This time I disagree with Uwe Siemon-Netto’s analysis. It is not ANGST but REASON that caused the change in the election results of Baden-Württemberg und Rheinland-Pfalz. Given the still developing disaster at Japan’s energy plants, it is reasonable to doubt the safety of nuclear energy plants generally and to doubt whether the best security and safety measures – rather than minimum ones as was the case in Japan – were applied to nuclear plants. Doubt here is reasonable. One has to look beyond the demonstrations.
Furthermore, what is significant is that the Green candidate Winfried Kretschmann, who will be the Ministerpresident in Baden-Württemberg, is Catholic. Of Catholic voters, 21% decided for the Greens, an increase of 11%. The CDU lost Catholic votes (48%, minus 8%) and Protestant votes (37%, minus 2%). What is the significant is the low Christian vote for the FDP (6% Protestants, 5% Catholics, and 4% other or no religions).
In Rheinland-Pfalz, 43% of Protestants voted for SPD and 28% of Protestants for CDU, which also got most Catholic votes. Two things are significant again: first, the FDP has been booted out – given its narrow policy focus on lower taxes, this is good – second, the Ministerpresident of the Land is Kurt Beck who is also a Catholic. Whether he will remain in office is yet uncertain because a coalition has yet to be formed.
Of importance again are the Catholic vote and the Catholic active presence in the primarily secular world of politics. For those who have read the talks between Jürgen Habermas, a secular philosopher, and Joseph Ratzinger, a Catholic theologian and now Pope, the vote shift to the Greens in light of the very real and serious atomic energy plant problem in Japan was to be expected. Ratzinger has always argued that faith does not contradict the humanistic idea of reason. Indeed, there is a necessary relatedness between reason and faith and reason and religion (Dialectic of Secularization 2006: 78). Likewise, Habermas argued, “philosophy has good reasons to be willing to learn from religious traditions” including significantly Christianity (p.42). In short, what the election results show me is that the sharp divisiveness between secularists and religious – as one sees in England and the U.S.A. – is rejected by these voters. Instead, there is a new and fruitful co-operation between the two – especially, when real problems need to be addressed. And the problem that Japan has thrown up is real and conducive to a new dialogue beyond simply the concern to lower taxes – although I have nothing against it at the right time and in the right circumstances.
To emphasize again, the important result in these two "provincial" elections is how well secularists and Christians can work together. Anything else is "Nebensache." Voters can easily return to other parties on the next election, especially, since the discussion on safe and economical energy production is far from over.