SPD suffers humiliating setback in Berlin poll

IMRE KARACS

Bonn

Germany's Social Democrats suffered a catastrophic rebuff yesterday in elections to the Berlin regional assembly, recording their lowest share of the vote since the war.

According to early projections, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats came first, with 37.2 per cent of the vote. The SPD came a poor second, scoring 23.6 per cent, down from 30.4 per cent obtained in the first elections in the reunited city, in 1990. The SPD can to some extent blame the Party of Democratic Socialism, successors to the Communists, which emerged as by far the biggest party in the eastern half of the city, with an impressive 35 per cent. Its figure for the whole of Berlin was just over 14 per cent, the same as the resurgent Greens.

The result is certain to intensify the struggle to oust Rudolf Scharping, the SPD's embattled leader. Although the Social Democrats seem set to remain the CDU's junior partners in the coalition governing Berlin, failure to score well in their former power base seriously undermines the party's credibility nationwide.

It was in West Berlin that Willy Brandt reigned supreme in the 1960s as governing mayor, gaining more than 60 per cent of the vote, before making his mark in Bonn. Although the fall of the Wall changed the arithmetic, Berlin is still a city where the non-Communist left should do well. Unemployment, at 250,000 out of a population of 3.5 million, remains high, despite a building boom.

The administration elected yesterday will be in charge of moving the national government back to the former Prussian capital. The SPD would love to have been the midwife at the birth of the Berlin Republic in 2000, and now that dream is shattered. Nor will it have a role on the national stage if the current defeats continue. After failing narrowly to oust Mr Kohl in last year's general elections, the Social Democrats have plunged into despair.

Riven by ideological infighting similar to that which blighted the British Labour Party in the 1980s, the SPD has also been cursed by poor leadership. In Mr Scharping, they have found a highly eligible scapegoat, but the alternatives for the leadership do not seem particularly alluring. The front-runner is Oskar Lafontaine, who so fatally misjudged the national mood on reunification in 1990.

The dearth of personalities was evident in the Berlin campaign. The SPD fielded the little-known Ingrid Stahmer as its candidate for mayor; her uninspired slogan was: "Women's Choice".

Ms Stahmer was up against the CDU incumbent, Eberhard Diepgen, who almost managed to look and sound like his party leader in Bonn. Both Mr Kohl and Mr Scharping turned up in Berlin - a double blow for Ms Stahmer, who complained about having to campaign "uphill and into a headwind".

But not all that happened in Berlin went in Mr Kohl's favour. The Free Democrats, the CDU's coalition partners in the national government, crashed out of yet another regional assembly by failing to clear the 5-per-cent threshold. This was their 12th defeat in a row, raising doubts about their ability to get into the national parliament in the 1998 general elections.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape