• Germany's news in English
 

Lower Saxony poll turns into cliffhanger

Published: 20 Jan 2013 18:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Jan 2013 21:29 GMT+01:00

Preliminary results from Lower Saxony on public television showed Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) ahead with around 36 percent and their coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), with about 10 percent.

The centre-left Social Democrats had about 32 percent and their favoured allies the Greens nearly 14 percent, leaving the two sides neck and neck with 46 percent.

The cliffhanger was due to develop throughout the night as results trickle in, determining which coalition will come out on top eight months before a national election that will decide if Merkel wins a third four-year term.

The Christian Democrats were down from their 42.5 percent score at the last election in 2008 but appeared to capitalise on the popularity of state premier David McAllister, a half-Scot seen as a potential Merkel successor.

"What a heart-stopping night," McAllister told reporters. "We have every reason to hope that we will be able to continue our successful coalition in Hannover," the state capital.

The big winners of the night, however, were the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who looked set to tally their best result in Lower Saxony in post-war history.

Polls had indicated they risked slipping below the five-percent hurdle required for seats in the state parliament, but they seemed to get a lift from conservative voters splitting their ballots under Germany's two-vote system in a bid to rescue the coalition.

ARD television said around 101,000 voters who cast ballots for the conservatives in 2008 had plumped for the FDP this time.

If the FDP failed to win seats, its embattled leader Philipp Rösler, who is also Merkel's vice chancellor and who hails from Lower Saxony, was seen as likely to step down -- possibly as soon as Sunday night. The outcome seemed to give him a reprieve, if perhaps only brief.

"It is a great day for the FDP in Lower Saxony but it is also a great day for the FDP and liberals in Germany as a whole," a beaming Rösler told reporters in Berlin.

Around 6.2 million people were called to the polls in Lower Saxony, home to European auto giant Volkswagen.

If the centre-right coalition holds on to power, analysts say it will give Merkel, who already enjoys a robust lead in national polls due to her fierce defence of German interests in the eurozone crisis, a strong boost heading into the September election.

But if the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens manage to eke out a victory -- still a distinct possibility -- pundits say it could help shore up the battered campaign of Merkel's gaffe-prone challenger Peer Steinbrück.

Steinbrück, a former finance minister from Merkel's 2005-09 "grand coalition" government, was anointed by the SPD as its chancellor candidate late last year.

But he has run into trouble of late with revelations that he made around €1.25 million ($1.66 million) over the last three years in speaking fees, and with comments that Merkel owed much of her popularity to her gender.

The SPD's candidate in Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, hinted that he had been forced to campaign in the face of headwinds out of Berlin.

"The SPD made gains, which is remarkable considering the not exactly easy conditions under which we fought for voters' support in recent weeks," he said.

The website of news weekly Der Spiegel said the stakes remained high for the opposition.

"A victory in Hannover would be a great relief for the Social Democrats," it wrote. "It would let the party dream of a turnaround at the national level. If it doesn't make it, there's the threat of resignation in the SPD about its chances this autumn."

After Lower Saxony, only the southern state of Bavaria is expected to vote before the September general election.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

20:36 January 20, 2013 by lucksi
68 to 67 seats right now. Good grief, that is close.

But what is that about Allister becoming Merkels successor? Was he even born in Germany? I want to see his birth certificate.
07:39 January 21, 2013 by Wrench
My grandfather always said, "A politician is someone who is adept at breaking wind and able to convince everyone someone else caused the stink."
Today's headlines
'Blackfacing' is Anglicism of the Year
They may be collecting for charity, but this is not really OK. Photo: DPA

'Blackfacing' is Anglicism of the Year

"Blackfacing", used by Germans to describe white people painting their skin dark to mimic black people, has been named Anglicism of the Year by a jury of linguists. READ  

Cocaine-cop trial shakes Bavarian Alps
File photo: DPA

Cocaine-cop trial shakes Bavarian Alps

For 20 years no-one noticed that the head of the drug squad in Kempten, Bavaria, was on a personal rampage of narcotics- and domestic abuse - until his wife shopped him for the €250,000 brick of cocaine he had stashed. But the local population isn't buying the story. READ  

Merkel wishes Tsipras 'strength and success'
Photo: DPA

Merkel wishes Tsipras 'strength and success'

Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday and wished him "much strength and success" after his anti-austerity party's election victory. READ  

Refugees suffer over 200 attacks in 2014
Swastika graffiti at a refugee home in Bavaria with text reading "No asylum seekers". Photo: DPA

Refugees suffer over 200 attacks in 2014

Refugee NGOs' first annual report on violence against asylum seekers found that there were over 200 attacks on people and accommodation in 2014. READ  

'No German identity without Auschwitz'
President Gauck addressing the Bundestag on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

'No German identity without Auschwitz'

President Joachim Gauck on Tuesday warned Germans against drawing a line under the Holocaust as the Bundestag (parliament) opened a day of commemorations on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. READ  

Handball! Neuer blows whistle on wax double
Manuel Neuer at the inauguration of his double in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Handball! Neuer blows whistle on wax double

Madame Tussauds' hottest new effigy was unveiled to the public in Berlin on Tuesday, costing a euro for each of the 150,000 hairs on keeper Manuel Neuer's head. Pity about the handball goal frame though… READ  

Railway union threatens strike over €2
EVG members outside a station during a 2013 strike. Photo: DPA

Railway union threatens strike over €2

As railway operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) continues negotiations with train drivers' union GDL, its other major union EVG has threatened a strike over pay differences between employees. READ  

Dresden tolerance concert draws 22,000
Photo: DPA

Dresden tolerance concert draws 22,000

As Pegida supporters and opponents clashed in Hanover, musicians threw a free concert in central Dresden on Monday evening to show another side to the city famous for spawning the anti-Islam movement. READ  

Germany remembers horror of Auschwitz
"Work will set you free," the gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau tells inmates. Photo: DPA

Germany remembers horror of Auschwitz

Chancellor Angela Merkel joined survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Berlin on Monday to open a series of events dedicated to the end of the Holocaust camp regime 70 years ago. READ  

JobTalk Germany: Entrepreneur series
'Work I love and a rewarding family life'
Working mum photo: Shutterstock

'Work I love and a rewarding family life'

Melanie Fieseler is a British business/career consultant and coach, and founder of Berlin-based WorkSmart. She is on a mission to help ambitious mums like herself successfully combine motherhood with building a fulfilling and rewarding career or business. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
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

1,797
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd