[Marxism] (CNN) Main parties struggle in East Germany - Left Party is the goer

Nobby nobbytob at yahoo.de
Mon Aug 22 14:21:55 MDT 2005

[ This week, the constitutional court will decide on the go-ahead for the elections on steptember 18. My next article for Green Left Weekly is in the pipelilne - stay tuned and check out http://www.GreenLeft.org.au/ ]
Main parties struggle in east Germany
By Kristina Cooke for CNN

Monday, August 22, 2005 Posted: 1053 GMT (1853 HKT) 

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Both Schroeder and Merkel are perceived as being too "western" in eastern Germany´.

(CNN) -- Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schroeder both took their campaigns to eastern Germany last week. Merkel faced heckles and catcalls in Wittenberg while Schroeder received a lackluster reception in Dresden.

The former GDR states are turning out to be one of the main battlefields in the election campaign. But while most analysts agree that the elections cannot be won in the east alone, they can certainly be lost there.

Now the main parties are worried: neither the center-left SPD nor the conservative CDU have been doing well in the region. Almost 16 years since the fall of the Wall, the main parties are still struggling to understand what makes eastern Germany tick.

Mainstream parties have not been popular in the east since unification. They are generally seen as "western" and removed from reality in the east. A number of high-profile gaffes by Conservative politicians have not helped matters.

The former Conservative leadership candidate Edmund Stoiber told a Bavarian audience that "the east should not be allowed to determine the outcome of the elections" and that "the frustrated should not be allowed to chose the next chancellor." He also suggested that "easterners" were less intelligent than "westerners."

CDU politician Joerg Schoenborn went one step further in incurring the wrath of the east German voter. He blamed the east's post-communist proletarian culture for the case of a mother killing her nine babies.

The SPD is accusing the CDU of trying to drive a wedge between east and west Germans. Speaking in Dresden this week, Schroeder said his opponents were "deepening the divides, in people's heads and sometimes in their hearts."

"There are people at work who don't want to bring this country together, but who are fostering new trends toward division,"

Merkel grew up in communist East Germany, and the CDU was hoping that her background would be an asset. Instead it may be working against her. She is still seen as a western politician in the east, because she represents a western party -- and she cannot go all out on the east German card, for fear of losing votes in the west.

There are other problems as well -- most observers say east Germans are more likely to vote on personality and enthusiasm -- and Merkel does not fit the bill.

But while Schroeder is slightly more popular than Merkel, his failure to deliver on pre-election promises is coming back to haunt him. 

In the last election campaign, he promised to make development of the east his own personal priority. Three years later unemployment is 20 percent in the east and problems such as migration of skilled labor to the west, bankruptcy and debt are still widespread.

Frustrated voters in the east instead seem more impressed by a new left-wing party that brings together the post-communist PDS party and a west-German left-wing party WASG under former SPD party chairman Oskar Lafontaine and PDS head Gregor Gysi.

There is an irony here that is not lost on the German media. Come September 18, Angela Merkel may well be elected Germany's first east German chancellor. But she may still lose the battle on her home ground.

• Analysis: Germans focus on TV debate• Analysis: The new 'Left Party' in Germany

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