Angela Merkel

Confronted with a dramatic fall in
popularity and a long series of lost lander [state —
ed.] elections because of his neo-liberal economic and
social policies and his brutal dismantling of the
German welfare state, the chancellor seized what he
as his last chance for a mandate from the voters to
stay in power.

The SPD [Social Democratic Party —
and the Greens made their "reform" of the German
economic and social systems the focal point of their
campaign strategy, arguing that there was no
alternative. They promised their parties and the
a continuation of their policies.

The conservative
CDU/CSU [Christian Democrats — ed.] and the liberal
FDP [Free Democrats — ed.] answered with an even more
neo-liberal program of economic and tax policies.

Schröder’s initiative was a surprise attack on his
political opponents, aimed at preventing them, by an
extremely short election campaign, from unfolding
alternative programs. It was especially aimed at the
two formations of the German Left — the PDS [Party of
Democratic Socialism — ed.] and the Election
Alternative for Employment and Social Justice (WASG),
the latter newly founded on the basis of last year’s
strong protest movement against Schröder’s policies.

But in just three months the two organizations
negotiated an agreement to cooperate and to avoid a
situation in which each would prevent the other from
breaking the five percent threshold needed to enter

It was not possible, in the short time
available, to implement the agreement of their leading
bodies to merge into a united political party. The PDS
changed its name to Left Party, with the possible
suffix "PDS" [by each state organization — ed.], and
opened its candidate lists to representatives of the
WASG and other personalities of the Left.

The conservative CDU/CSU and the liberal FDP fought a
confrontational campaign, attacking all measures of
red-green government, which had been introduced partly
with their cooperation.

Frightened by the broad
resonance the actions of the Left Party among the
public, the SPD and the Greens turned up their left-
wing rhetoric, promising minor corrections of their
policies, attacking the plans of their bourgeois
opponents to further sharpen the anti-social "reforms"
that they themselves had started. Sometimes the
campaign looked like a fight between a virtual red-
green opposition against a virtual
government, leaving the public more and more confused.
When the campaign started, most opinion polls gave the
conservative CDU/CSU close to an absolute majority,
SPD had fallen to under 30 percent, and the Left Party
stood at about 4 percent. The conservative and liberal
camp [that is, the CDU/CSU and its allies — ed.] was
regarded by most observers as the likely winner of the

The results of these elections belie the forecasts of
virtually all pollsters and media. Contrary to their
predictions, the losers were the two big parties. The
red-green government was voted out, but their
conservative-liberal rivals were not voted in. Thus
German voters have clearly given a stop sign to the
neo- liberal, anti-social politics of Chancellor
Schröder as well as to his conservative rival Angela
Merkel, who explicitly wanted to carry them on in a
sharpened version. The smaller parties either
maintained or considerably strengthened their
positions. The turnout, predicted by the polls to be
much higher than in 2002, was 77.7 percent, 1.4
lower than three years ago.

The results were met with open disappointment by the
Big Business associations and by right-wing
abroad, who had hoped for a thorough change of
government in Germany.

Although the conservative Christian Democratic
Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) became the
strongest party, they fell short of their objective of
being able to form a right-wing coalition with the
liberal FDP. Their result of 35.2 percent and 225
(out of a total of 613) is the third lowest in the
history of the party — a further drop of 3.3 percent
and 23 seats from the election of 2002, which they
lost. The dramatic drop, in just four months, from
nearly 50 percent in the polls to this result is seen
as mainly the responsibility of their candidate for
chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was no match for
Schröder as orator and media star.

But she is also
blamed for political mistakes. Some of her steps — an
announced VAT [value added, or sales, tax — ed.]
increase as well as her naming of an economics
professor known for defending a flat income tax of 25
percent for everybody as her future finance minister
confirmed the fears of potential voters of even more
reckless economic and social policies under her

Disparaging remarks by CDU/CSU leaders about East
Germans, including by Bavarian prime minister Edmund
Stoiber, cost the party more votes in that region.
these outbursts could not prevent Stoiber’s CSU from
falling to a historic low in his native Bavaria [in
western Germany — ed.]. It got only 49.3 percent,
losing more than 9 percent compared to 2002. With the
lead over the SPD being so tiny, it is unclear whether
Merkel will be able to form a majority government

The governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) had one of
the worst performances in its history. It was further
weakened compared to the 2002 elections, which it won
by a narrow margin. This time it came in second, with
34,3 percent of the vote and 222 seats, a loss of 4.2
percent and 29 seats. Consequently, the Red-Green
alliance fell far short of their declared aim of
renewing their governing coalition. Nevertheless, in
the final phase of the campaign the SPD managed a
comeback of 10 percent. It became the strongest party
in all six lander of Eastern Germany. The SPD lost
voters mainly to the Left Party and to the category of
non-voters. Chancellor Schröder, conducting an intense
campaign characterized by abundant left demagogy,
managed to come close to his conservative rivals’ poor
result, but could not overtake them. Nevertheless, he
has announced his intention to form a governing

The liberal Free Democratic Party FDP is among the
winners in this election. From an early low standing
the polls it received 9.8 percent and 61 seats, an
increase of 2.4 percent and 14 seats, making it the
third largest party in the new Bundestag. This party,
which went into the elections as a coalition partner
CDU/CSU, nevertheless spoke out against Merkel’s plan
for a 2 percent VAT increase.

