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Can the SPD bounce back from its EU disaster?

The Local · 8 Jun 2009, 13:23

Published: 08 Jun 2009 13:23 GMT+02:00

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Most observers agreed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their Bavarian allies had reason to celebrate despite seeing their share of the vote for the European Parliament fade from 44.5 percent five years ago to 37.9 percent. Why? Because their centre-left rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD) were demolished as their core voters stayed away from the polls.

The SPD scored a historic low of 20.8 percent, casting doubts over the party's chances for the German general election in September.

Many editorials on Monday believe CDU’s success is a harbinger of things to come in a few months.

“The lesson: Germans won’t exchange the horse they're riding in times of crisis. They also weren't persuaded by extremists and their promises. They were politically more mature than many other European countries. The perspective for the SPD, however, is bleak,” wrote the centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel.

Others commentators agreed Germans wanted stability, but also pointed to the extremely low voter turnout.

“The economic and financial crisis did not strengthen the political extremes. German voters backed what's proven to work,” opined the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The paper said SPD's leaders had not been able to regain the support of core voters put off by former Chancellor Gerhard Schöder's unpopular economic reforms five years ago. And that led the party to another dreadful result this time around: “Whoever mobilises [its base] wins.”

According to right-wing daily Die Welt, the results of the EU election must look like a complete disaster to the SPD's chancellor candidate, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, less than four months before the general election.

“How can the SPD ever have a chance at taking the chancellery, or even be able to plausibly explain these results?”

But with only 43 percent voters bothering to head to the polls on Sunday, others questioned its relevance in September.

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“Due to the disastrous voter turnout, this election shows an unclear picture of the political mood,” the centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote.

Instead, the paper expressed concern for the implications for what it meant to the European Union.

“The voter turnout is so undeservingly low, that one can almost speak of a democratic collapse,” the paper said. “EU elections always had a joke-vote flavour in Germany. That's not fair to Europe, but that's the way it was and is.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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