Saturday, October 23, 2021

Midterm Voting in Germany Shows Progress for Far-Left, Greens

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The votes are in in the tight race for the German parliamentary elections. Voter turnout was 70.5 percent in Germany, with two weeks to go. The parties that were surging in the polls, the Green party and the far-left Linke, have done well and far surpassed predicted results.

The radical far-left party, Linke, has won 19.5 percent of the vote and 37 seats in the Bundestag, beating its previous best score by about 10 percent. Its candidate for chancellor, the firebrand and political icon of the German left, the socialist Oskar Lafontaine, won over 10 percent of the vote, representing a change from the polls that showed him polling barely 5 percent of the vote.

The Green party has won 22.5 percent of the vote, representing its highest result ever, and 50 seats in the Bundestag. It has also won its largest percentage of votes since its founding in 1991, bringing it over 10 percent of the vote for the first time. The party, part of the United Democratic Union, traditionally served as the country’s third largest party, after the two governing parties — the current chancellor’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. The party has long identified itself as the guardian of liberal values, an anti-establishment party, as opposed to the more traditional Christian Democrats, who have traditionally been more associated with the social-democrat politics of the country. The two biggest parties, however, have split along national and regional lines, prompting Green voters to look elsewhere to choose a viable coalition partner.

With virtually all the polls showing the Social Democrats hemorrhaging support, they formed a coalition with the Green party. Even this victory appears to be bittersweet, though, with the Social Democrats surging thanks to Ms. Gabriel, who is also the head of the party’s youth organization. Also looking to “make things happen”, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel, are two newcomer parties, the Free Democrats and the Green Party. Neither of these parties have ever existed in the Bundestag, though the Free Democrats have been present in previous coalitions.

Voters did not like the “moderates” or conservatives either, as they are known in the United States. The other big parties — the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats — were each left with their lowest support in recent history.

Some of the choices were in disarray; the former Greens government minister from Heilbronn, for example, could barely get his party to back his candidacy, given their leftist inclinations. He also failed to propose a new coalition, just to add to the chaos. His party is trying to find a third candidate, though no one has stepped forward yet.

Another party, the Alternative for Germany, is polling just at 3.4 percent. That seems to be putting them at a disadvantage; their candidate, Alice Weidel, has given indications that she is pursuing a path to becoming prime minister. Whether or not she achieves this lofty goal, her party seems to be heading into a serious decline. Her credibility is, however, on the rise, as a number of people have made allegations against her (stemming from her time as a TV host), including sexual harassment and a breach of security. Though Weidel has not yet faced an accusation, public prosecutors in Hamburg confirmed on Thursday that they were investigating two potential cases.

So, after all the votes are counted, look for the landscape to look a lot different — and be a lot different. The vote is especially tight, but as they would say, the grass is always greener in the shade.

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