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Germany: Two State Elections On One Sunday

In Rhineland-Palatinate, some 3 million residents have the opportunity to vote today. The state elections are about the composition of the state parliament in Mainz. Further south, in Baden-Württemberg, 7.7 million people have the right to vote.

Berlin, March 14th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Two First Ministers in two federal states within Germany, namely Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, are facing elections today. In both cases, polls show they will likely win. These elections kick off Germany’s super election year with a total of six state elections, general elections for the Bundestag and four local elections. The first of the latter takes place in Hesse today.

Person and Party

In Baden-Württemberg, located in Germany’s south-west, the only Green First Minister the country has, Winfried Kretschmann, is poised to win his third elections. Many voters trust the likeable 72-year-old. The state used to be a stronghold of the conservative CDU. Not anymore. Winfried Kretschmann has managed to turn Baden-Württemberg into a Green state during his first two terms. Even many conservatives vote for him. But, to be fair, this is more about the person Kretschmann, the good friend to many, than it is about the Greens.

Susanne Eisenmann, the candidate sent into the race by the CDU, does not stand a chance to win in Stuttgart, the state capital. The very opposite is the case. Kretschmann might even kick the CDU, his junior coalition partner, out of the government in order to go for a partnership with the center-left SPD and the liberal FDP. The latest scandal about Bundestag MPs of the CDU who got huge commissions for procuring masks in the middle of the pandemic will not help the CDU either. The latter applies to both states that have big elections today.

Likeable Personality

In Rhineland-Palatinate, the SPD’s Malu Dreyer will likely win again. Similar to Winfried Kretschmann down south, the lawyer who has multiple sclerosis is a likeable personality. In one of the SPD’s last strongholds, the person is an important drawing card, while the party is not. Because Malu Dreyer is so popular, criticizing her personally may backfire. Her opponents know, which is why they are avoiding direct verbal attacks.

Especially during the ongoing Corona pandemic, Malu Dreyer proved to be a good crisis manager. The fact that her state has the second-lowest Incidence Number in Germany is probably not a coincidence. In some polls, her opponent Christian Baldauf came pretty close. At some point, the SPD and the CDU were on the same level in the polls. But this is not only about numbers, but also about coalition partners. It looks like the Greens and the FDP intend to continue their cooperation with Mrs. Dreyer.

Mother and Father

Both she and her Green colleague Kretschmann have the personality bonus. She is like the mother of her state, and he is the father of his. Both are so popular voters will even forgive them mistakes their governments made. So, the overall election outcome is a foregone conclusion, especially in Baden-Württemberg. Still, this is a suspenseful day because of the implications for the federal parties in Berlin and the question of coalitions.

Today’s elections are a litmus test for the CDU’s new chairman Armin Laschet, who is also First Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. Either him or his Bavarian colleague Markus Söder will officially become candidate for Chancellor soon. The most important day in Germany’s super election year is September 26th, 2021. On that day, the Bundestag elections take place, along with state elections in Berlin, Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania and Thuringia.

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