Sunday, September 17, 2006

Far right wins seats in German Elections

Reuters - A far-right party won seats in a regional parliament in eastern Germany on Sunday, profiting from a weak economy there and mounting anger towards Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in Berlin.

Preliminary results showed the National Democratic Party (NPD), which the government has likened to the early Nazi Party and tried to ban, won 6.4 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a northeastern state on the Baltic Sea which borders Poland.

If confirmed that result would allow the NPD, which advocates closing German borders to immigrants, to enter the regional assembly, making Mecklenburg-Vorpommern the third state in the ex-communist east with far-right representation.

The result alarmed mainstream politicians and Jewish groups, who called on the federal government to renew its bid to ban the party after a previous attempt in 2003 failed.

"The government must look for ways to impose a ban," Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, told Reuters.

Results showed the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) winning 28.8 percent of the vote in the state, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) 29.7 percent and the reformed communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) 18.1 percent.

That should allow the SPD and PDS, who have ruled in coalition in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for the past eight years, to remain in government -- a blow to Merkel, whose CDU was given a decent chance of seizing power.

Voter disillusionment with Merkel's national government in Berlin, which has been plagued by infighting and struggled to deliver on promised reforms, has contributed to the rise of smaller parties like the NPD. Merkel heads a grand coalition with the SPD after inconclusive elections a year ago.

The constituency of Germany's first female leader is in the rural east German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, but this week in the villages on the state's coast, hundreds of black, red and white election placards with slogans such as "Asylum cheats - Out !", "Work not immigration!" and images of clenched fists with the word "Enough!" were plastered across walls and hanging from lamp posts.