A large number of right-
wing voters opposed to the VAT increase gave their
second (party) vote to the FDP to strengthen the FDP’s
position in the coalition, thus weakening the CDU. The
FDP has excluded taking part in a so-called traffic
light coalition with SPD and Greens.

By waging a skillful campaign the Green Party avoided
being punished as severely as the SPD for the politics
of the red-green government. With 8.1 percent of the
vote and 51 seats they are now the smallest party in
parliament, dropping by 0.5 percent in votes and
4 seats. Some ecological achievements (planned
of nuclear energy plants, consumer protection
etc.) as well as foreign policy initiatives worked in
their favor in the eyes of their loyal voters.
the socio-cultural constituency of the Greens has not
yet been hit hard by the government’s social policies.

The Left Party-PDS is the winner of these early
elections. Under difficult conditions, with a new
partner, while being opposed by all the other parties
and large parts of the media, it reached its main goal
— to enter parliament with its own group. The party
more than doubled its vote of 4 percent in 2002. The
8.7 percent of the vote and 54 seats it received are
increase of 4.7 percent and 52 seats. The best news is
that the cooperation with the WASG worked fully,
creating a qualitatively new outcome that far exceeds
the sum of the two organizations’ expected separate
results. It is very significant that it exceeded the 5
percent threshold in most of the country, including in
6 of the 10 lander of Western Germany. In the Western
lander the party won altogether 4.9 percent of the
vote. The best results were achieved in the Saarland
(Oskar Lafontaine’s homeland) with 18.5 percent,
with 8.3 percent and Hamburg with 6.3 percent. In the
East the Left Party-PDS received 25.4 percent.

Even in
the lander where it was participating in government, a
highly controversial policy among its followers, the
Left Party-PDS scored large increases: in Mecklenburg-
West Pomerania 7.3 percent (to 23.7 percent
and in Berlin 5 percent (to 16.4 percent altogether).
The only two PDS deputies from 2002-2005, Petra Pau
Gesine Lötzsch, won again in their Berlin
constituencies. The third direct mandate was taken by
Gregor Gysi, also in Berlin. Thirty Left Party-PDS
deputies were elected in the East, 24 in the West of
the country.

This election has changed political life in Germany.
For the first time since the 1950s there is a
nationwide political force to the left of the SPD. The
Left Party- PDS will continue to fight against the
dismantling of the German welfare state, the
redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich,
sending of German troops into military action abroad.
As Gregor Gysi stated at a press conference after the
vote, the party will support neither the neo-liberal
politics of Schröder, nor those of Merkel. Party chair
Lothar Bisky, speaking for the National Executive
Board, proposed to the new parliamentary group that
they elect Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine as their

The Left Party-PDS did not achieve its goal of
the third largest force in the Bundestag and the
strongest force in the East of the country, which had
seemed possible, based on the first polls which
expressed less the hard realities than the
of the people.

The Left Party-PDS, the only one whose
program includes many demands of trade unions and
social and anti-globalization movements, will provide
strong voice in parliament of resistance to neo-
liberalism and the militarization of foreign policy,
thus increasing its impact. It will be supported by
actions of these movements, which are expected to
develop and grow, given the announced plans of all the
other Bundestag parties.

The 3rd Session of the 9th Congress of the Left Party-
PDS will convene on December 10-11, 2005, in Dresden.
There, political and organizational questions of the
party’s further development will be discussed.
Practical steps to advance the merger of the Left
Party- PDS with the WASG will proceed as planned and
described in our info of August 26, 2005. This will be
a pluralistic party, bringing together the varied
outlooks, experience and biographies of reformed
communists, left social democrats, trade unionists,
anti-globalization activists and other personalities
the Left, of politically active people from the East
and West of Germany — a historic process that may be
of interest beyond the borders of Germany.

The question of the composition of the new German
government remains open. There are three main
so-called street-light coalitions of SPD, Greens and
FDP or CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens as well as a grand
coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU. The postponed voting for
three seats in one Dresden constituency on October 2
can not substantially change the overall picture. In
any case, the Left Party-PDS has a good opportunity to
raise its profile as the only force consistently
opposing the neo- liberal policies of the German
political class.