• 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
Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

Intersex person sues clinic for unncessary op
Photo: DPA

Intersex person sues clinic for unncessary op

Intersex person Michaela Raab is suing doctors in a Nuremberg court, who she said operated on her genitals and put her through female hormone therapy without having told her she was genetically a man. READ  

Greece bailout
Greece bailout passes with massive majority
Wolfgang Schäuble addressing the Bundestag on Friday. Photo: DPA

Greece bailout passes with massive majority

UPDATE:German MPs voted 542-32 in favour of extending Greece's bailout programme on Friday. READ  

German soars into ski jump top spot
Photo: DPA

German soars into ski jump top spot

Germany is a "Weltmeister" again, this time in ski-jumping. Severin Freund's 134-metre vertical jumps, and new world distance record of nearly 136 metres, ended the nearly decade-and-a-half wait for German ski jump fans starved for gold. READ  

Muslim Council says Jewish fears 'justified'
Muslims at prayer in Frankfurt's Abubakr Mosque. Photo: DPA

Muslim Council says Jewish fears 'justified'

After the president of the Central Council of Jews warned against anti-Semitism in Muslim areas of German cities, his Muslim opposite number agreed that 'these fears are justified”. READ  

Consumer rights office slams Facebook
Photo: DPA

Consumer rights office slams Facebook

The Federation of Consumer Protection Offices (vzbv) has warned Facebook over legal breaches in its terms and conditions, saying that its claim on the homepage that “Facebook is free and always will be” is misleading. READ  

Spoof hails Varoufakis: puts 'hell' in 'Hellenica'
Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's "Minister of Awesome". Photo: DPA

Spoof hails Varoufakis: puts 'hell' in 'Hellenica'

An offering that rehabilitates the much-maligned German sense of humour is rocking the internet with a searing spoof metal tribute to Greece's formidable new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, filled with painful moments of self-mockery. READ  

This Week in History
Kafka's Metamorphosis: 100 years of perplexity
Franz Kafka. Photo: DPA

Kafka's Metamorphosis: 100 years of perplexity

100 years ago, Franz Kafka published The Metamorphosis, now seen as one of the most significant works of 20th century German literature. The Local speaks to the academic who has reinterpreted it for a modern audience. READ  

Nurse jailed for life for serial patient murders
Niels H. in court. The five murder counts against the former nurse may just be the start. Photo: DPA

Nurse jailed for life for serial patient murders

A male nurse who injected patients with overdoses of heart medication for the thrill of resuscitating them was on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment on five counts of murder. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
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

3,430
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd