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Yearbook 2004

2004 GermanyGermany. The protests continued during the year against the savings package, Agenda 2010, which the Social Democrat-led government managed to get through just before the turn of the year. Half a million people took part in a protest march in April, and after the summer, repeated demonstrations were directed mainly at the changes in unemployment benefits included in the package.

According to CountryAAH, the Social Democratic SPD also continued to lose members and suffer stinging electoral defeat. The party received a record low 21% in the EU elections in June, compared to 44% for the Christian Democratic CDU. The SPD also lost voters in all five state elections held during the year. Thus, the SPD had lost seven of nine state elections since the beginning of 2003, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched its reform package.

2004 Germany

The only state where the SPD won despite voter turnout was Brandenburg. At the same time, as in Saxony, the former communists in PDS maintained their strong position, with 28 and 23% of the votes respectively. In both eastern German states, right-wing extremist parties also progressed strongly. In Saxony, 9% of the votes went to the National Democratic NPD, considered by many as neo-Nazi. In Brandenburg, the German People's Union received DVU 6%. The CDU also lost many voters in the two East German states, where the elections were held in September. The same happened when the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia held municipal elections later that month. There, the SPD managed to stay at about the same level as in the previous elections and soon showed opinion polls on a general recovery for the SPD.

For the first time, a majority of Germans also said they would accept the tough program of measures that Chancellor Schröder, despite the protests, continued to claim was necessary to get the economy settled. Schröder was also considered to have won in February resigning as party chairman in the SPD. He was succeeded by Franz Müntefering.

Germany got a new head of state in July, when Horst Köhler took over after Johannes Rau. Köhler was the candidate of the bourgeois parties and was appointed by an electoral college where the bourgeois are in the majority. He most recently came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he has been head since 2000.

There were few signs of economic recovery during the year and the budget deficit fell above the EU ceiling of 3% of GDP for the third consecutive year. Growth was weak, but still at a plus, unlike the previous year when the economy shrank by 0.1%. Unemployment also continued to grow, approaching 4.5 million people by the end of the year, or almost 11%. The worst was in eastern Germany, where one in five went without work.

In February, Moroccan Abd al-Ghani Mzoudi was released from suspicion of involvement in the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001. This led to the Constitutional Court ripping the convict a year earlier against another Moroccan, Mounir Motassadeq, because it was based on the same evidence. Motassadeq, known as the only one in the world sentenced for the Sept. 11 deed, was released on formal grounds and set free. However, he had admitted to conspiring with the terrorist cell in Hamburg that several of the perpetrators were included in, although he denied that he would have known about the assault plans. In August, a new trial was initiated against Motassadeq.

During the year, several German states forbade teachers to wear Muslim headscarves. The Constitutional Court had the year before ruled that federal law permits headscarf, but that the states have the right to impose a ban on religious symbols.

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