Germany. 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.
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.
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