German Press Review: Protest Votes | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.09.2004
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German Press Review: Protest Votes

German editorial writers focused almost exclusively on the outcome of the state elections in Saxony and Brandenburg and what motivated the people to vote for extremist parties.

The Bremer Nachrichten quoted the old saying "What goes around, comes around" in its editorial. Voters reacted accordingly to the way politicians treated them by casting protest votes when they felt misunderstood or unjustly treated, the paper wrote. There has seldom been such unequivocal protest at Germany's ballot boxes, it concluded.

The two state elections, which came after a summer of protests, were just another way for people in eastern Germany to show their discontent with the government, the Financial Times Deutschland agreed. Many people in Saxony and in Brandenburg decided not to vote at all, and many of those who did cast their vote decided to opt for far-right groups and the former communists, the paper assessed. After almost 15 years of unity, eastern Germany has reached a crossroads, and one can no longer pretend that the strategy of transferring billions of euros to the east to keep people quiet has worked. Developments in east and west Germany are coming to a head, and the country needs politicians who are willing to tell the truth, the daily noted.

The Christian Democratic Union suffered its first painful setback, and the Social Democratic Party lost ground, leaving neither of Germany's main parties with something to celebrate, Die Welt pointed out.

A weak SPD doesn't mean a strong CDU, the Bild Zeitung observed. After many a bitter election in which the voters punished the ruling Social Democrats for their tough reform course, voters in Saxony and Brandenburg took the conservatives to the cleaners. The Christian Democrats’ upward trend has come to an end and leader Angela Merkel is facing hard times, the paper reflected.

In eastern Germany, the Leipziger Volkszeitung was confident that democracy in the state of Saxony is not in danger despite the far-right National Democratic Party winning seats in the state parliament. What is a matter for concern, the paper added, is the fact that not even urgent appeals to go vote brought more citizens to the ballot boxes. Choosing not to vote, the paper warned, is an indication that voters have lost confidence in politics, and such abstention strengthens parties on the fringes.

Finally, the Ostthüringer Zeitung was not unsympathetic towards using an election as a form of protest -- but, the paper criticized, all sympathy ends when people vote for right-wing radical groups as a means of punishing established parties. Like many politicians concerned about the rise of the right in Germany, the paper finished its article wondering where extremist protest votes will lead.

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