Monday, September 19, 2005

Left Party gains votes across political spectrum

The Left Party's opposition to American-style economic and tax policies was a magnet for voters from across the Federal Republic's political spectrum. The Left was the only party to win votes from all of the other major parties in Germany—from left to right. It was also uniquely the one party to mobilize non-voters who returned to the ballot box on Sept. 18 to cast their votes for the embattled "social state."

Parties that lost voters to the Left

Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union290,000
Social Democratic Party970,000
Free Democratic Party100,000
Greens240,000
Previous non-voters who supported the Left430,000

The SPD saw nearly one million of its voters defect to the new party, which was organized just three months ago by the post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and a faction of traditional Social Democrats dismayed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's neo-liberal reforms. The conservative CDU/CSU and environmentalist Greens together lost more than half a million votes to the Left, and even the pro-business Free Democrats saw 100,000 of their former supporters vote Left.

The Left was the only party to increase its vote total in virtually all electoral districts. Its base continues to be eastern Germany but its share of the votes in the more populous western states more than quadrupled from 1.1 to 4.9 percent. Its most stunning electoral breakthrough came in the industrial Saarland, where it rose from obscurity to become the third strongest political force—outpacing the Greens and FDP for the first time in a western state. It is now the second strongest party in three states (Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia) and the third strongest in four others (Saarland, Berlin, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern).

No political consensus for neo-liberal reform?

Some conservative analysts argued before the election that a relatively strong Left Party might prove useful because it would isolate those voters who oppose pro-business "reforms" on the American model—including broad tax cuts for the wealthy, higher fees for health insurance and education, and limits on unemployment compensation. The Left, so the theory went, would drain off these alienated voters from the electoral base of Germany's traditional center-left parties, permitting an ideological realignment of the remaining parties in favor of a "reform" consensus.

But exit polls suggest that a significant number of anti-reform voters remained loyal to the SPD and Greens on election day. The issue of "social justice" motivated more SPD voters (45 percent) than any other. For Greens, it was the second most important issue (41 percent) behind the environment (51 percent). But "social justice" (a code word in Germany for the "social state") was a priority for only 17 percent of CDU/CSU voters and 16 percent of those who supported the Free Democrats.

Clearly, there is no political consensus in Germany for American-style economic and social policies. The two parties that campaigned on this issue, the CDU/CSU and FDP, scored only 45 percent—far short of the decisive majority the polls had forecast earlier in the campaign. The SPD and Greens, on the other hand, were able win back part of their anti-reform voter base from the Left by playing down the neo-liberal policies they had pushed as governing parties and reclaiming their image as protectors of the social state.

The election shows that support remains strong among center-left voters for Germany's traditional "social-market" economy—which until the current crisis of globalization had maintained social consensus in postwar West Germany by promoting private enterprise, encouraging labor-management cooperation, and supporting a strong social state to defend the rights of workers and the most vulnerable members of society.

Final election results

PartyPercent
Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union35.2
Social Democratic Party34.3
Free Democratic Party9.8
Left Party8.7
Greens8.1

Potential multi-party coalitions

CoalitionParties
Grand CoalitionCDU/CSU (black) + SPD (red)
"Traffic Light" CoalitionSPD (red) + FDP (yellow) + Greens
"Jamaica" CoalitionCDU/CSU (black) + FDP (yellow) + Greens

More links on this subject

Left Party more than doubles its vote
Left on the rise in Germany (news analysis)
The Left: Big Winner in the German elections (Monthly Review)
Above all, this was a vote against neo-liberalism (Guardian UK)
Election analysis in detail (ARD)
New Left, Old Right (Le Monde diplomatique)
What's at stake in the German elections? (DIRELAND)
Interview with Left Party activist (Lenin's Tomb)
Can Germany's labor movement survive? (Monthly Review)

4 Comments:

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous David said...

Andy,

I agree that the SPD lost votes to the Left Party, and that probably cost Schroeder the chancellorship. But didn't the CDU/CSU voters defect to the FDP? The Liberals had their best showing in more than a decade.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

Yes, David, that's true. The largest single "migration" from one party to another were the 1.1 million CDU/CSU voters who switched to the Liberals. However, exit polls showed that was largely a tactical decision by those voters to hinder a "Grand Coalition" between the CDU/CSU and SPD. They thought they could do this by strengthening the Union's preferred coalition partner, the FDP.

This kind of "tactical voting" is fairly common in Germany: in this case, the movement happened in the last 48 hours before the election when voters realized that a Grand Coalition was increasingly a possibility. If that's true, then it doesn't represent necessarily a stable change for the better in the FDP's voter base. There's no question, though, that this was a big success for the FDP which was, along with the Left, the only other party to gain rather than lose votes.

I think it's important that (1) the Left was the only party to win over voters from all of the other federal parties (including 100,000 from the FDP) and (2) it was the only party to win back non-voters from the previous election. You'll see that the other parties, including the FDP, lost substantial numbers of voters who simply sat out this election and therefore are now in the "non-voter" column.

 
At 8:21 PM, Blogger stevesadlov said...

The rise of the Left is an artifact of demographics and, overt agency of influence fomented by anti Western forces.

The demographic element is a hybrid of the Baby Boomer bulge and the immense wealth in Western countries since WW2. This demographic climate has favored nihlism and the quest for comfort and physical pleasure. Clearly, Leftist polity is favorable to said demographic.

The agency of influence is an ongoing project started by the KGB in order to use Gramscian means to weaken the West over time. The key here has been to get the West to move from its 1000 year old archetype characterized by Charlemagne and more towards a very passive and hyperintellectual archetype charaterized by modernity bathed Western urban intellectuals. At present, the anti Western assemblage is roughly equivalent to the sum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, radical Islam and the few Communist and quasi Communist nation states in the Western Hemisphere. They all contribute in their various ways to the ongoing support of agents of undermining influence.

The end of the rise of the Left will be twofold. Firstly, once the Boomers (and the Boomlet they've brainwashed) die out the "if it feels good do it" mentality will die out with them. Secondly, as is inevitable at the end of each and every period of decadent secular humanism, a great war will engulf the world. This last gasp of utopianism, more or less in vogue since 1945 or so, will be discredited and only those with a warrior disposition will command respect. An anti intellectual climate, the likes of which have not been seen for at least 1000 years, will take hold. The doer and the fighter will run the show.

 
At 10:26 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

Thank you, Steve, for your comment. I've been delighted to welcome comments from other countries but you're the first from another planet. Thank you!

 

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