Opinion: Cause for Concern, Not Panic | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.09.2004
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Opinion: Cause for Concern, Not Panic

The Christian Democrats were the big losers following Sunday's elections in two German states and the good results celebrated by right wing parties are cause for concern, according to DW-RADIO's Heinz Dylong.


Anger over social reform spurred gains by right and left wing parties

The dice have been cast and the votes registered and counted. Saxony and Brandenburg have voted in new state parliaments and already the talk in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's suffering Social Democratic Party is of the turnaround in sight.

But so far only one thing is clear: The Social Democrats didn't lose in Brandenburg as badly as they had lost in other elections in recent months and remain the parliament's strongest party. Premier Matthias Platzeck's popularity is largely responsible for the results. The Christian Democratic Union's point loss of around 6 percent, behind the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor to the East German communist party, only shows that voters are increasingly aware that the CDU is not really against the government's controversial social reforms.

They played a strong role in this election, proof of which is the clear success of the PDS. Mathematically, an SPD-PDS coalition is possible. More likely, however, is that the SPD and CDU will continue their coalition government.

Possible grand coalition in Saxony

The CDU in Saxony clearly lost its absolute majority, falling almost 15 percentage points. The search for the reasons for the drop surely won't leave Premier Georg Milbradt untouched, who was never as popular as his predecessor, Kurt Biedenkopf.

The Free Democratic Party's entry into the parliament was surprising, though their low percentage won't make them attractive enough as a possible coalition partner for the CDU in Saxony. It will be interesting to see how things develop in the CDU stronghold of Saxony. The results point to a coalition between the SPD and CDU as well, something nobody had thought possible before the election.

The SPD lost only slightly in Saxony, which shouldn't be overemphasized. The party only won 10.7 percent of the vote in the previous parliamentary election, a level that a large party like the SPD has a hard time dropping below. Interesting are the only slight gains made by the PDS. Unlike in Brandenburg, their populist campaign against the Hartz IV social welfare reform package didn't bring them the hoped-for success in Saxony.

Right-wingers ride anti-reform sentiment

Instead, the right wing parties took their votes. The German People's Union, the DVU, made it into the Brandenburg parliament and the National Party for Germany (NPD) reaped an estimated 9 percent of the votes in Saxony.

The NPD has their populist campaign against the social reforms to thank for most of their votes.

No one can await serious, political concepts from either party, if past experience is anything to go on. Their success is unsettling nonetheless.

It apparently was not about presenting voters their right-wing vision of the world. Much more, the results show a concerning mistrust of democracy, its ability to provide solutions and change. The tendency towards "simple solutions" that never are in truth and tend to dissipate into simple anti-immigrant slogans, should concern the democratic parties. Awareness is necessary; panic and hysteria are not.

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