German chancellor’s party loses key vote — Analysis

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party suffered a setback in an important regional election on Sunday as the Social Democrats claimed an historic low percentage of the vote. The Greens, their partners in the national government, almost tripled their support in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and are now poised to play kingmaker in forming the federal state’s next government.

With 13 million voters registered, NRW is Germany’s most populous area. It is also a major economic and political powerhouse. Sunday’s election was held six months after the general election that put Scholtz in power in Germany.

The regional vote was considered a ‘mini-federal election’ serving as a bellwether for national politics. Scholz campaigned personally for Thomas Kutschaty (leading candidate of his Social Democratic Party, SPD), turning the vote into a symbolic referendum about his policies.

Projected results show a significant loss for SPD. The party won only 27% in 2017, compared to 31.2% in 2017. Since the creation of modern Germany in the aftermath of World War II, the party has not scored below 30%.

With a projected 36% vote (up from 33% at the last election), Opposition Christian Democrats was the first party to emerge as the winner.

Greens had the largest gain, winning 18% of the votes, as opposed to 6.4% in 2004. Free Democrats (FDP), the CDU’s coalition partners in the current NRW government, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party both took a hit.

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CDU/FDP has lost enough seats to continue the government in its regional parliament. The Greens now have the power to be kingmakers. The CDU’s Hendrik Wust has the strongest claim to form a new ruling coalition, with the Greens as the most likely partner. He celebrated his victory by stating that he would hold coalition talks after Christian Democrats had received an overwhelming mandate to stay in power. However, he did not give any details.

However, a “traffic light coalition” of Social Democrats, Free Democrats and the Greens – the same parties that control the federal government of Germany – is likewise on the table. Mona Neubaur, the leading candidate from the party, thanked her opposite numbers from the other parties – except the shunned rightwing AfD – for running a fair and respectful race and said the Greens were ready to “take responsibility”For the entire region.

This was the CDU’s second electoral fail this month. It had suffered defeats in Schleswig-Holstein, its northern state. It was won by the Christian Democrats, and second placed went to Greens.

Late March saw the Social Democrats win a stunning landslide victory in the Saarland region, winning an absolute majority.

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