Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fukushima Catastrophe Had Another Victim: The Conservative Government Of Baden-Württemberg


Germany's conservatives, through the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), have ruled the country's richest state, Baden-Württemberg, for 58 years. That ended this weekend when state premier Stefan Mappus was defeated not by the Social Democrats but by the Greens! The CDU's share of the vote went from 44.2% in 2006 to 39% in Sunday's election, while the Green/Social Democrats coalition grew to just over 48%, enough to form a new government. (The Greens grew from 11.7% to 25%.) The Greens also tripled their share of the vote in Rhineland-Palatinate to 17% on Sunday and hold the key to the continued ability of the Social Democrats to continue governing. The state will be run by an SD/Green coalition now. Meanwhile, the corporate-party that works in coalition with the CDU, the Free Democrats, crashed and burned, dropping from 10.7% in 2006 to 5.3% Sunday and disappearing off the parliamentary map entirely in Rhineland-Palatinate by failing to get to the 5% threshold.

Later today, we're going to look at Germany's burgeoning alternative energy sector, but the vote Sunday had a great deal to do with the impatience of the voters to wean the country off fossil fuels and nuclear energy fast enough. The Free Dems and CDU were viewed as dragging their feet on behalf of corporate interests, even though Merkel-- sensing a political disaster-- moved rapidly against the nuclear industry after Fukushima. It was too late for voters, who largely saw it as a ploy, since she had just resisted public opinion by extending the lives of 17 plants by over 10 years each.

The outgoing Baden-Württemberg premier (or "minister president") has been a major advocate for nuclear energy and the party was on shaky ground even before the catastrophe in Fukushima. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, blamed her party's losses on fears sparked by the Japan nuclear crisis. "The debate in connection with the Japanese nuclear plant of Fukushima was clearly what led to our defeat," she said. "My view of atomic energy has changed since the events in Japan." The corporate rightist media in Germany reacted much the same way it reacts to victories by pro-worker candidates in the U.S.-- with warnings, hand-wringing and veiled threats.
Right-wing daily Die Welt called the potential new coalition in Baden-Württemberg a “bizarre constellation” that wouldn’t fit in-- at least not at first.

“Democracy can be exciting. It exists on the possibility of change,” the paper wrote. “The change in values has also washed over Baden-Württemberg - the bastion of tradition, and above all the industry success model for the country that continues to flourish-- and it has lost its quiet self-assurance.”

“A Greens-SPD coalition has against the foundations, the mentality, and many traditions of Baden-Württemberg. Thus the leaders of both parties-- despite the yells of triumph from backbenchers-- must try to avoid trampling everything.”

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