• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Lower Saxony poll turns into cliffhanger

The Local · 20 Jan 2013, 21:29

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.

Story continues below…

"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
 'One dead and two injured' in Germany machete attack
News channel NTV said there were scenes of panic in the city centre following the attack. Photo: DPA

A 21-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker killed a woman and injured two people with a machete Sunday in the southwest German city of Reutlingen in an incident local police said did not bear the hallmarks of a "terrorist attack".

Munich gunman planned attacks for one year: officials
Vigils continue in Munich to commemorate the victims, seven of whom were teenagers. Photo: DPA

The teenage gunman who killed nine people in Munich on Friday had been planning his attack for a year, according to German authorities.

Germany grapples with enigma of Munich gunman
A debate is already underway as to whether Germany's gun laws, which are already strict, should be tightened further. Photo: AFP

Investigators were seeking clues on Sunday into the mind of gunman David Ali Sonboly, the teen author of one of Germany's bloodiest killing sprees.

Munich shooting
 Social media a blessing and a curse in Munich shooting
The Munich gunman may have hacked a Facebook account to lure some of the victims to the McDonald's fast-food outlet where the shooting began. Photo: DPA

Social networks were both a curse and a blessing in the deadly shopping mall shooting in Munich, as police sometimes found themselves chasing fictitious leads and false alarms.

Munich shooting
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Munich shooting
Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,782
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd