POLITICAL REVIEW: Merkel gets boost from Saar Election, Schulz-Effect less impactful than thought?

Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulating reelected State Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Photo Credit: Tobias Koch

Even Donald Trump congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel directly, after her confidante Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer won the Saarland state-election on Sunday with a strong 40.7% of all votes (+5,5). All other parties scored weaker than had been expected: the SPD 29,6% (-1), the Left 12,9% (-3,2), the Greens 4,0% (-1), the far right AfD 6,2% (+6,2) and the liberal FDP 3,3% (+2,1).

Many, including Ms Merkel attributed the CDU’s strength to the popularity of Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer. Yet, on a wider picture, the CDU’s success can also be explained by the fears many voters had regarding an SPD-Green-Left coalition. Had the Greens entered parliament, then such a coalition might have been possible — but about 57% of voters disapproved of it in polls. In Saarland, the SPD will join the government anyway. But voter’s disapproval of a Left Wing government sent a message that, if repeated in the state elections in North-Rhine Westphalia in May, could open a dilemma Social Democrats: They must campaign on the promise to topple Ms Merkel, but without relying on The Left. Acknowledging that problem, Bernd Riexinger as well as Ms Merkel aimed to push Martin Schulz, the SPD’s Chancellor candidate, into deciding on his coalition plans. Mr Schulz of course refuses to make such a statement so far. Yet the election has shown that the “Schulz-Effect” might be less impactful than thought.

That leaves the Greens, who have decided not to give any coalition preferences prior the federal election. So far, this has weakened them: Most disgruntled voters lean towards the SPD. In Saarland at least, the Greens lost enough votes to miss entering the state parliament — as did the Liberals. The weakness of the smaller parties, including the far right AfD, can be explained by the current CDU-SPD dichotomy. Albeit, the Saarland, holding 800.000 voters, is not representative picture of the entire country. Also, the discourse’s current focus on wealth redistribution might well change.

A possible trigger for crisis is, still, Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan. Turkish consulates opened the doors for his constitutional referendum this week. At an event organised by The Left Bundestag group, Mr Erdogan was harshly criticised it. Meanwhile Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) called the referendum a “putsch” and the Left Bundestag group’s chairwomen Sahra Wagenknecht called Mr Erdogan a “terrorist”.

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