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Alejandro Navas García, Professor of Sociology, University of Navarra, Spain

The course of the defeated

Sun, 29 Sep 2013 15:59:00 +0000 Published in The Courier

The German electoral earthquake of September 22 has not yet stopped. Its aftershocks are shaking the defeated political parties, with a double manifestation: self-criticism and resignations. In Spain, this is a rare democratic warning that we hardly have the opportunity to contemplate.

Here, on election night, we hear nothing but triumphalist speeches. Everyone seems to have won, and it is hard to find a party or candidate that admits defeat. And then, we often hear the same explanation: "We have not been able to communicate our message adequately" or, in an even more regrettable version, "The people have not understood the message".

German politicians do not hide, they show their faces, they call a spade a spade. Self-criticism does not remain within the parties, but reaches the public without make-up. One of the "bombshells" of the election workshop was the defeat of the Freedom Party (FDP), which for the first time since 1949 will be left out of the Bundestag. Philip Rösler, its chairman, acknowledged on election night: "We are aware that the voters have rejected us. The FDP has let the citizens down". The next day he resigned, as did his running mate Rainer Brüderle and the party's executive committee at plenary session of the Executive Council. The general congress , originally scheduled for January, will be brought forward to elect a new leadership.

On September 22 there were also regional elections in the Land of Hessen. The FDP fared somewhat better than in the federal election: it narrowly won 5 % of the votes, thus securing its presence in parliament. But the decline was even greater than in the general election: 11.2 % compared to 9.2 %. As a result, the regional committee also resigned, also unanimously.

There will also be a complete renewal of the leadership of the Greens(Die Grünen), both in the party and in its parliamentary group . In the post-election internal discussion the program and the election campaign have been criticized mercilessly and equally. In the words of Josef Fischer, one of the party's heavyweights and former foreign minister: "The current leadership seems to have gained in age, but not in maturity. It has pursued a strategy that has not only failed to attract new voters, but has driven away many of the old ones. Instead of being about the environment, Europe and the family, the Greens have made the fatal mistake of talking only about taxes and contributions." The head of the list, Jürgen Trittin, initially resisted resigning, but internal pressure forced him to resign like the others.

The seismic wave of resignations has also reached the Pirates(Die Piraten). This group, an imitation of a similar one in Sweden, burst onto the German political scene like a meteor. Presenting itself as a party of protest or denunciation attracts the vote of the dissatisfied, but the lack of a coherent program and of prepared leaders has made them lose the ground they had gained. They are present in some regional parliaments, but in this federal election they did not get more than 2.2% of the votes. They expected more, so this failure has forced President Bernd Schlömer to resign.

The example set by these leaders reconciles us with the political class , vilified for so many and justified reasons. Candidates who recognize their mistakes and, consequently, withdraw to make way for others. They like power as much as anyone else, but they do not cling to the scepter at all costs. What is admirable and, for us, enviable is that it is a culture that is assumed naturally; resignation comes as a spontaneous reflex. The sense of responsibility and political dignity go hand in hand and make good that phrase we usually hear at the end of the election: "Democracy has won".