Scholz’s Social Democrats lose to the push of Conservatives and Greens in the largest German ‘land’ | International
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The crucial electoral pulse held this Sunday in North Rhine-Westphalia by the two main German parties, the Social Democrats of the SPD and the Christian Democrats of the CDU, has opted for the side of the conservatives. The CDU has obtained 35.8% of the votes, compared to 26.7% of the SPD, the formation of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to the projections of the ARD public television at nine o’clock at night. The other winners of the day have been Los Verdes, who have practically tripled their 2017 results by obtaining 18.1% of the votes.
The elections are a wake-up call for Scholz, since they were presented as a kind of test of the first six months of his coalition government with Greens and Liberals. The chancellor himself gave wings to this reading in a national key by being intensely involved in the campaign: he participated in various events with the candidate, Thomas Kutschaty, and even appeared alongside him in some electoral posters. For the Social Democrats, who until not long ago had in this land one of their biggest electoral fiefdoms, the defeat is especially painful because they have obtained their worst historical result. Since the end of the Second World War they had never dropped below 30% of the vote in this state, the richest and most populous in Germany.
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most important election date of the year. Some 13 million electors were called to vote —out of a total of 18 million inhabitants—, practically one in five Germans, in what is known as “miniature federal elections”.
The victory of the Christian Democrats gives a tailwind to their federal leader, Friedrich Merz, who has only been in office for a few months and needed a good result to reaffirm his leadership with a view to the long-distance race towards the next general elections, in 2025. result strengthens his possible candidacy for chancellor. It is also a shot of confidence for a party that lost the general election last year after 16 years of conservative dominance under Angela Merkel.
If the negotiations allow the most voted party to govern, the next Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia will be Hendrik Wüst, 46, currently in office. The young promise of the CDU has barely been at the head of the coalition government with the Liberals for half a year. He inherited the post from the party’s previous chairman, Armin Laschet, who crashed out as the Conservative candidate for chancellorship. Despite the fact that he has not had much time to present management results to the citizens, he has been enough to surpass the SPD candidate by eight points, who is also not very well known despite having been Minister of Justice in the last Socialist Executive.
The liberals of the FDP have remained, with 5.6%, on the verge of not exceeding the 5% threshold that guarantees entry into the regional Parliament. Its federal leader, Christian Lindner, Finance Minister in the Scholz Executive, called the result a “disastrous defeat.” The party has lost seven points compared to the percentage it obtained in 2017, according to projections, which normally deviate just a few tenths from the final results that will be known tomorrow. The echoes of the debacle in the Rhineland will also be heard in Berlin, where it is speculated that Lindner will lose even more influence in the government to the benefit of the Greens.
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As happened with the general elections in September, the key to the Government of Düsseldorf is going to be held by the environmentalists. They will almost certainly be the junior partner in the next coalition. The party is improving its results in all regional elections, in parallel with the approval ratings that its ministers are reaping in Berlin. Robert Habeck, Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy and Climate, and Annalena Baerbock, Minister of Foreign Affairs, are according to the latest polls the most popular politicians in the country, above the chancellor. Lindner, on the other hand, is one of the worst rated ministers.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has registered 5.6% of the support, almost two points less than in 2017. It will continue to have its own group in Parliament but, like the liberals, it has been on the verge of not achieving it . Last week, in the Schleswig-Holstein elections, this formation was left out of a regional parliament for the first time since 2014.
With the current results, there are theoretically three possible coalitions: Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens, and it would also be possible to reissue the coalition that governs in Berlin, the traffic light that form social democrats, greens and liberals.
These elections are the first major test of the coalition government that Scholz formed with the Greens and the Liberals. The response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, runaway inflation and the energy crisis that has been triggered by Germany’s effort to shake off dependence on Russian hydrocarbons have featured among the campaign issues, although voting has generally been regional. Until now, this year’s electoral appointments had ended in a draw. The SPD won in the Saarland in March, but last week suffered a blow in Schleswig-Holstein, where it posted its worst ever result and fell behind the Greens in third place.
Day-to-day concerns dominated the campaign’s themes. The CDU had promised more police, teachers and health personnel, to improve infrastructure so that all municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants have a good train or express bus connection and tax exemption for the installation of solar panels. The SPD put the focus on jobs, affordable housing and education, insisting that the Rhineland must be climate neutral “but not de-industrialised”.
North Rhine-Westphalia is home to one of the largest industrial concentrations in Europe on the banks of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers. For decades it voted massively for the Social Democrats, who governed 45 of the 50 years prior to 2017, when Angela Merkel’s CDU won by surprise in this land emblem of the rise and fall of the mighty German coal and steel industry.
The closure of most of the coal mines in the 1980s left a trail of unemployment in the region and prompted a forced reconversion. Today, the mining activity that made the Ruhr area prosperous has given way to other sectors, such as finance. If it were an independent country, this land It would be a world leader in exports, boasts the regional government on its official website. Thirty-seven of the 100 largest German companies are based in the Rhineland, including the pharmaceutical company Bayer, in Leverkusen, and Deutsche Telekom, in Bonn. The unemployment rate, however, is one of the highest in Germany, at 6.6%, when the country’s average is 5%.
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