• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Germany to send Kurds weapons shipment
German soldiers training with machine guns. Photo: DPA

Germany to send Kurds weapons shipment

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to address the Bundestag on Monday to detail the weapons her government will send to Iraqi Kurds fighting terrorist group Isis. READ  

Train drivers take their turn to strike
A banner announcing a previous rail strike in June is displayed in a station. Photo: DPA

Train drivers take their turn to strike

A train drivers' union has warned of a nationwide strike to take place on Monday evening as it seeks leverage in negotiations with Deutsche Bahn. READ  

Weak exports hit German GDP
Germany isn't sending as many goods abroad as at the beginning of the year. Photo: DPA

Weak exports hit German GDP

GDP fell by 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014 but state coffers are doing well, the Federal Office of Statistics Destatis announced on Monday. READ  

Anti-euro breakthrough
Anti-euro AfD nears 10 percent in state election
AfD politicians Hans-Olaf Henkel MEP and leader Bernd Lucke, celebrate the party's success in Saxony on Sunday. Photo: Daniel Naupold/DPA

Anti-euro AfD nears 10 percent in state election

UPDATED: Germany's anti-euro party, AfD, won its first seats in a state parliament on Sunday after elections in Saxony, according to preliminary results. READ  

Berlin to open memorial to Nazis' disabled victims
Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

Berlin to open memorial to Nazis' disabled victims

Benjamin Traub, a sad-eyed German boy born in 1914, was considered a bright child by his parents and called gifted by his teachers. His life would end in a Nazi gas chamber. READ  

Anti-euro party to debut in state parliament
AfD leader Bernd Lucke celebrates his party's EU election results. Photo: DPA

Anti-euro party to debut in state parliament

Germany's fledgling anti-euro party looks set to win its first seats in a state parliament on Sunday, gaining a political foothold in opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel's grip on power. READ  

Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight
Photo: DPA

Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight

US appeals court on Friday ruled that Oracle be given a choice between $356.7 million or a new trial for its copyright lawsuit against German rival SAP. READ  

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy
Former SPD MP Sebastian Edathy photographed at a press conference in February. Photo: DPA

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy

The Constitutional Court on Friday rejected an attempt by former Social Democratic (SPD) MP Sebastian Edathy to have evidence against him thrown out in his trial for possession of child pornography. READ  

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash
Photo: DPA

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash

A Bavarian student expecting a cannabis delivery was collared by "Commissioner Fluke" after acting surprised in front of policemen when he saw his letter box was empty. READ  

Security fears block Germany-Israel match
German and Israeli fans cheer in the stands during a friendly in Leipzig in 2012. Photo: DPA

Security fears block Germany-Israel match

A friendly soccer match against Israel marking 50 years of diplomatic ties has been called off amid security concerns and the escalation of the Middle East conflict, the German Football Federation (DFB) said on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
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

3,417
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd