Thursday

27th Jul 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7

The EU executive expects Warsaw to halt the judiciary reform and address concerns over the rule of law, and not to force out supreme court judges, or else the sanctions procedure will start.

EU Commission to act on Poland

The EU executive is likely to issue a new set of rule of law recommendations to Poland and start legal probes once the controversial pieces of legislation have been published.

Orban vows to defend Poland from EU's 'inquisition'

The Hungarian leader called EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans an "inquisitor", allied with George Soros and the Brussels elite, and argued for the EU executive to stop being a political body.

Poland 'leaving EU community of values'

Leading MEPs and legal watchdogs have raised the alarm on Polish judicial reforms, but the European Commission declined to speak out so far.

Opinion

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  2. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  3. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  4. Swedish government rocked by data scandal
  5. Member states relocate 3,000 migrants in June
  6. Top EU jurist says Malta's finch-trapping against EU law
  7. EU judges rule to keep Hamas funds frozen
  8. EU court rejects passenger data deal with Canada

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland
  2. UK requests EU migration study, 13 months after Brexit vote
  3. EU defends airline data-sharing after court ruling
  4. Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis
  5. EU-US scrap on Russia sanctions gets worse
  6. Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles have one month to start taking migrants
  7. EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7
  8. Court told to 'dismiss' case against EU migrant quotas