Merkel’s Ruling CDU Loses Elections in Key German States Baden-Wuertemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate
Only six months before Germany’s 2021 general election, the ruling conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered on Sunday state election defeats in two crucial states, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
The political stakes of 2021 in Germany are high as the upcoming general election, the Bundestag election on September 26, will decide the future leadership of Europe’s largest economy, with Merkel stepping down after 16 years as Chancellor.
The CDU’s poor results in Sunday’s state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate could harm the party’s newly elected leader Armin Laschet’s chances to become the German Chancellor candidate of the conservative alliance between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Instead, CSU leader and Bavaria’s State Premier Markus Soeder could become the nominee.
According to early projects, the CDU received 23.6% of the votes in Baden-Württemberg, and 26.5% in Rhineland-Palatinate, DW reported. If confirmed, those would be the party’s worst results ever in both states.
Thus, the CDU dropped 4 percentage points in Baden-Wuerttemberg and 5.8 percentage points in Rhineland-Palatinate compared to the 2016 state elections.
The Greens led by incumbent State Premier Winfried Kretschmann won the elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg with 31% of the votes (the CDU was second with 23.6%). The leftist Social Democratic Party (SPD) came in third with 12%, followed by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) with 11.5% and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) also with 11.5%, and the socialist Left Party with 3.5%.
With the Greens’ expected victory, Baden-Wuerttemberg Premier Kretschmann now faces the choice of continuing his ruling coalition with the CDU or forming a potential green-red-yellow, or “traffic light”, coalition with SPD and FDP.
“The Greens and Baden-Württemberg go well together,” 72-year-old Kretschmann, who enjoys an 80% approval rating, said on Sunday.
In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats won the election with 36.1%, according to early results, followed by the CDU with 26.5%. The far-right AfD came in third with 10.5% of the votes, following by the Greens with 8.5%, the FDP with 6.5%, and the Free Voters with 5.5% and the Left Party with 2.5%.
The SPD in Rhineland-Palatinate is led by popular State Premier Malu Dreyer who is likely to form another traffic light coalition with the Greens and the Free Democrats.
On Sunday evening, Paul Ziemiak, the general secretary of Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative CDU party admitted that the results from the polls in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate were disappointing. He said recent corruption scandals and worries over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic had hurt the CDU, still Germany’s largest political party.
However, Ziemiak attributed much of the respective victories to the popularity of the states’ incumbent premiers.
“In a crisis, we saw that the voters trusted the governing leaders,” he said in a brief statement to reporters.
A similar assessment came from Wolfgang Schaeuble, Bundestag President and member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
“People voted for personalities here, and the coronavirus crisis has given them a noticeable boost,” Schaueble said, speaking to public broadcaster ARD on Sunday evening as results had come in.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s departure as party leader in 2019 has already left an uncertainty at the top of the CDU, especially since her first successor, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), decided to withdraw. She was replaced by Armin Laschet.
Germany’s current Finance Minister in Merkel’s right-left coalition Cabinet Olaf Scholz, who is also the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, made a hint on Sunday that the country might not be led by a CDU-SPD coalition after the federal election in September.
“It’s a good day, because it shows that it’s possible to create a government in Germany without the CDU,” Scholz said, as cited by DPA and DW.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Ugly Bargain: How the European Union and Bulgaria’s Post-Communist Oligarchy Fit Together“, among other books.