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Social democrats lag, left may gain

Angela Merkel has an edge in German elections on September 24.

 Nitya Chakraborty |  2017-09-17 15:42:21.0

Social democrats lag, left may gain

Germany is heading for general elections on September 24 this year amidst turmoil in Europe and the European Union following the Britain's decision to leave EU and the increasing activities of the rightist nationalist elements in different countries of Europe. The present Chancellor Angela Merkel of Conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) took office in 2005 and if her party wins the elections this month, she will be the Chancellor of Germany for the fourth time.

Latest poll trends indicate that she has a comfortable lead over her main rival Martin Schulz of the SPD and there is not much possibility of the SPD candidate's fortunes changing much in the next few days of the campaign. Schulz began his campaign in February with big hopes but the confused policies of the SPD regarding the economic policies and immigration hit adversely his campaign prospects in the midway and at the fag end of the electoral battle, the SPD seems to give all the impression of a loser.

The German Parliament Bundestag has a total strength of 600 members. When the Germans go to the polls, they will cast two votes: one for the person they want to represent them in Bundestag and the other one for the party of their choice. Half of the 600 members of Bundestag will be the representatives selected directly by the voters and the other300 members will be chosen proportionately according to the votes the various parties achieve. To gain one of these Party seats, the participating party must obtain a minimum five per cent vote.
As of now, trends show that Merkel's CDU will be getting between 38 and 40 per cent and SPD between 22 and 25 per cent while the four other parties including the Left Party (Die Linke) are expected to gain between 8 to 10 per cent. One new development is the emergence of the fiercely anti-immigrant rightist party Alternative for Germany (AFD) which made big noise initially but has now lost the tempo though the AFD leadership feels that they have the possibility of becoming the third largest party.
The four parties which are vying for third place are Left Party, Greens, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the rightist AFD. Merkel during her campaign bitterly fought the AFD as this party targeted the anti-immigrant section of the CDU and in the early part of the campaign; there were apprehensions that the AFD would take away a part of the CDU base. That has not happened and in fact, after the setback to the extreme right in the recent French general elections and the victory of the centrist candidate Emanuel Macron, the surge of the AFD also declined. That way Merkel is feeling comfortable that the AFD has not been able to destabilise her support base.
The German people in general have some pride in the leadership of Angela Merkel as the supreme leader of Europe and now the only leader who is challenging both US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel took office in 2005 as the head of a grand coalition with the SPD after neither of the two parties gained an outright majority in the elections. But from 2009 to 2013, she ruled in alliance with the rightwing Free Democrats and again returned to leading another CDU-SPD coalition from 2013 till now.
That way, for the German people, there is not much difference in the policies of the two major parties CDU and SPD. Even this year after the elections, the CDU can ally either with SPD or FDP.
It is in this context that the emergence of the Left party and the Greens has assumed importance in the September 24 elections. The Left has appealed to the working class support base of the SPD for switching loyalty to the Left. The Left (Die Linke) has currently 64 seats in Bundestag, slightly more than 10 per cent. The Left has launched massive campaign against the present policies of both CDU and the SPD and that have won new supporters among the youth, women and the immigrants. Not only the Party defended the rights of the immigrants, it has vigorously demanded higher wages for all Germans. The Left is the only Party that says unequivocally that it is opposed to the deployment of German troops anywhere overseas including not just in Afghanistan, but also any UN operations. The SPD which is in coalition with the Left and greens in some regional governments, has warned the Left on this issue of opposing German military presence in overseas but the Left has declared that there will be no compromise on this issue, SPD will have to come around to the position of German left.
The Left Party is very strong in the part which was once East Germany and it has big presence in running local governments. It is in coalition with the SPD in a number of key provinces. The Party consists of a large number of old members who were with the Communist Party in East Germany before unification. But the encouraging aspect is that the Left has got a big number of youth members who joined the party in the last ten years. The Communist Party of Germany is also there. This small Party usually supported the Die Linke and they acted unitedly but in this election, the CPG is fighting separately though it may not get any seat in Parliament as the party may not get five per cent of the votes polled.
The supporters of the German Left are mostly with the Die Linke and they hope that the GCP will be back to the old position of supporting Die Linke after the September 24 elections. The GCP leadership was divided on the issue of supporting Die Linke. The dominant group in the GCP felt that the Die Linke is focusing only on elections and not fighting the system as such. As against this, Die Linke says that the Party is with the people and at the forefront of all battles against the capitalist policies of the German Government. It is equally focused on the elections because that is also a primary task of the class battle to uphold the interests of the masses.
(The author is Editor-in-Chief, IPA. The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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