Merkel’s CDU and Greens big winners in North Rhine-Westphalia local elections

Local elections in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia brought a clear victory to Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and at the same time strengthened the Greens, especially in the big cities.

Merkel's CDU and Greens big winners in North Rhine-Westphalia local elections
The still acting CDU mayor of Essen Thomas Kufen with state premiere Laschet. Photo: DPA

State premier Armin Laschet, who is running to replace Angela Merkel as she steps down as Chancellor in 2021, said on Monday in Berlin that he had “tailwind” for his “moderate course”. 

After their record result, the Greens of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said that they are “no longer appendages of other parties,” their state chairperson Mona Neubaur told DPA.

For the centre-left Social Democrats, on the other hand, the elections brought the historically worst result in the history of NRW state elections.

So what were the results?

According to the preliminary results, the CDU won 34.3 percent of the vote in the elections for city councils, municipal councils and district councils – 3.2 percentage points less than in the last elections 2014.

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) remained the second strongest force with 24.3 percent (-7.1 points). 

The Greens increased their share of the vote by 8.3 points to 20 percent, their best result in a local election in NRW. The Free Democrats (FDP) increased slightly to 5.6 percent.

READ ALSO: Merkel's Christian Democrats to elect new leader in December

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) came in at five percent – 2.5 percentage points more than in 2014 – and bringing them a parliamentary seat.

The Left Party, with 3.8 percent, remained 0.8 points below the 2014 result. The other parties and voter groups came in at seven percent.

Voter turnout, at 51.9 percent, was slightly higher than in 2014 (5 percent).

What does this mean going forward?

Laschet evaluated the electoral success of the CDU as recognition for a “measured path in the pandemic”.

Many did not expect a victory of the CDU “on this scale” in a state that had been governed by the SPD for 50 years.

Still, Sebastian Hartmann, head of the SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia, stressed that his party had done better than many polls had predicted. He called on the party to concentrate its strength now on important run-off elections.

At least there was some consolation for SPDs from the Ruhr area on what was, on the whole, a bitter evening for them: in Bottrop, SPD mayor Bernd Tischler held on to his office with 73.1 percent of the vote.

In Bochum, SPD politicians Thomas Eiskirch was re-elected with 61.8 percent of the vote.

How will the CDU and Greens use their success to cooperate?

The Green party were elected to the city council in Cologne, the largest city in the state – as well as in the university cities of Bonn and Münster.
In several other cities and districts they are now the second strongest faction and could form powerful majorities with the CDU.
“The Greens are not just some small alliance party at the municipal level,” Düsseldorf political scientist Stefan Marschall told DPA on Monday, “but have become a key party that is difficult to get around when it comes to forming cooperations and alliances”.
This is a new role for the eco-party in NRW, and one that is likely to be followed with great interest nationwide.
Since the 2017 federal elections they have jumped from their 8.9 percent result in the polls to 19 percent.


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How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP