• Germany's news in English

Voters deal Merkel surprise victory

The Local · 26 Mar 2012, 07:51

Published: 25 Mar 2012 18:39 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Mar 2012 07:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In the first of three quick-fire votes in eight weeks, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) was kicked out of the state assembly in Saarland, winning just 1.2 percent, according to provisional official results.

The party was already kicked out of five state parliaments last year after also failing to reach the required five percent to secure parliamentary representation.

Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which has governed in a national coalition with the FDP since 2009, retained its position as the state's strongest party, winning 35.2 percent.

CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe called it a "day of great joy for Saarland and for the CDU".

The main opposition Social Democrats (SPD), which had been polling neck-and-neck with the CDU, failed to do as well as expected but saw a marked improvement on their 2009 result, with 30.6 percent.

SPD head Sigmar Gabriel said he viewed the result both "laughing and crying".

The result sees the state poised to enter a grand coalition with the SPD. Kramp-Karrenbauer called the result a positive signal for the CDU on the national level.

"The people have got the state premier they wanted," she said. Kramp-Karrenbauer said Merkel had called to congratulate her just minutes after the first forecasts were reported.

Kramp-Karrenbauer announced in January that she would dissolve the state’s three-way coalition, between her conservatives, the FDP and the Greens.

The collapse was caused by an ongoing internal strife within the local FDP, which had fatally undermined her government's stability.

FDP General Secretary Patrick Döring sought to put on a brave face, looking ahead to two upcoming regional votes in May, despite the party now having been humiliatingly kicked out of six states since last year.

"We will show there that organised liberalism in both states is strong enough to have an important function in parliament and in responsibility," he said after the Saarland vote.

Last year's "super election" year saw Merkel's party suffer an electoral setback in her home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in September.

But most humiliating for the CDU was a defeat to the Greens in March in the wealthy south-western state of Baden-Württemberg that the conservatives had ruled without interruption for nearly six decades.

However Merkel's personal approval rating, as well as her CDU, has been riding high in polls of late, seemingly cheered by her leadership at the helm of Europe's biggest economy, through the eurozone debt crisis.

"This close liaison between the CDU and SPD possibly anticipates the constraints which may result at federal level after the next general election," the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said on Monday.

The vote in the small south-western Saarland which borders Luxembourg and France will be followed by the more strategically important Schleswig-Holstein on May 6 and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) a week later.

After a gruelling seven regional votes last year, Merkel and her junior Free Democrats were only due to fight one in 2012, but that unexpectedly swelled to three after the sudden collapse of Saarland and NRW state governments.

As Germany's most populous state with 18 million people and a major industrial base, NRW's centre-left minority government fell after just 22 months over a budget dispute.

Story continues below…

The state historically plays a big role in federal politics - in 2005, a lost vote in NRW prompted then chancellor Gerhard Schröder to call a snap federal election which he then lost to Merkel.

Kicking off the electoral season, Saarland, a small region of about 800,000 voters, called early elections after the coalition of FDP, CDU and Greens collapsed in January.

The far-left Linke party won just over 16 percent in Saarland, and the Pirate party, which burst on to the German political scene last September, won its second footing in a state parliament with 7.4 percent.

The Greens scraped back in with five percent.

The FDP peaked in the last national election, grabbing more than 14 percent of the vote and formed a coalition government with Merkel's CDU. But it has since seen its ratings dwindle amid internal squabbling and political strategies that have backfired.

DAPD/The Local/AFP/arp/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

19:22 March 25, 2012 by Englishted
Oh no not another grand coalition ,I do wonder if it worth voting when nothing ever changes.
20:18 March 25, 2012 by marimay
Aw, cute. Your elections are rigged, too!
21:09 March 25, 2012 by vonSchwerin
This is so pathetic.

The FDP was in the government, and they imploded -- not only losing their ministerial portfolios, but also all their parliamentary mandates.

And the third and fourth parties in the state parliament aren't serious about governing a modern, Western European country in complex and nuanced world. One is practically a one-issue party, and the other wants the DDR Light and crazy policy ideas.
Today's headlines
Munich to get 'nice toilets' to serve cross-legged locals
Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital has a pee problem - the city only has one public toilet for every 13,000 inhabitants. But a new plan could rescue desperate locals, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

German kids get glowing report for their English skills
Photo: DPA.

As if multilingual Germans don't already put many English-speakers to shame, now the younger generation is improving their English skills even more.

Berlin museum controversially recreates Hitler bunker
The reconstruction of the Hitler bunker. Photo: DPA

Sensationalized or compelling history? Berlin museums clash over new Nazi bunker exhibit

Germans think they're fit, but they're really couch potatoes
Photo: DPA.

There's been an increase in the number of Germans who define themselves as "fit", but their lifestyle choices don't quite match this self-perception.

10 fascinating facts you never knew about German beer
Tennis coach Boris Becker and his wife Lilly at Oktoberfest 2016 in Munich. Photo: DPA

From malt and monks to Radlers and rivalries, the story of German beer is as rich and wonderful as its selection.

Intensive farming 'endangers a third of German species'
Photo: DPA

There are 32,000 species of animal, plant and mushroom life native to Germany. Due to intensive farming methods, one in every three of these is endangered, a new report shows.

German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd