Hessians and Mercenaries in German Politics

11-25-08, 10:23 am

BERLIN – In George Washington’s day, “Hessians” was a synonym for mercenaries – German soldiers bought and sold by King George III to defeat the American Revolution. In today’s West German state of Hesse, where those soldiers came from, the word “mercenaries” is currently being applied to just four people, not foot soldiers but delegates to the state legislature. Were they bought and sold? By whom? The question is still open. What is known is that they betrayed their party, the Social Democrats, stymieing hopes to oust the local tyrant, minister president Ronald Koch. Their betrayal has consequences – not only for the six million people of Hesse. It is of symbolic importance.

Last January, after nine years in office, Koch, 50, campaigned for a third term for his so-called Christian Democrats (CDU) and their equally far-right ally, the Free Democrats. Correctly fearing that more and more Hessians were sick of them, he stooped to the nastiest of attacks against “young immigrant thugs” and “criminal foreigners.” His posters played on the foreign-sounding names of the leaders of both Social Democrats and Greens, and on the attempts of the new party, the Left, to get into the legislature: “Stop Ypsilanti, El-Wazir and the Communists”. His Free Democrat allies resorted to the worn old “Freedom or Socialism” slogan.

This time it didn’t work. Koch’s CDU got only 36.8 percent of the vote, a loss of more than 12 percentage points and its worst defeat in years. Andrea Ypsilanti, a dynamic, competent, pleasant-looking new figure on the political scene, whose program was more socially-conscious than that of her fellow Social Democrats on the national level, made big gains and achieved 36.7 percent. This was sensational – but still one tenth of a point behind Koch.

Additional resources:

Podcast #88 - The Prospect for Democracy in China

Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner