The Strategist

States of Germany are ready to decide Merkel's fate

03/24/2017 - 13:53

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is about to face another test on her way to the September parliamentary elections. On Sunday, the federal state of Saarland will hold election of the local parliament (the Landtag). For the first time since 1994 the election can result in defeat of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Angela Merkel. The union’s main rivals, Social Democrats, are on the rise after victory of party chairman Martin Schulz. Sociologists also predict success of the right-wing party "Alternative for Germany" (AdG). In this case, Euro sceptics will first enter the Saarland Parliament, and in September they will compete for the third place at the national level.
On Sunday, residents of the land of Saar in the west of Germany will elect a new Landtag, which will initiate a "super-election" (this is how the German Federations call periods of many important polls). During the last four convocations, the CDU held a relative majority in the Saar's parliament, far outstripping its main rivals, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). However, now experts find it difficult to clearly predict outcome of the battle. According to latest polls of ARD television company, 35% and 34% citizens of Saarland support of the CDU and the SPD, respectively. Since January, Angela Merkel’s party lost three points, while the Social Democrats won eight.

Although Saarland is one of the smallest and most sparsely populated areas of the FRG, results of the vote (along with the May elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia) will reflect the main trends in the country’s political situation six months before the elections to the Bundestag. "Loss of power in the Saarland would be a political defeat for Chancellor Merkel, and yet another hindrance for the party as a whole.

Explaining the SPD’s growing popularity, which is observed in most regions of Germany, German experts talk about the "Schulz effect". On March 19, the party congress officially approved former chairman of the European Parliament Martin Schultz as the head of the SPD and candidate for the post of German Chancellor. This decision may well result in Angela Merkel’s defeat, which will happen just a week after election of the SPD’s chairman.

Either way, no party can count on an absolute majority of mandates, both in the Bundestag and in regional parliaments. Thus they will have to create coalition governments. The so-called large coalition of the CDU and the SPD has operated in Saarland and at the federal level for the past five years. This year, however, the Social Democrats are going to get rid of their position as a junior partner in the coalition. Results of surveys throughout Saarland suggest a possibility of a coalition of the SPD and the Left Party (it collects about 13%). 

Eurosceptic party "Alternative for Germany" also has all chances to change alignment of forces in the Saarland - and then in the whole of Germany. 7% of Saarland’s citizens support the party, while vote threshold stands at 5%. "Many voters do not believe in other parties and see an opportunity to change something with our help", said the party’s chairman Josef Dörr. According to him, the party does not intend to cooperate with other political forces of the country, but will be happy "if they support policy of "Alternative for Germany". 


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