Monday

18th Jun 2018

Regional elections spell trouble for Merkel

  • Angela Merkel: Still Ms Popular, but her coalition is being put to the test (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Social Democrats and Greens narrowly won the elections in Lower Saxony on Sunday (20 January), indicating a tougher-than-expected race for Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition at general elections in September.

At the end of a race that pollsters said was too close to call, it all came down to less than one percent of the vote: the so-called "Red-Green" camp scored 46.3 percent of the vote and got one seat more in the regional parliament, enough to topple the ruling "Black-Yellow" coalition of Merkel's Conservatives and Liberals (45.9%).

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.

... our join as a group

"If Merkel loses in September as much as Black-Yellow lost in Lower Saxony, she's gone. Congratulations to the Greens," Green leader Juergen Trittin tweeted on Sunday evening.

The surprise winner of the elections, Social-Democrat Stephan Weil, an uncharismatic mayor of Hannover, will now replace Angela Merkel's protegee David McAllister as governor of Lower Saxony.

Weil made it despite recent financial intrigues and gaffes surrounding the top candidate of the Social Democrats for the federal elections, Peer Steinbrueck.

"There was no tailwind from Berlin for Stephan Weil. I recognise that I have a certain responsibility for it," Steinbrueck said on Sunday during a speech at the Social Democrats' Berlin headquarters.

Steinbrueck tweeted when the final results were published that the reverse is true: "Thank you, Stephan! This gives us tailwind for the general elections in September."

But the big surprise of the evening was the unexpectedly good score of the Liberal Free Democrats.

At almost 10 percent of the vote, the FDP exceeded all expectations, after some pollsters cast doubt they would even make it into the regional legislature. Over 100,000 votes came from Christian-Democrat voters, who cast their second vote for the FDP in order to keep the ruling coalition in power.

The embattled FDP leader and Merkel's economy minister, Philipp Roesler, hailed the victory in his home state as a fresh beginning: "This is a great day for the Free Democrats in Lower Saxony and for the Free Democrats in Germany. The race has just begun."

Roesler is due to make an announcement later on Monday, with media speculating he may still hand over the leadership to parliamentary group chief Rainer Bruederle, as this could be a good moment to leave in glory, however.

The biggest losers of the elections were the Pirate Party and the radical-left Linke, who failed to make it into the parliament of Lower Saxony and are now struggling to find anew strategy for the general elections.

The Red-Green victory also strengthens their lead in the upper chamber (Bundesrat) over Merkel's coalition, to 36 out the Bundesrat's 69 seats.

Most legislation is handled in the lower chamber (Bundestag), but the Bundesrat has already blocked some bills over which it has power, such as a tax agreement with Switzerland.

Make-or-break elections for Merkel coalition partner

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

Merkel protegee eyes EU career

After an unexpected loss in regional elections earlier this year, Merkel's protegee, David McAllister, is eyeing an EU career as CDU top-candidate for the EU elections and possibly German commissioner.

Visual Data

Mediterranean towns ready for EU-sponsored free wifi

The European Union's fund for free wireless internet connection hotspots is most popular in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Romania. Check if your municipality pre-registered.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate
  2. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  3. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  4. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  5. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  6. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  7. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  8. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  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

Latest News

  1. Orban to EPP: turn 'Christian democratic' or face challenge
  2. Is EU retail sector equipped for 21st century?
  3. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  4. EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most
  5. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  6. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  7. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  8. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us