Monday, 15 September 2014

Three Landtagswahlen in a boat, not to mention the Swedish general election

Hello, readers, while many of you have been busy with affairs in the UK, three German states, all in former East Germany, held Landtagswahlen (elections for state parliaments), and Sweden held its 2014 general election yesterday.

I will go first to the elections of the German states of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia respectively.


This election actually concluded two weeks ago, but I thought it would be best to group it with the Brandenburg and Thuringia landtag elections for convenience.

There was a relative lack of change for four of the main parties in that landtag-the CDU only gained 1 seat, Die Linke lost two (including one of the only two non-CDU held Direktmandaten, and the SPD gained four but thankfully could still not overtake Die Linke; the Greens meanwhile unfortunately lost one seat; the seats in the landtag itself were reduced from 132 to 126 for an unknown reason. As expected, the right-wing, anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered a state parliament for the very first time, winning 14 seats and coming fourth overall. As also expected, the classical liberal FDP crashed out of the landtag, dropping from 10% of the vote to 3.8% of the vote, with the consequent loss of all 14 seats and finishing behind the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Thankfully, the NPD lost their 8 seats as well, even if only by 0.05% of the votes cast.


This proved an outright disaster for Die Linke, by the standards of eastern provinces. Probably due to their collaboration with the SPD (a mistake I hope they will never again repeat!) in Brandenburg in the past, they went down from 26 seats to 17 and worse still, Die Linke were pushed into third place by the CDU, who only gained 2 seats partly due to the entrance of AfD. AfD's performance was the best of the three recent landtag elections; they won a frighteningly high 12.2% of the vote and 11 seats. At least the Greens managed to gain one seat when they have been losing seats in recent landtag elections of note.

The defection of an SPD legislature member to the Free Voters of Brandenburg (FW aka Freiwahlen) allowed the Free Voters to gain 3 seats, all via Direktmandaten, in the Brandenburg landtag. This state election is the most humiliating the FDP have had to endure-they finished in ninth place (down from fourth in 2009), losing all 7 seats and with a derisory vote share of 1.5%, behind that of the Pirate Party and NPD.


Finally, some good news for the German left-Die Linke gained one seat overall, whilst the SPD lost six seats in Thuringia. Unfortunately, the CDU gained 4 seats at the same time, which means the grand coalition (CDU-SPD) can just about continue in Thuringia (the CDU now have 34 seats, the SPD now have just 12, less than half that of Die Linke's 28 seats; 46 seats are needed for a majority). On seats basis, a Die Linke led coalition between Die Linke, the SPD, and the Greens is just about possible (1 seat majority), and in my opinion it would allow the German left to not only keep the right-wing CDU out of the Thuringian administration but also to implement progressive and socialist policies in a state parliament for the first time in many years. However, the SPD and the Greens are unlikely to cooperate with Die Linke as junior partners any more than the CDU is willing to allow AfD to become a junior coalition partner at any level. 

The FDP lost all 7 of their seats in Thuringia and finished 6th behind the NPD with only 2.5% of the vote-pretty much par for the course in Germany now. The FDP over the last few decades, has helped shift Germany well to the right economically, has joined coalitions of just about any type in Germany when it can, and it is now paying the price for its backstabbing ways.

With all those recent losses, the FDP now has only 64 seats across the various German state parliaments out of a possible 1,857, amounting to only 3.4% of all German landtage seats, no MPs at all in the Bundestag, and just 3 MEPs when it won 12 in 2009. In the next few years, the FDP may ultimately meet its demise, or at least a permanent split-recent events have shown that the FDP is effectively finished as a significant force in German politics.

The Swedish general election:

Despite optimistic predictions for progressive parties in Sweden's polls right up to the election yesterday, the overall result was a great disappointment to left-wing greens like myself. Feminist Initiative only managed 3.1% of the vote and did not make it into the Swedish Parliament (aka the Riksdag) in the end; the Greens actually lost 1 seat even though previous election polls predicted they would gain at least a few, and the Swedish Left Party (Vansterpartiet) only gained 2 seats overall. Worse still, the far-right Swedish Democrats ballooned in support, finishing with 49 seats (more than twice their 2010 total) and coming third overall in the election.

However, it can conclusively be said that as predicted, Frederik Reinfeldt is no longer Prime Minister of Sweden, as his Moderate Party (the Swedish equivalent of our own Conservative Party, albeit not quite as right-wing) lost 23 seats, nearly three times the losses of his coalition partners (Centre, Liberal People's, and the Christian Democrats) put together. The Social Democrats actually only gained 1 seat, and even with the combined support of the Swedish Greens and Swedish Left, they will not have enough seats to form a majority (the total seats of these 3 parties only comes to 158, 17 short of a majority). This is a serious problem as the Social Democrats are not as committed to anti-privatisation measures as the Greens and Left are-one notable example is that the Social Democrats do not oppose free schools, which have been one of Sweden's most notorious social disasters, but just want more quality control on them-not good enough. In my opinion, the Greens and the Left must stand firm on such issues to help Sweden turn away from the overly pro-free market model, and not concede to the SDs' leader, Stefan Lotven unless they absolutely cannot avoid it.

On another note, heading back to Britain, I am pleased to say the Green Party will be standing in the Heywood and Middleton by-election of 9th October after all, and that if Scotland votes for independence this Thursday even though the 'No' side of the referendum campaign is still in the lead, I believe devolution should spread across England as well, because England, like Germany, has many cultural and social differences between its regions. In particular, Yorkshire and Cornwall would benefit well from devolution-they have demonstrated with their dialects, cuisine, and social attitudes that they are almost small nations in their own right.


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