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PostElections in States of Brandenburg and Saxony: September 1 (Patrick Mears, Germany, 09/02/19 4:32 am)
Yesterday German voters cast their ballots in the federal states of Brandenburg and Saxony, both of which had formed parts of the now-dissolved East Germany, in order to elect their respective state parliaments, or Landtage.
These elections were held against a background of increasing economic angst in the former East, where economic development has lagged behind the states of "West Germany" since unification on October 3, 1990. These fears are not limited to the eastern third of the country. All of Germany presently faces strong economic headwinds, including the threat of recession occurring at the end of this quarter, slowing domestic spending and reduced levels of exports, accompanied by tariff threats from the US against Germany's important motor vehicle industry. In addition, anticipated strong showings by the right-wing Alternative for Deutschland party (AfD) in both of these German federal states gave rise to worries that this party would result in a plurality of votes in both states, although not enough to give the AfD a majority in either state. The headline results from yesterday's election were continued electoral pluralities of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Brandenburg and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Saxony. Because neither the SPD nor the CDU garnered more than 50% of the votes in these states, these parties are now searching for coalition partners to form working majorities in these parliaments, as both parties had done before after their prior state elections in 2014. Both the SPD and the CDU have ruled out coalition talks with the AfD on ideological grounds.
Prior to yesterday's elections, opinion polls reflected that the SPD and the AfD were running neck-and-neck in Brandenburg, with each expected to capture approximately 21-22% of the vote. Because the SPD and other mainstream parties in Germany had ruled out entering into a coalition with the AfD in either of these two elections, a successful polling effort by the AfD would complicate not only the formation of a governing coalition but also the process of governing Brandenburg. The official preliminary results evidence that the SPD captured the highest percentage of votes in this state (26.2%), representing a 5.7% decrease from the party's showing at the polls five years ago. The AfD came in second with 23.5% of the vote, which represents a 11.3% increase in the AfD's results from 2014, when it was known primarily as a Eurosceptic, and not an anti-immigration, party. The CDU received yesterday 15.6% of the Brandenburg vote, a 4.2% decrease from five years ago, while the Greens almost doubled their share of the vote from 2014 with a 10.8% showing.
As in Brandenburg, the voters in Saxony gave the party leading the current governing coalition, the CDU, the largest share of the vote, with 32.1%. This represents a decrease of 7.1% from the CDU's result in 2014. Also as in Brandenburg, the AfD came in second with 27.5%--a whopping 17.8% increase over the party's vote tally of five years ago. The Greens slightly improved on its 2014 results by garnering 8.6% of the total vote. The major losers in this poll were The Left (Die Linke), dropped from 18.9% in 2014 to 10.4% yesterday, and the SPD, which plummeted from 12.4% to 7.7%.
The immediate next step to be taken by the SPD in Brandenburg and the CDU in Saxony is for those parties to attempt to form coalition governments. One possible coalition in Brandenburg is the creation of a "Black-Red-Green," coalition, otherwise known as a "Kenya Coalition," consisting of the CDU, the SPD and the Greens. in Saxony, a coalition of the CDU, the Left and the Greens is also possible. One last state election remains to be conducted in Germany this year, that of Thuringia, which will go to the polls on October 27th.
JE comments: Danke, Pat! Despite falling short of victory in both states, the AfD is surging. The question is whether its 1/4 of the electorate is a "natural" ceiling of support. The two mainstream parties would rather join forces with each other than accommodate the AfD. Is there any chance this approach could backfire, and leave the ultra-right AfD as the only meaningful "Alternative"?
What is AfD's Level of Support Among the German Electorate?
(Patrick Mears, Germany
09/03/19 4:24 AM)
This is just a brief response to the questions that JE appended to my post of September 2nd.
First, a few of the news articles that I have read state that the results achieved by the AfD in Sunday's elections approach the percentages achieved by that party in those two states in the German federal elections of 2017. Here is the link to a chart that I found that indicates the varied strength of the AfD's polling results in that election two years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_for_Germany#/media/File:Btw17afd.svg . The AfD vote then was, in general, the strongest in Saxony and also in Brandenburg, especially in those areas along the Oder-Neisse line. Also note the strong results achieved by the AfD in 2017 in the state of Thuringia, which is the next batter up on October 27th.
