The first 2002 election campaign in which George W. Bush’s desire to attack Iraq became a major issue did not involve Republicans and Democrats. It was not even held in the United States. But it can still be said that Bush – and his proposed war–came out on the losing end of the contest.
German voters on Sunday gave a narrow, yet clear, mandate to the red-green coalition of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The dramatic come-from-behind win for Schröder’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its coalition partner, the Green Party, followed a campaign in which the chancellor promised to withhold German support for a US-led war against Iraq.
“Under my leadership, Germany will not participate in military action,” declared Schröder, in a blunt statement that distinguished the chancellor from Edmund Stoiber, the standard bearer of the conservative Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) alliance that sought to oust the four-year-old SPD-Green government.
“There’s still a big danger of war, and that is a point where we really have a differing opinion,” Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Schröder’s Green Party ally, said of the governing coalition’s differences with the Stoiber camp. “In no case should we escalate,” Fischer said of Germany.
German election analysts said Schröder’s outspoken and consistent stance regarding Iraq helped his party eliminate a nine-point deficit in the polls and pull ahead of the opposition in the closing days of the campaign. In Sunday’s voting The SPD-Green coalition won more than 47 percent of the vote and a majority of seats in the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. (The SPD was winning 37.6 percent of the vote in late returns, while the Greens earned 8.6 percent–the strongest national election finish in the party’s 22-year history. The Greens are generally viewed as pulling the coalition toward a more anti-war stance.)
Another four percent of the vote went to the left-wing Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which took an even more militantly anti-war stance than Schröder’s coalition. It appears that the PDS won several Bundestag seats in its east German strongholds, but is not expected to be a part of the coalition.
The likely coalition of Stoiber’s CDU-CSU alliance and the smaller Free Democratic Party was taking 46 percent of the vote.
Stoiber saw his poll lead erode after he promised to leave open the option of using military force to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. “We Europeans must co-ordinate our interests and bring them to bear with the United States,” Stoiber said, while accusing Schröder of “poisoning” German’s relations with the United States.