• Germany edition
 
Lower Saxony poll kicks off key year for Merkel
Photo: DPA

Lower Saxony poll kicks off key year for Merkel

Published: 17 Jan 2013 09:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Jan 2013 09:46 GMT+01:00

Lower Saxony, a region of 6.2 million voters that is governed by the same centre-right alliance with which Merkel governs in Berlin, will elect a new parliament and analysts say the race has narrowed to a dead heat.

Boosting the stakes further is the fact that state premier David McAllister, a charismatic half-Scottish conservative, is widely seen as a potential successor to Merkel.

"We want to continue our success story," McAllister, 42, told a cheering crowd in the town of Verden at the weekend in a campaign that has seen Merkel make frequent appearances on the conservative Christian Democrats' (CDU) behalf. He has predicted a "heart-stopping finale" due to the tightness of the race.

Lower Saxony is home to Europe's top automaker Volkswagen and its capital is Hannover, the former seat of a German royal dynasty.

Its mayor, Stephan Weil, 54, is McAllister's chief challenger but the centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) trails far behind the state premier, the genial son of a British military officer and a German teacher, in the popularity stakes.

The state has below-average unemployment, relatively robust economic growth and has markedly improved its public finances in recent years. However, McAllister's Achilles' heel is his coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), whose weakness could also create headaches for Merkel at the general election in eight months' time.

The FDP is currently tottering on the five-percent line required for representation and a failure to clear the mark Sunday could have wide-reaching consequences.

The party is fighting for its survival just as sniping at its luckless party leader, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, who was born in Vietnam but grew up with his adoptive German parents in Lower Saxony, is reaching fever pitch.

"The key question is not whether the FDP stays in government but whether it manages to get seats in the state parliament," political scientist Stephan Klecha of the University of Göttingen said.

Oskar Niedermayer of Berlin's Free University agreed: "If it doesn't make it in, Mr Roesler will step down that night. And if it only barely makes it, I would recommend he do the same."

Rösler has called on McAllister supporters to take advantage of Germany's complex dual-ballot system and give the FDP one of their votes in a bid to keep the current team in power.

But Merkel and McAllister, both of whom are far more popular than their respective coalitions, have shown little enthusiasm for the notion of shedding CDU votes to shore up the decade-old centre-right alliance.

"A loss of power in Hanover could feed doubts about Merkel's ability to transform her popularity into election results," influential weekly Die Zeit wrote recently, summing up the stakes for the 58-year-old chancellor.

Polls give an SPD-led coalition with the high-flying Greens a slight edge in Lower Saxony, in what both parties hope will be an auspicious sign for the September poll and give a lift to Merkel's gaffe-prone SPD challenger Peer Steinbrück.

"They could carry that as a key argument into the campaign and that would take some of the pressure off Steinbrück," Niedermayer said.

The Social Democrats in Lower Saxony are clearly getting little help from the national level, where Merkel's CDU Wednesday opened up a 20-point spread against them in a poll.

"Steinbrück finds himself in free fall, but things could get even worse for him if McAllister manages to stay in power," conservative daily Die Welt wrote. "This will provoke more than a mere storm in a teacup within the SPD."

After Lower Saxony, there is only one remaining state poll this year, in September in Bavaria, where the ruling conservatives risk heavy losses.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

19:53 January 17, 2013 by raandy
Mrs Merkel has no equal, she will be here fo ra few more years, her track record speaks for itself.
23:12 January 17, 2013 by Dalmation
Yes @raandy

And like a lot of track records the doping, underhandedness and sheer corruption/negligence will come to light eventually.
Today's headlines
Quiz
Can you pass the German citizenship test?
Photo: DPA

Can you pass the German citizenship test?

Since 2008 anyone applying for German citizenship has had to take a test on their new country's history, politics and values. Do you know enough about Germany to pass it? READ  

Rent caps are coming in 2015
Photo: DPA

Rent caps are coming in 2015

A move to cap rent rises in German cities has been agreed by coalition parties, Germany's justice minister announced on Tuesday morning. READ  

Boy, 6, among Berlin train attack victims
Photo: DPA

Boy, 6, among Berlin train attack victims

Two vicious acts of violence on Berlin trains over the weekend have shocked passengers, with the youngest attack victim aged just six. READ  

Gerst and crew get 3D printer and some mice
Gerst is waiting the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon which launched on Sunday. Photo: NASA TV/DPA

Gerst and crew get 3D printer and some mice

Alexander Gerst, Germany's man aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is at the ready to capture SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft with a cargo of supplies on Tuesday. READ  

Iraq denies entry to German military trainers
The seven trainers boarded their plane in Germany on Friday. Photo: DPA

Iraq denies entry to German military trainers

Seven German military trainers, who flew to Iraq on Friday to train Kurdish fighters battling Islamic extremists Isis, have been denied permission to enter the country. READ  

Father, 75, tries to dynamite son
Police searching the area after the TNT discovery in Nußdorf. Photo: DPA

Father, 75, tries to dynamite son

A Bavarian pensioner is being investigated on suspicion of attempted murder after planting 3.5kg of TNT in his son's garden, next door to his own home, police said on Monday. READ  

JobTalk Germany
How to become an au pair in Germany
Photo: DPA

How to become an au pair in Germany

It’s not quite as romantic as the Nanny Diaries, nor is it as magical as Mary Poppins. But being an au pair in Germany can be fun, as Emma Anderson finds out. READ  

Merkel hails 'impressive' French reform plans
Merkel and Valls on Monday in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Merkel hails 'impressive' French reform plans

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, hoping to gain Germany's blessing for his revised economic reform programme. READ  

German Fifa exec: 'Qatar won't host World Cup'
Theo Zwanziger and one of the planned stadiums in Qatar. Photo: DPA

German Fifa exec: 'Qatar won't host World Cup'

Germany's top Fifa official said on Monday Qatar will not host the 2022 World Cup as planned, due to climate conditions. Qatar's successful bid to host the tournament has been marred by corruption and human rights concerns. READ  

Germany plans air lifts to help fight Ebola
A Liberian man holds his daughter as they wait for treatment for suspected Ebola symptoms in Monrovia. Photo: DPA

Germany plans air lifts to help fight Ebola

Germany and France will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
DPA
Gallery
The best photos from Oktoberfest's opening weekend
Photo: DPA
Munich
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's food
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
Photo: Joanna Drath, University of Tübingen
Society
Europeans descended from three tribes
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,324
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd