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Defeat for conservatives
A dead heat in Germany's vote

By Jeff Bale | September 23, 2005 | Page 2

THE RESULTS from Germany's federal elections were still unclear as Socialist Worker went to press, but one thing was clear--the normally stable world of German electoral politics has been turned on its head.

A preliminary official tally after Sunday's poll gave the governing Social Democrats (SPD) 34.3 percent of the vote, just short of their main opposition, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) with 35.2 percent. The liberal Free Democrats (FDP) were at 9.8 percent, the Greens at 8.1 percent and the newly formed Left Party at 8.7 percent.

While the CDU apparently eked out a narrow win, they are seen as the big losers in the election. The CDU's candidate for chancellor, Angela Merkel, was supposed to coast to power because of the combination of SPD leader and current Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's cuts to the welfare state, while unemployment and economic stagnation continue. In the end, the CDU got less of the vote than in the last election.

Over the course of the rough election campaign, Merkel made it clear that she would cut more. The final straw came when she nominated Paul Kirchhof to be the finance minister in a CDU government. Kirchhof is a flat-tax fanatic, and Germans recoiled at the idea of the wealthy getting a huge tax break.

Though Schröder and his SPD came in second, and their share of the vote is the lowest out of the last three elections, he is nevertheless claiming victory--and declaring that the result is a vindication of his program of spending cuts.

The new Left Party scored a remarkable showing with just under 9 percent of the vote--doing better than the Greens, who were a partner in Schröder's SPD government.

The party was formed this summer as an alliance between the Party of Democratic Socialism, the successor to the East German Communist Party, and the Electoral Alternative for Social Justice--itself a new political formation that united unionists and other members of the governing SPD who rejected neoliberalism. The Left Party's campaign for greater state spending tapped into the anger felt by millions of ordinary Germans at seven years of Schröder's cuts.

Now, following the vote, the political wheeling and dealing has just begun. Neither the CDU or SPD have a majority by themselves, or even with their closest partner party. The debate is already raging about whether a three-way coalition will emerge--or whether the CDU and SPD will consider ruling together.

Whatever the outcome of the deal making, the result of the election is easy to see: The major parties offering nothing but further cuts in social spending), yet ordinary Germans are square against this.

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