Concerning John's second question, I suspect that there is at least a historical basis to the objection of the other German political parties to entering into coalition discussions with the AfD--namely, the experience of Germany in January 1933, when Franz von Papen engineered the selection of Hitler as Chancellor, while believing that Hitler could be controlled ("boxed in") afterwards. I have to believe that no German politician desires to wear a similar label down the line, in the event that bringing the AfD into the federal government would produce like results.
JE comments: The AfD support base (above link) forms an exact outline of the former DDR, with Saxony (excluding Dresden itself) the highest level of all. Are the Saxons historically "righty" in their politics, or are they simply the most alienated?
In a corollary to Godwin's Law, nobody dares to risk becoming the next Franz von Papen. Might we call him history's greatest dupe? His was a life of varied service to the Reich(s), although he was invariably on the wrong side. As a diplomat in Washington during WWI, he became involved in the Mexican Revolution and the ultra-right reaction of Victoriano Huerta. Papen later sought to sabotage Allied-own properties in the United States. He spent most of WWII tucked away as Hitler's ambassador to Ankara, and survived into old age (1969).
Franz von Papen, and Sundry Thoughts on WWII History
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
09/04/19 4:04 AM)
Very interesting post from Patrick Mears (September 3rd) and the comments of our esteemed moderator.
However, for a fair historical point of view, we should add the following.
1) Von Papen was not invariably on the wrong side; he was on the defeated side. For instance, there is nothing wrong for a military attaché in an officially neutral state to care for the interests of his own state against the enemies.
2) Maybe the East Germans were not brainwashed enough by the Russians, and so now they are more independent. To be sure, the Westerners cleared fewer Nazis than the Russians did for their own purposes. Remember for example Von Braun and Arthur Rudolph. See the 1965 book "La Chasse aux Savants Allemands" by Michel Bar-Zohar. Or more precisely, the Soviets cleared not only "savants" but also more normal politicians.
In the American Zone, the German people were at first almost starved to extinction (see the Morgenthau Plan, etc.). This was prevented only by former President Hoover and by the average American citizens.
As part of the De-Nazification process, the Americans required each adult German to fill out a form called "Fragebogen" to check his or her past.
This reminds me of how for almost 20 years after the end of WWII, Italian seamen arriving at any US port were compelled to fill out a form stating if they had been Fascist, etc.
In 1947, 90,000 Germans were in jail while 1,900,000 of the purged could work only in menial jobs. In Italy something similar occurred. For example, a future historian and deputy in Parliament survived by smuggling cigarettes from Switzerland to Milan.
All media was censored by the US Information Control Division (from the Psychological Warfare Department), which controlled 37 newspapers, 6 radio stations, 314 theaters, 642 cinemas, 101 magazines, 237 editors, and 7384 printing facilities and libraries. A list was drawn up of more than 30,000 books to be destroyed. Wasn't it supposed to be only the criminal Hitler (and the Inquisition during the Middle Ages) who burned books?
Only in 1948 thanks to the Soviet menace did things start to improve. On 31 January 1951 Adenauer proclaimed an amnesty. By 1952, even Otto Skorzeny was then considered "de-Nazified."
3) WWII started on 3 September 1939 when the UK and France declared war on Germany to save Poland. But they did not declare war on the Soviet Union on 17 September 1939--very strange or not?
On 1 September 1939 a local war started for border regulations.
By the way if Italy in 1915 was right to join the UK and France in the Great War to free Trento and Trieste and France to get back Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine), why was Hitler wrong to recover Danzig (95% German)?
Just a moment: In 1900 Elsass-Lothringen was not inhabited by a German majority of 86.8% and a French minority of 11.5%? So why did France want the region back?
If we want to use 1 September, why not use the 7 July 1937 start of the Sino-Japanese conflict?
JE comments: WAISdom's in-house Bastian Contrario, Eugenio Battaglia, is in rare form today. Orthodox histories would never place the beginning of WWII with the Anglo-French declaration of September 3rd 1939, but I concede that Eugenio is correct in the literal sense: For 48 hours after September 1st, it was a "regional" war between Germany and Poland.
And why, too, didn't the Allies likewise declare war on Stalin for invading Poland? I'll concede (again) that this question never occurred to me.
But should the Allies have overlooked Poland, and waited until Hitler turned on France? O Bastian, please...
- Franz von Papen, and Sundry Thoughts on WWII History (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/04/19 4:04 AM)