Fifteen years after German reunification, voters in the former east still poll differently to the those in the west. But their collective power at the ballot box was not enough to secure a majority.
Voters in the former East Germany are big on the Left party
Across much of the eastern part of Germany, Gerhard Schröder and his Social Democrats did better than any other party. And that, even in light of the raging levels of unemployment which is twice as high as in the west, and the widespread disdain for the SPD's reform package.
Better the devil they know?
In the area between the Baltic coast and the state of Thuringia, Schröder's party emerged with almost 30 percent of the vote, compared to the meager 34.3 percent it achieved at a federal level -- the party's worst result in the past five decades of election history.
The Christian Democrats and the Left party equalized in the east with 25.9 percent of the vote each, in a result which was widely expected.
Left party hit in eastern Germany
The Left party, formerly the PDS, itself the successor party to the Communist SED, draws the majority of its support from the former east. Under the leadership of Gregor Gysi, who campaigned on a platform of greater opposition to social reform, the Left party garnered a total of 8.7 percent of the federal vote.
"It’s the best result ever," said Stefan Liebich, head of the Left party in Berlin. And in the capital that was certainly true. The Left party scored 29.5 percent in the former eastern part of the city, compared to just 7.2 in the west.
The Greens, who now have fewer seats in the Bundestag than the Left party, were clearly more popular with voters in the western part of the country, where they won 9 percent of the vote, double their 4.4 percent achievement in the east. In Berlin the east-west divide was 10.9 and 15.7 percent respectively.
Western electorate votes conservative
The results for the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Socialist Union (CDU/CSU) in Berlin were a very different story. The union, which doesn't enjoy a massive following in the former east, picked up 27.9 percent of the ballot in the western part of the city, but just 13.6 percent in the east.
And at a federal level, voters in the East seemed to prefer the current poor record of the SPD to a largely uncertain future with potentially more social reform at the hands of the conservatives.
But that was not the only swaying consideration. During the heated election campaign, CSU leader, Edmund Stoiber made comments which damaged the party's chances of convincing an already skeptical eastern electorate.
Stoiber's critical contribution
In an address to a group of supporters and reporters some weeks ago, the state premier for Bavaria said, "I do not accept that the east will again decide who will be Germany's chancellor. It cannot be allowed that the frustrated determine Germany's fate."
How much damage did Stoiber cause the CDU leader?
The comment was met with anger from voters in the eastern camp and it was left up to Angela Merkel, herself from the former east, to clean up the mess. But Stoiber didn't stop there. At a rally a short while later, he reiterated his views. "The strong must sometimes carry the weak a bit. That's the way it is... I do not want the election to be decided in the east yet again," he said.
Although the party moved quickly to paste over Stoiber's critical remarks, and initial polls in their aftermath suggested the damage might not have been too monumental, with the results of Sunday's ballot now on the table, it's clear that his comments did nothing to improve the chances of a clear win for the conservatives.