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PostThuringia Elections: Die Linke, AfD Victorious (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 10/28/19 5:41 am)
In 2014, the state elections in the former East German state of Thuringia (Thüringen), which includes the state capital of Erfurt and the historically significant cities of Weimar, Jena, Eisenach and Gotha, generated a voter turnout of 52.7% and resulted in the formation of a "Rot-Rot-Grün" ruling coalition in the state parliament consisting of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Left Party (Die Linke) and the Green Party (Bündis 90/Die Grünen). This state election was one of the first in which a newly formed political party, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), participated. At that time, the German population and political pundits considered the AfD to be essentially a Eurosceptic party and it polled 10.6% of the vote.
The election held in Thuringia yesterday (October 27th) has resulted in a sea-change to the political landscape there. At the time of this writing, the AfD under the state leadership of the controversial politician, Björn Höcke, is projected to capture approximately 23.5% of the vote, which is an increase of 12.9% over the party's 2014 election results. The CDU appears to have been the biggest loser with a result of 21.8%, thereby experiencing a drop of 11.7% from its 2014 tally. The SPD's vote total also dramatically declined from 18.5% to 8.2%. The Left, however, was the overall big winner, pulling in 31% of the total votes cast in the state, which is an increase of 3.2% over its 2014 results. In contrast, the Greens polled only 5.2%, which is one percentage point less than what the party polled five years ago. The Free Democrats (FDP) came in close behind the Greens with 5.0%, which is the minimum percentage needed for Landestag representation. Voting turnout in 2014 was 52.7%, compared to 66% yesterday, which represents a dramatic increase in voter participation in the state. (N.B. Postal votes have not been counted in these results.)
The polling results for the AfD in Thuringia is consistent with the results it achieved in the state elections held earlier this year in the federal states of Brandenburg and Saxony, which were also former East German states--27.5% in Saxony and 23.5% in Brandenburg. Thuringia's state economy has done fairly well during the past nine years. Yet the state premier, Bodo Ramelow of The Left, pointed that the drop in unemployment from 11.9% in 2009 to 5.5% in 2018 was due to advances in "a few lighthouses, where economic development is working better: Jena, Erfurt, Weimar and Ilmenau." Ramelow also noted that mobility remains a key issue for state voters: "A lot of people who live in villages ask themselves, 'how am I supposed to get from my village to the nearest town?' One of the issues that has been neglected in Germany is the strengthening of the rail network and the trains."
The allure of the AfD in Thuringia for the voters is partially due to the anti-migration stance of the party, which is consistent with the polling results earlier this year in Brandenburg and Saxony. The AfD vote in Thuringia seems not to have been significantly affected by the far-right rhetoric of the state's party leader, Björn Höcke, which rhetoric includes metaphors penned earlier by Joseph Goebbels. Höcke has also criticized Germany's culture of remembrance concerning the Holocaust and in particular Berlin's Holocaust Memorial, which he described as a "memorial of shame." Nevertheless, an AfD arbitration panel decided in 2018 not to order Höcke's expulsion from the party. See, e.g., https://www.dw.com/en/despite-holocaust-remarks-afd-lawmaker-björn-höcke-allowed-to-remain-in-party/a-43715394 .
Based solely on the polling results described above, the CDU and The Left could combine in a ruling coalition, although the CDU has so far resisted entering into a coalition with this party due to its past association with the communist party of the former East Germany/German Democratic Republic. It also appears that a reestablishment of the existing coalition of SPD, Die Linke and Die Grünen is unattainable given a combined polling result of below 50%, although it would be possible for those parties to enter into a minority coalition. Olaf Scholz, who is a senior SPD member, Federal Minister of Finance, and Vice Chancellor in the Bundestag, sardonically observed yesterday that the vote results were "not pretty." Mike Möhring, the CDU leader in Thuringia, expressed similar sentiments by stating that the election producted a "bitter result" by not permitting the centrist parties to form a governing coalition.
JE comments: Extremism is the political mood of the day, seemingly everywhere. Postwar Germany used to be immune--as was the United States. No more. Might we be seeing a replay of the tumultuous 1930s?
(Apologies for today's late start. The laptop at WAIS HQ experienced a massive battery failure. I'm now editing from my office computer at the College.)
Umbria Parliamentary Elections: Lega Victorious
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
10/29/19 4:16 AM)
Fascinating results in the Thuringia elections in Germany (see Patrick Mears, October 28th), but in Italy we also had a very interesting regional election.
The election in Umbria gave a crushing victory 57.55% to the Center Right, while the sundry candidates of the Left got 37.48%.
The Italian Left is still dominated by the heirs of the Communists, but now they have become good lackeys of the US Empire and of the so-called EU. These poor folks used to be lackeys of the Soviet Empire. It appears they have to be lackeys of someone.
Another nice event was the voter turnout of 64.7%, an increase of 9% over last time.
The results were:
Lega of Salvini (Sovereignist) 36.95%, Fratelli d'Italia (the Social Right) 10.40%, Forza Italia (Berlusconi) 5.50%, other Center-Right 5.96%.
Democratic Party 22.33%, Movimento 5 Stelle 7.41%, other Center-Left 7.07%.
The region has been ruled by the Reds from the start of the regional system 50 years ago.
Four years ago the results were quite different:
DP 35.76%, other Center-Left 7.50%, Lega 13.99%, FI 8.53%, FdI 6.24%, other Center-Right 9.80%, M5S 14.56% (in 2018 in the national elections it reached 32.68%; now it is a complete disaster).
Therefore the present center-left government does not have any majority in the country, only a controversial majority in Parliament. I am going to have a nice cool Italian beer and look forward to new national elections--the sooner the better.
JE comments: What I gather from the Umbria results is the "death" of M5S, which not long ago rose just as quickly. Eugenio, do you believe 5 Stars is finished as a political movement? If so, why? Berlusconi's FI is also increasingly irrelevant, but continues to soldier on.
Is Italy's 5 Star Finished as a Political Party?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
10/30/19 10:32 AM)
Really I have no idea if Italy's 5 Star Movement is finished, as John Eipper asked.
But I do hope it is. So far they have screamed against the political system. When they acted alone, they could receive support from all the unsatisfied of this republic. Now that they have started making alliances with other parties, especially with the Democratic Party, people are not following them any more. Only the pro Left minority is following.
The leader of the 5 Stars stated yesterday that there will be no more alliances with other political parties for regional elections, but they will remain in the government only "for the good of the country" (sic).
As for Berlusconi, he is now an old man and he should retire and enjoy the last years of his life.
JE comments: If the 5 Stars have burnt out, as they seem to have done, we have yet one more example of the political truism: it's far easier to complain from the sidelines than to fix things once in power. Perhaps we can use the swamp analogy: can you drain it (the swamp) when you're stuck inside?
Swamps can be rather nice places, actually. So I will say this: the use of "swamp" as a political metaphor is not fair...to the swamps.
- Is Italy's 5 Star Finished as a Political Party? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/30/19 10:32 AM)