Friday

19th Oct 2018

Make-or-break elections for Merkel coalition partner

Regional elections in Lower Saxony on Sunday (20 January) are being seen as a barometer for Germany's general elections in autumn, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner struggling for survival.

The political constellation in Lower Saxony is very similar to what is happening at federal level: A popular Prime Minister - David McAllister from the Christian Democratic Union - is poised to win the election. But just like Merkel, McAllister will have to team up with a smaller party in order to govern for another four years, with his current Liberal partners possibly scoring so badly that they will not even make it into the regional parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Liberal leader Philipp Roesler buckles up for regional elections that could put an end to his political career (Photo: DLR German Aerospace Center)

According to the latest polls, the Liberal Free Democratic Party will score five percent, which is the minimum threshold to enter the Landestag, while McAllister's Christian Democrats are in the lead at 41 percent. The Social Democrats and Greens, currently in opposition and planning to rule together, would get 33 and 13 percent of the vote, meaning that both camps are neck-in-neck at 46 percent.

The Sunday elections are crucial for the political survival of Liberal leader and economy minister Philipp Roesler. Less than two years into the job, voters and fellow politicians are disappointed with his leadership style, seen as too weak and uncharismatic.

"Roesler is a nice guy, but people see him as a lightweight, they don't take him seriously. And that is deadly for a party chief. If they fail to make it into the Saxonian parliament on Sunday, Roesler will step down," says Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist from the Berlin Free University.

At national level, all good things are attributed to Merkel and everything that goes wrong is "the Liberals' fault," Niedermayer told foreign journalists on Tuesday.

Merkel has the image of "mother of the nation", with voters approving of the way she is managing the euro-crisis while defending German interests, the academic noted. Her protegee McAllister - a German whose father was a Scottish soldier - meanwhile portrays himself as "regional father" of Lower Saxony, a term Merkel also used when going there to campaign for him.

McAllister's popularity and hands-on style spells out a future in national politics. Were he unable to remake the coalition in Lower Saxony, "it will be interesting to see how long before he switches to Berlin," Niedermayer says.

The Sunday elections will also be important for smaller parties like the Pirate Party and the leftist Linke. If they don't make it into the regional parliament, as polls currently indicate, Niedermayer predicts a negative impact on their campaign at federal level.

"There will be psychological effects: The ones winning will have energy and enthusiasm in the campaign for autumn, the ones having to stomach a massive loss will be in shock and could enter a negative spiral where their own campaigners don't feel motivated and nor do their voters," the scientist estimates.

As for Merkel's Social-Democratic challenger Peer Steinbrueck, his popularity has plummeted to 18 percent after a series of gaffes at the outset of his campaign. His party advisers are now trying to focus attention on issues and less on his person, as people vote for parties not candidates. But Steinbrueck's popularity problem are also weighing in on the party - estimated to score 23 percent, while Merkel's Christian Democrats are at 43 percent.

"Independent of the person of Steinbrueck, any candidate would have it very hard with Merkel. People form their image of politicians based on their credibility, competence, leadership and charisma. He should be better than Merkel at least in one area, but this is not the case," Niedermayer said.

Analysis

Angela Merkel, too powerful to fail?

Merkel, the most powerful leader in the EU, seems set for another mandate after German general elections in autumn - if she can find a coalition partner.

Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive

Voters in Germany's largest state hived off to the left and right of the ruling conservatives in Sunday's elections - posing questions for Merkel's authority.

News in Brief

  1. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  2. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  3. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  4. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  5. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain
  6. Merkel: Focus on banking union at December EU summit
  7. Scotland confirms mad cow disease case
  8. European 'Green surge' set for repeat in Hessen election

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us