After 39 years in power, the Nordrhein-Westphalen SPD party was decisively kicked out of power yesterday in a high turnout vote, and on the back of its lowest share of the vote since 1954. The CDU surged ahead to win a majority which would allow it, if it wished, to govern alone:
CDU (centrist): 44.8%
SPD (socialist): 37.1%
FDP (centre-right): 6.2%
Chancellor Schroeder immediately announced he would attempt to bring the national federal elections forward "as soon as possible". To do so, he must table (and lose) a vote of no confidence in the Bundestag, which would impel President Kohler to call for new national elections.
The result, if not the extent of the humiliation, was widely expected. It is payback time for 5 million German unemployed, more than one million of whom live in NRW.
The SPD's increasingly sordid and desperate actionism and scapegoating were seen for what they were. The ugly hard-left electioneering rhetoric of the SPD's thuggish Chairman Müntefering has not brought in the hoped-for votes of the dispossessed, nor deflected responsibility away from the government. Under the Müntefering Terror, as it is called in Germany, capitalists (especially American and Jewish ones) were regularly rebuked by high-level government officials for their supposed evil intents against the German economy, and blamed for its failures.
It is good to see that the German government's modern-day adaptation of Nazi "demonisation techniques" has not paid off.
It is also worth noting that the neo-Nazi share of the vote was so small that it is not even separately reported: the spectre of a neo-Nazi revival, on the back of acute unemployment, can be lain to rest.
In calling for an earlier national election, Chancellor Schroeder is doing two things - acknowledging a huge defeat for the SPD-Green coalition, which undermines any notion of a democratic mandate, as well as, more tactically, calculating that the putative CDU-FDP coalition will not have enough time to get its policy and personnel ducks in a row prior to the kick-off of the election. It is pretty desperate stuff, to be sure, but Chancellor Schroeder and his sleazy Green party sidekick, Joschka Fischer, should never be underestimated when it comes to low-down electioneering tactics. It should also be realised that Schroeder, by putting Germany into election mode, can neatly sidestep the delicate negotiations needed in Europe over the upcoming Commission budget (due to be set now for the next 6 years), a budget which countries like Germany and Holland want to restrain, and the Commission wants to increase. Progress on this issue will be hamstrung if Germany is in the middle of national elections - and let Scroeder off the hook of potentially unpopular concessions with far-reaching financial implications.
The centrist CDU, and its likely Chancellor candidate Angela Merkel - the first female candidate, and the first from the former East Germany - now have a golden opportunity to move the centre of German politics decisively to the right. What they need above all is to convince voters of the positive reasons for voting for that change, beyond the merely negative ones of getting rid of an arrogant, self-satisfied, under-achieving, morally-corrupt socialist government.