World News from World Newspapers

About Us Archives   Classroom Use  
World News from World Newspapers
Africa
Americas
Asia
Europe
Middle East
World Newspapers World Maps
World Newspapers
World Maps

News from Latin America and Canada African News Middle Eastern News European News Asian News Click an area of the map for world news.
Africa
Americas
Asia
Europe
Middle East






:











From the January 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 1)

Germany

Political Earthquake


Tekla Szymanski
Associate Editor

For a city proud to be united, Berlin is now more divided than ever. In its municipal elections on Oct. 21, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) under Mayor Klaus Wowereit won a landslide victory with 29.7 percent of the vote. The successor party to the East German Communists (PDS) received 22.6 percent (one out of every two votes in Eastern Germany). The Christian Democrats, who were was ousted in June 2001 amid a banking scandal and their mayor replaced by Wowereit, suffered their worst defeat in postwar history. But the ensuing debate over which coalition should govern the city—SPD, Greens, and the more conservative Free Democrats (forming a so-called “ample coalition”), or SPD and PDS (a red-red coalition)—kept the city buzzing for weeks.

After direct intervention of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Wowereit passed over the option of a stable coalition with the former communists—which would have bridged the division between East and West—and chose the ample coalition instead. That fueled anger among East Germans that their voice, yet again, had not been heard. Their hopes for a first-ever chance to share power in municipal politics since unification were crushed, as was PDS’s outspokenness in opposition to the U.S.-led war against terrorism. Berlin will be governed by a broad, more conformist yet unstable coalition, which will have to tackle the capital’s mounting problems—among them the city’s US$35 billion debt. The media were left puzzled. “Whatever decision the SPD would have made, they would have alienated the other half of the city,” wrote Der Spiegel (Oct. 29). “What weighs more? Stability in the city or a stable majority for the chancellor in next year’s election? East Germans will not forget.” Berlin’s political division leaves a bitter taste. “Two cities voted,” opined Helmut Schödel in Süddeutsche Zeitung (Oct. 23). “The [Berlin] wall still exists. This city is united, yet divided into two.” And Oliver Gehrs added in the same paper: “This is a city where we don’t give the former communists an inch.” More than that: According to Nick Reimer, writing in Die Tageszeitung (taz) (Oct. 23) under the sarcastic headline “Again Those Easterners!” “...never before have so many East Berliners voted for the PDS. We have two separate political cultures in Germany.” Interestingly enough, PDS’s largest voter base is under 24 years old. Thus, “hopes that the voters of the ex-communist party will soon die out have been proved wrong,” stated Majid Sattar in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Oct. 22). Konrad Adam, writing in Die Welt (Oct. 22), draws a disturbing conclusion: “The election has shown that the political center in Berlin is eroding. Two world wars, two totalitarian and two monetary systems have destroyed, driven out, and neutralized the social stratum that made up the center.” That Berlin’s future is as grim, however, remains to be seen: The city has always managed to overcome political challenges.


 
Daily News War on Terrorism


International News and International Freedom of the Press




  Back

Home About Us Privacy Notice Jobs