Full Citation

  • Title Soviets' Zone Vote Is Short of Goal
  • Author Higgins, Marguerite
  • Publication Title New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Collection New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Date Tuesday,  Oct. 8, 1946
  • Issue Number 19809
  • Page Number 2
  • Place of Publication Paris, France
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The New York Times Company
Soviets’ Zone Vote Is Short of Goal Moscow-Sponsored Socialist Unity Party Fails to Attain Promised Results, and Heads May Roll Among Communist Leaders NUREMBERG. THE recent election in the Soviet Zone, now that all the returns are finally in, emerge as a signi¬ ficant clew to Soviet methods as an occupation power in Germany. The key point about the elections is that the Soviet-sponsored Social¬ ist Unity party, despite its paper majority, failed to accomplish one of the results promised to the Sov¬ iet administration by the Berlin Communists: a victory that would show the Left capable of winning- By Marguerite Higgins and keeping in future elections— indisputable control of the Soviet Zone. And in the past few weeks German political circles have buzz¬ ed with rumors that some heads would roll among the Communist leaders here who assured the Rus¬ sians that fusion of Social Demo¬ crats and Communists into one party would mean a clean sweep (a 90-per-cent majority was at one time predicted). The extent of the failure can only be guaged by comparing votes of the Right and Left-wing parties, city by city. The over-all returns, province by province, which of course show a majority for the Socialist Unity party, are mislead¬ ing because in many election dis¬ tricts the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democrats were not permitted to put up candidates. In other words, voters had no choice except to vote for the Socialist Unity party or cast invalid ballots. The Soviet administration refused permission for the Christian Demo¬ crats and Liberal Democrats to put up candidates mainly in the rural areas. These areas in the Soviet Zone which traditionally vote conservative were thus cap¬ tured by the Left for the first time, though it could hardly be called a triumph since there was no competition. Crucial Testing- Ground The crucial testing ground for the Socialist Unity party were in¬ dustrial towns such as Leipzig and Halle, which in pre-Hitler days were overwhelmingly Left. In Leipzig, for instance, the Communists in the 1930 Reichstag elections won 83,980 votes and the Social Democrats gained 158,603. The combined vote of the Left was twice as much as the votes of all the other parties put together, including the Nazis. It was an understandable blow to the Socialist Unity leaders and the Soviet administration both, there¬ fore, that in 1946 the trend in such places as Leipzig was reversed with the two Rightist parties win¬ ning the greatest number of votes in what was supposedly a Marx¬ ist stronghold. In the city of Leipzig the Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats in combina¬ tion polled 196,505 votes compared to 177,777 for the Socialist Unity. The Christian Democratic vote of 82,486 was in itself astonishing since this party is associated- with Catholicism and there are virtual¬ ly no Catholics in Saxony. In 1930 the party which was the nearest equivalent of the CDU—the Cen¬ trum-polled only 6,000 votes. The Christian Democratic leaders freely admit that in the last elec¬ tion many of the votes were simply those of discontented Social Demo¬ crats Who wished to protest the forced fusion of their party with the Communists and in so doing register a protest against the Soviet Occupation power. Analysis of Elections An analysis of the Soviet elec¬ tions must be made in two parts. There Is no question from an American point of view that the election was staged in favor of the Socialists as far as equal elec¬ tioneering opportunities is con-1 many. cerned. Also it was unfair because the Rightist parties were not al¬ lowed to put up candidates in many districts in Mecklenburg. In Pom¬ erania, for instance, the Christian Democrats had candidates in only 50 per cent of the election districts. But there is also no question that the procedures of voting were scrupulously fair under the Soviet administration. The ballot was secret, the count was fair, and there was no intimidation. This reporter, who dropped in on several polling .places in Mecklen¬ burg on election day, found every¬ thing run with scrupulous order. Representatives of the several par¬ ties were on hand as poll watchers and vote counters. But the tour of the province also confirmed the inequalities of elec¬ tioneering opportunities. STMP, CDU and LDP complaints of insuf¬ ficient paper for posters and pro¬ paganda were borne out by a glance at th: towns and villages through which we drove. Socialist Unity party banners, flags and slogans ■were everywhere. In some places they seemed to have propaganda monopoly for not a CDU or LDP flag or poster was to be seen. Uneasy Point for Soviets Even the most anti-Soviet poli¬ ticians with whom we spoke—and our Soviet escorts allowed us a fair amount of freedom—had to admit that the nefarious election day swindles put on by the Nazis did not exist under the Soviet regime. But the uneasy point for the Soviets is that in such places as the highly industrialized land of Saxony, in spite of the fact that the elections were stacked, the Socialist Unity party only received 54 per cent of the vote, and the key city of Dresden had a Right party vote that outdid the Socialist Unity group. In Thuringia the situation was even worse in places where the Right’ was allowed to put up candidates, and a fair fight ensued. In the cities of Eisenach, Erfurt, Gotha and Weimar the Liberal Democratic party polled the most votes, with the Socialist Unity party running second and the Christian Democratic Union third. In indus¬ trial Halle and Merseberg the com¬ bined Right again outdid the com¬ bined Left. Brandenburg was the only place where the Socialist Unity party could claim a really thump¬ ing victory. This brings up the question of whether in future elections the So¬ viet administration can afford to be fair. Can it afford, for instance, on October 20, to allow the Christ¬ ian and Liberal Democrats to put up candidates in rural districts as well as the cities? But in the last election in which the Right was already at a dis¬ advantage, the results were a warn¬ ing of the competition the Right could give in a really fair election. Does democracy mean enough to the Soviets fer them to take that chance in the forthcoming elec¬ tions? This is the question to watch. The answer may v 11 show whether Stalin’s "democratization of Ger¬ many” Is just a bluff, a stall for time, or truly a word whose mean¬ ing In this count y ts the same to the West and the East, and thus a durable base for a new united Ger-