Un nouveau revers électoral pour le chancelier allemand

Un nouveau revers électoral pour le chancelier allemand

Historic stronghold of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), North Rhine-Westphalia is also the most populous Land in Germany (18 million inhabitants, 21% of the country’s population). For these two reasons, the regional elections which were organized there, Sunday, May 15, had test value for Olaf Scholz, six months after his arrival at the head of the federal government. The result is a snub for his party: 26.7% (– 4.5 points compared to the 2017 elections), the worst score ever recorded by the SPD in this industrial region of northwestern Germany.

Coming in first with 35.7% of the vote (+ 2.8 points), the Conservatives (CDU) won a resounding victory. For them, however, the game was far from over. In October 2021, their leader, Armin Laschet, unsuccessful candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, left his post as Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, which he had held since 2017. For many observers, this hasty departure heralded a defeat for the CDU in the May 15 elections. It has not happened. On the contrary: seven months after his arrival at the head of the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst offers the CDU a clear victory in this Land that the conservatives have only led twice in more than one half century.

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The other big winners in Sunday’s poll are the Greens. Arriving in third position with 18.2% of the vote, they are the ones who have progressed the most compared to the 2017 elections: + 11.8 points. Conversely, those who have regressed the most are the Liberal Democrats (FDP): they only won 5.9% of the vote, ie 6.7 points less than five years ago. Other forces in decline: the far-right AfD party (5.4%, – 2 points) and the radical left party Die Linke (2.1%, – 2.8 points), including the decline recorded in the legislative elections of September was confirmed, eight months later, in this region.

CDU relief

Two main lessons can be drawn from these results. The first concerns the CDU. In opposition at the federal level since the departure of Angela Merkel, the party of the former chancellor remains powerful at the regional level. From this point of view, her victory in North Rhine-Westphalia echoes that which she obtained a week earlier in Schleswig-Holstein: 43.4% of the vote (+11.4 points per compared to 2017). In these two Länder, the victory of the conservatives is certainly partly explained by the popularity of the outgoing minister-presidents. But it also testifies to the ongoing recovery of the CDU under the authority of its new chairman, Friedrich Merz. Since his election as leader of the party in January, he has tried to embody a vigorous and responsible opposition to the government of Olaf Scholz. This positioning seems to please voters: if the legislative elections were held these days, the CDU would come out on top with 26% to 28% of the vote, ahead of the SPD, credited with 20% to 22%, according to the latest polls.

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