18 September 2006

News from Germany

Depressing news from Germany, 6.4% too many:

"Neo-Nazis capture seats in Merkel's home state
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Published: 18 September 2006

Neo-Nazis dealt an embarrassing political blow to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday after winning parliamentary seats in her eastern home state for the first time since the country's reunification in 1990.

The overtly racist National Democratic Party, won 6.4 per cent of votes in the Baltic coastal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where Mrs Merkel has her parliamentary constituency and keeps a holiday home.

Mrs Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats were narrowly beaten by the ruling Social Democrats in the state, which is renowned for having the highest unemployment in Germany. However, the Social Democrats lost more than 10 per cent of the vote, and it was unclear whether the party would continue its so-called "Red-Red" ruling coalition with reform Communists or attempt a grand coalition with the conservatives. Harald Ringstorff, the state's Social Democrat prime minister, described the NPD's gains as an " absolute catastrophe" yesterday.

He added: "Our most important task now is to take on these brown brothers and defeat them through argument." The NPD campaigned on a strongly anti-foreigner platform. Its share of the vote was enough to enable the party to enter the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament.

However, its leaders admitted the party's role would be confined to " stirring up opposition" to the established parties.

The party shocked Germany two years ago after obtaining seats in the eastern state of Saxony for the first time in 36 years.

In Berlin, where city state elections were also held yesterday, the ruling Social Democrats headed by the city's openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, captured 31 per cent of the vote to stay in power.

The Social Democrats faced the choice of continuing their ruling "Red Red" coalition with the reform-Communist Left party, or forming a new alliance with the Greens, who won over 13 per cent of the vote.

In Berlin, the outcome was also interpreted as a defeat for Mrs Merkel's conservatives, who won 21.6 per cent of the vote."

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