Germany: Scholz wins an important regional election and receives an election postponement
Germany’s Social Democratic Party won a test state election for Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, giving him a break as his popularity continues to wane amid the energy crisis. The Social Democrats have won 32.7 to 33.3 percent of the votes in the second largest state in the north of the country, which they have led in a coalition since 2013.
They are ahead of the Conservative Party (CDU) of ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, which received 27.5 percent of the vote, according to ARD and ZDF. Despite growing public dissatisfaction at federal level, Olaf Scholz’s party is benefiting from the good local image of the social democrat Stephan Weil, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. It spares him the humiliation of another defeat, after suffering severe electoral setbacks against the centre-right party in two state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein last spring.
A “referendum” on Scholz
This election is “very important” for Olaf Scholz, the German political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte estimated on ZDF, because it represents “a referendum on government policy” in view of the Ukraine war and the energy crisis. Nevertheless, the SPD is lagging behind in comparison to the previous state election in 2017, in which it achieved 36.9%. The Conservatives also achieved a result that was well below their performance in 2017 (33.6%).
The extreme right in particular appears to have benefited, benefiting from frustration and concern over energy supply problems and rising prices: The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is nearly 12%, according to TV broadcaster estimates. almost twice as many as in the previous election. Its officials are calling for a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, since Germany cannot do without Russian gas.
The party gathered several thousand supporters at a demonstration against rising prices in Berlin on Saturday. Their breakthrough is all the more significant because this movement is mostly established in the east of the country and is not very popular elsewhere.
The German ecologists, members of Olaf Scholz’s government coalition, are also making good progress with at least 14%, an increase of more than 5 points. Based on the number of seats in the local parliament, the Social Democrats and the Greens are capable of forming a new majority that would replace the current coalition of SPD and CDU. This option, if confirmed in the end result, is the Social Democrats’ preferred option.
Rising inflation and falling popularity
Other election losers: the Liberals (right), members of Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition. You will only be credited 5% (compared to 2017), the minimum threshold for entry into the Lower Saxony state parliament. For Olaf Scholz, the result in Lower Saxony is a relief after the criticism from Germany: too hesitant support policy towards Ukraine, growing public fears of inflation, fears of a nuclear conflict in Europe.
Nationwide, the SPD fell well below the 20 percent hurdle in voting intentions, overtaken by the conservatives. And Olaf Scholz’s personal popularity melted away. Rising energy prices pushed inflation to 10% in September, the highest in Germany in 70 years. In addition to falling purchasing power and a recession announced for next year, the leading European economy fears that its industrial structure will collapse.
According to a recent Ipsos survey, the rise in energy prices in Germany is the first reason for concern for almost every second respondent (49%), compared to just 12% a year ago. Olaf Scholz recently tried to react to this by announcing a 200 billion euro plan to curb the rise in energy prices. It was well received nationally but caused controversy in Europe. Berlin’s partners accuse Germany of going it alone, following its own interests and ignoring European solidarity.
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