• Germany edition
 
Lower Saxony poll turns into cliffhanger
Photo: DPA

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Woodcarving champions - in pictures
Photo: DPA

Woodcarving champions - in pictures

Chainsaws, wood planes and sand paper were out over the weekend in Saxony-Anhalt where more than 30 artists competed in the International Woodcarving Championships. READ  

Hamburg could treat infected Ebola doctor
Liberian health workers in protective clothing bury an Ebola victim in early July. Photo: DPA

Hamburg could treat infected Ebola doctor

A World Health Organisation doctor infected with the deadly Ebola virus while trying to help stop it spreading through West Africa could travel to a Hamburg clinic for treatment. READ  

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya
Black smoke billowing from a storage depot of fuel that was hit by a rocket the night before near the airport in Tripoli on July 28th. Photo: EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya

UPDATE: Germany pulled its embassy staff out of Tripoli on Monday, a day after advising all its citizens currently in Libya to leave the strife-torn country immediately. READ  

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot
Photo: DPA

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot

A policeman is being investigated for manslaughter after he shot a fleeing man, wanted on drug charges, in the back of the head. The officer claimed he had aimed for his legs. READ  

Germany's students fail to graduate in time
A German student protests against the Bologna reforms in Mainz in 2010. Photo: DPA

Germany's students fail to graduate in time

Leaked figures show the average student in Germany still takes around four years to complete a bachelor's degree, suggesting controversial reforms to higher education have so far failed to cut down the number of Germany's perpetual students. READ  

Lawmakers earn millions on the side
Bavarian lawmaker Peter Gauweiler made almost €1 million on the side. Photo: DPA

Lawmakers earn millions on the side

A quarter of all politicians in the German Parliament are making additional income on top of their parliamentary salary, a transparency group said on Saturday. Thirteen lawmakers have made more than €100,000 in the last few months. READ  

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video
Schweinsteiger has apologized after the video of him on holiday was posted on YouTube. Photo: DPA

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video

UPDATE: Germany’s World Cup winning star Bastian Schweinsteiger has apologized after a video emerged of him on YouTube leading a chant insulting Borussia Dortmund supporters and players. READ  

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle
Konrad Fischer with his find. Photo: DPA

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle

UPDATE: A fisherman who found the world's oldest message in a bottle tossed into the sea in northern Germany has failed in his attempt to sell it on eBay. The auction was stopped at the last minute. READ  

JobTalk Germany
Job seekers frustrated with application wait
Photo: DPA

Job seekers frustrated with application wait

A new YouGov survey shows job seekers in Germany are exasperated with the application process, complaining about poor job adverts and slow responses. Recruiters agree. READ  

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam
Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann said there was no room for such comments in Bild publications but stopped short of an apology. Photo: DPA

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam

Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, was forced to climb down over the weekend after a highly critical and controversial comment piece which attacked Islam as a barrier to integration appeared in its Sunday sister paper. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Sport
Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Photo: DPA
National
Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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

3,226
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd