Thursday, March 24, 2011

Germany: State election weakens Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) survived a narrow vote in elections for the eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt. 

The right-wing CDU lost 3% of the vote from the previous elections, dropping to 32.6% support. The two other big parties in the state, the far left Die Linke and the centrist Social Democrats (SPD), remained steady on 23.8% and 21.5% respectively.

Merkel’s allies at a federal level - the pro-free market Free Democrats - failed to cross the 5% threshold needed to win a seat, as did the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). 

The lead NPD candidate Matthias Heyder is under investigation for discussing terrorist methods and bomb-making techniques on an online forum. Right-wing and racist violence nearly doubled in Sachsen-Anhalt in 2010.

The only clear winner was the Greens, who doubled their support to about 7%.

Overall, there was a clear majority for left and centre-left politics. However, the CDU will retain government because the SPD refuses to enter into coalition with Die Linke.

Instead, the SPD will continue in a “grand coalition” with the CDU. This outcome was clear throughout a campaign in which the SPD suffered media criticism for its “cuddly campaigning” alongside the CDU.

The results bode ill for Merkel’s government, as two key state elections were due to be held on March 27, particularly in the traditionally conservative state of Baden-Württemberg, where the CDU looked likely to lose government for the first time since 1953.

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