Saturday, October 01, 2005

Norway, Germany, France, Italy and Poland; a rejection of neo-con policies.

Conn Hallinan, in The Berkeley Daily Planet, 30 September 2005, reports:

1. In Norway’s 12 September elections, a green-red coalition defeated a pro-business, anti-immigrant center-right government.

2. The same sort of thing is likely to be repeated in Italy and France next spring.

3. The figures in the recent German elections show a solid victory for the Left, and a defeat for neo-liberalism.

The Right took 45 percent of the vote and 286 seats.

The Left won 51.1 percent and 327 seats in the 613 seat Bundestag.

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/ Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) party won just 35.2 percent, losing 23 seats.

The real winner was the Left Party, a coalition of the eastern-based Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the former Communist Party, and the western-based Election Alternative for Labor and Social Justice (WASG). The latter is an alliance of left Social Democrats, trade unionists, young people, and environmentalists turned off by the Green Party leadership’s turn to the right.

The Left Party won 8.7 percent of the vote and 54 seats, vaulting it past the Greens to become Germany’s third largest party. It also took 25 percent of the vote in the east, and close to 5 percent in the west. In four western states it reached 5 percent, the point that makes it possible to serve in the Bundestag. If it does well in upcoming state parliamentary elections, it will fundamentally alter the political balance of power in Germany.

There was widespread disenchantment with the SDP/Green coalition’s Agenda 2010, which favored business while cutting jobless benefits and social services. However, the Left Party’s platform of raising minimum wages, restoring benefit cuts, and questioning the presence of U.S. bases in Germany drove the campaign to the left. It was clearly what the voters wanted, and they responded by tanking the right, spanking the SDP and the Greens, and rewarding the new Left Party.

4. France’s right-wing Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy latched on to Merkel’s brand of neo-liberalism as the salvation of France and the European Union. Her defeat will certainly put a crimp in his drive for the French presidency, giving the inside track to the more moderate candidacy of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

But, more importantly, the outcome of the German elections may further bolster the French Left that was recently energized by its successful “no” campaign to torpedo the European Union constitution.

5. Next spring’s Italian elections will most likely see a united Left coalition, L’Unione, drive the right-wing, pro-American coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from power.

L’Unione candidates took 12 out of 14 regional elections last spring, and the parties that comprise it have been at the core of street demonstrations and social actions around everything from globalization, to ending poverty and homelessness, to opposing the Iraq War.

The most recent poll shows L’Unione at 49.7 percent and the right at 45.2 percent.

6. Whoever wins in Poland, the Poles will probably withdraw their 1,500 troops from Iraq.


Conn Hallinan is a journalist and an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus.


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