Great anti-PDS coalitions in the city council were supposed to freeze out the socialists in Schwerin, Rostock, and Neubrandenburg. The exclusion made the pariahs strong. Nobody gave the PDS an office; they never had to prove their ability. Now these cities are among their strongholds.
“The mammoth coalition gave rise to grotesque mistakes,” says Michael Will, editor of the local paper Unser Schwerin [Our Schwerin]. “Everyone was fighting, and the PDS was able to gain stature with populist campaigns.” The mayoral candidate from the PDS, Gerd Böttger, also admits: “We did virtually nothing constructive; almost all we did was prevent things.”
Since its most recent electoral success, at the very latest, the PDS is a party that can no longer be ignored on the municipal level. In Schwerin it holds 18 of 47 seats on the city council. In Halle it represents the strongest group with 26 of the electoral votes. There are “certainly pleasant and intelligent people” in the PDS group, says Jürgen Schmitz, who represents the CDU in the city council of Halle. And when a sensible issue is at stake, “you don’t look where the votes are coming from.” In the Hanse city of Wismar, where the Social Democrats have now scored a sensational electoral result, the PDS has already shared the responsibility of governing for four years: it runs the housing department. “We work together well with the PDS,” says mayor Rosemarie Wilcken (SPD). The department chief from the PDS, a toy merchant, is a nice fellow and his accomplishments for the city are undisputed, “but he has not achieved more than others.” Ever since, Wismar knows: the PDS can’t work magic.
“I’ve offered the same working conditions to all the parties,” says Klaus Czundaj, CDU mayor of Sangerhausen in Saxony-Anhalt. “I try to include them in every decision from the very beginning.” And he has gone to PDS party meetings on several occasions to solicit support for his planned municipal policies. In the medieval town hall, the coalitions change on a case-by-case basis. “Substantive issues force a consensus,” says Czundaj. The PDS, too, could not avoid dealing with the financial problems. “We just have to explain it to them.” For eighty percent of all city council decrees, not a single dissenting vote is recorded in the protocol. For the budget deliberations, the council went into closed session – three days in a remote hotel. The budget was passed unanimously. The PDS was there, of course.
Source: Sabine Rückert, Wolfgang Gehrmann, Kuno Kruse, and Dirk Kurbjuweit, “Die Einheiz-Partei” [“The Party that Lights a Fire”], Die Zeit, June 24, 1994.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap