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Analysis. It was Martin Schulz’s worst election performance ever. But the Left is showing signs that East Germany is no longer off limits.

As SPD faces apocalypse, the Linke grows in the East

The two “red” parties, heirs of the history of the workers’ movement, are in very different situations after the polls. For the SPD Social Democrats, it is the worst result ever. They lost 1.5 million votes to the left and right; meanwhile, Linke earned 0.6 percent and can smile.

The emblem of the defeat for the former Willy Brandt’s party is the fall of every stronghold: It is ranked first only in a tiny constituency, the city of Bremen (26.8 percent), while in the “Emilia Romagna” of North Rhine-Westphalia the result of 26 percent is an apocalypse. Martin Schulz and his companions also tremble for the 27.4 percent achieved in Lower Saxony, the vast western region whose capital is Hanover: by itself is the best result of the country, but on Oct. 15, there will be local elections in that region for the local parliament, and the numbers say the outgoing SPD government is in serious risk of going home. And in Germany, the regional executive elections count a lot.

If one looks east, the data is shocking. In Saxony a dramatic 10.5 percent, in Thuringia 13.2 percent, just over 15 percent in Saxony-Anhalt and in Angela Merkel’s Mecklenburg. In the former East German Republic, the Social Democrats are now a medium-small force, very far from the size of a Volkspartei, that popular and mass party that it should be in theory.

The selection of the new Bundestag leadership is now heading for a new direction: The moderate Thomas Oppermann is out, and it is now Andrea Nahles’ turn, the outgoing Labor Minister, and above all the most visible figure in the party’s left. It is therefore to be expected that, at least the SPD has the serious intention of becoming the strong opposition, recovering the consensus of its traditional electoral constituencies and perhaps finally beginning to build an agreement with the Linke at the federal level and not just in individual Länder (the two parties administer Berlin and Thuringia in coalition).

Schulz remains party secretary until the congress at the end of the year, when a possible change can occur: Until now, nobody has asked for the head of the former president of the European Parliament.

While the voters wait for the SPD to become truly social democratic, the Left, guided in these elections by Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch, enjoys some affirmations in eastern Germany that confirm its traditional role. It is the first party across eastern Berlin, including neighborhoods in high social discomfort like Marzahn (26 percent) and Lichtenberg (29 percent). In the former East German Republic, however, there is a total regression for the benefit of the AfD.

The real positive thing for the Linke is something else: On Sunday, the voters said that the “communist danger” is no longer frightening to the West.

In Bremen, it is the third force (13.5 percent). In Hesse, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, it earned almost as many votes as the Greens. However, they managed to win in the most left-leaning constituency of the federal republic, Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain, the heart of the alternative Berlin (where the sum of CDU, AfD and Liberals reached only 21 percent).

In the derby fight to win the representation of the country’s revolutionary enclave, the Kurdish ecologist candidate Canan Bayram stood out. She has already announced that she will never vote for a new Merkel government, even if her own party supports it. Therefore, there is a legitimate satisfaction in the ranks of the most left-wing party in Germany.

But there are also hints of self-critical reflection: “The result in the East shows that we underestimated the fears generated by the refugees issue,” said Wagenknecht, the most orthodox soul in the party. She has never hidden the fact she has a different opinion than secretary Katja Kipping, who’s more movement-like and “no borders.”

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