State elections: Greens triumph while Merkel's CDU suffers heavy losses

State elections: Greens triumph while Merkel's CDU suffers heavy losses

State elections: Greens triumph while Merkel's CDU suffers heavy losses

Early results from two key state elections on Sunday show that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party has suffered heavy losses. With voters using the polls as a means to vent their frustration over the country’s slow vaccine rollout and a face mask procurement scandal, the results could be a sign of things to come in the general election later this year. 

A great night for the Greens, a black day for CDU

Both state elections saw the incumbent premiers returned to office. Winfried Kretschmann, the only Green state premier in Germany, even managed to increase his vote share in Baden-Württemberg, where he has been state premier since 2011. In Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer of the Social Democrats will also remain in office for another five years. 

However, six months ahead of the general election where Merkel’s successor will be chosen, her CDU party and its new leader Armin Laschet achieved historically poor results. In both federal states, the Christian Democrats could now find themselves shut out of power, after the SPD, FPD and Green parties achieved enough of a vote share to enable them to form a “traffic light coalition” (a shorthand that refers to their respective party colours of red, yellow and green) without the CDU.

Historic win for Winfried Kretschmann in Baden-Württemberg

72-year-old Kretschmann managed to increase the Greens’ 2016 vote share to claim a healthy 32,6 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg (58 seats) on Sunday, a record for the party both in the state and nationwide. The CDU, on the other hand, only managed 24,1 percent (42 seats, down 2,9 percent since the last election), a historically poor result in a state that was until relatively recently a CDU stronghold. 

Kretschmann now has the choice of continuing his coalition with the CDU as a junior partner, or switching to an alliance with the SPD and FDP. He announced after the result that he would talk to all parties except the AfD about possible alliances. 

Rhineland-Palatinate returns Malu Dreyer as PM

In Rhineland-Palatinate, the 60-year-old Dreyer came out on top for the Social Democrats, claiming 39 seats with 35,7 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. The CDU’s top candidate, Christian Baldauf, shed 4,1 percent of the vote to slip to 27,7 percent - the Christian Democrats’ worst-ever performance in the state. The Greens, on the other hand, significantly improved their 2016 result, rising 4 percent to take 10 seats (9,3 percent share). 

Although the SPD’s result was one of its worst in decades, it still allows Dreyer to continue governing with her traffic light coalition between the SPD, the FDP and the Greens. 

CDU sheds support over coronavirus and face mask scandals

Sunday’s state elections were only the second that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have taken part in, and their results lagged significantly behind what they achieved in 2016, when politics were strongly influenced by the refugee crisis. In Baden-Württemberg, the party took 9,7 percent of the vote (compared to 15,1 percent in 2016), and in Rhineland-Palatinate 8,3 percent (2016: 12,6 percent). 

While the Greens hailed their election successes as a “great start to the super election year”, the CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak blamed his party’s poor performance on issues related to coronavirus, such as the delayed rollout of vaccinations and the postponement of mass rapid testing

The party’s reputation has also been damaged by claims that MPs were apparently benefiting financially from face mask deals - a scandal that has forced three lawmakers to step down in recent days.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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