decides the allocation of Bundestag party seats, with MPs drawn by parties from state lists. The two-vote system – combining constituency and list systems – is a post-war compromise between the Allies but it is the second vote, the Zweitstimme that counts. The CDU has dubbed it the “Merkel vote”, the guarantee that its leader stays chancellor. Their FDP coalition partners claim the same.
Editorials: Party season: In a tight German election, differences blur and hints of deals abound | The Economist
What a sorry state Germany’s two big political blocs are in, a month before the election on September 22nd. In the 1970s more than 90% of West Germans voted for the two “people’s parties”: the “red” Social Democrats (SPD) and the “black” Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The difference was clear: red stood for unions and fairness, black for conservatives, business and the church. But the people have deserted the people’s parties. In the 2009 election, almost half the voters chose smaller competitors: chiefly the Greens, the Left and the Free Democrats (FDP). The blacks and reds have also lost members: the CDU 40% since unification in 1990, the SPD almost 50%. In a recent poll 69% of voters said they could not even tell the difference. It was an SPD-led government that pushed through labour-market reforms in 2003. The government of the CDU chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been inching leftward, ogling everything from rent controls to a minimum wage.
Germans sleep better, Bismarck once said, when they don’t know how sausages and laws are made. A century and a half later, Angela Merkel seems to be modelling an election campaign on the musings of Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”; the modern day chancellor is avoiding detailed discussion of what she would do with a third term and instead emphasising her personal appeal over policy prescriptions. In five weeks’ time Germans will vote in what has been billed as the most important election of the year in Europe, a continent struggling to emerge from years of financial and economic crisis. Yet there is virtually no debate about the major problems facing Germany – from handling its exit from nuclear energy to addressing an ageing population and articulating a vision for the euro zone.
For the first time since regaining independence in 1991, Lithuanians have the opportunity to re-elect the same government formed at elections four years earlier. Yet they are almost certain to reject this chance of political continuity. Frustrated with dismal living standards and a poignant sense of dysfunctional social justice, voters in the Baltic nation are poised to send packing the conservative-led coalition and return opposition centre-leftists and populists to the helm. Such a scenario could, in turn, postpone tentative plans to introduce the euro and affect preparations for Lithuania’s presidency of the European Union’s Council of Ministers in the second half of 2013. Polls indicate that either the Social Democrats, who reigned over Lithuanian politics for more than six years before getting the boot in 2008.
Voters in Germany’s most populous state strengthened a center-left regional government which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives sought to portray as irresponsibly spendthrift, and inflicted an embarrassingly heavy defeat Sunday on the German leader’s party, projections showed. The center-left Social Democrats and Greens — Germany’s main opposition parties — won combined support of about 51 percent in the election in North Rhine-Westphalia state, according to ARD television based on exit polls and early counting. That would be enough to give them a majority in the state legislature, which they narrowly missed in the last regional election two years ago.