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Germany: Conservatives Intend to Defend their Majorities in Two State Elections

Since September of last year, Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has had a series of bad election defeats. Now, it is determined to win the next two state elections. The third one is probably lost already.

Sofia, Bulgaria, April 11th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — A perfect son-in-law is governing Schleswig-Holstein. A second one is head of government in North Rhine-Westphalia. Daniel Günther and Hendrik Wüst are both young, good-looking, clever and members of the conservative CDU. And they are confronted with the same challenge: They need to defeat the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) who were drowning in the polls just a year ago, but then won all major elections held in Germany.

Winning Streak

In September, the SPD scored a triple win, when they became the strongest party on the federal level, in the city state of Berlin and in Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania. In late March, they reconquered Saarland. But Günther and Wüst intend to stop their competitors’ string of victories. This is about winning for the sake of their CDU, their political beliefs, as well as saving their own careers in German politics.

Of course the German conservatives know the third state elections that are scheduled to take place in Lower Saxony on October 9th, 2022, are probably lost, even if they do not admit it. In this state, the SPD is too strong. But they have good chances in regard to defending their reign in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, if they run convincing election campaigns and work hard.

Up and Down

In Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein’s capital, a constant wind blows into people’s faces. It comes in from the Baltic Sea and the Bay of Kiel. Daniel Günther is the man who needs to withstand an even stronger wind, less than a month ahead of the state elections up there. Even though hardly anyone knows him, Günther’s opponent, the Social-Democratic candidate Thomas Losse-Müller, is close. The polling results in Schleswig-Holstein are crazy. For some reason, the numbers for the SPD are jumping up and down like a basketball. According to some polls, the Social Democrats could actually win. Others give Daniel Günther an advance of up to 16 percent. These differences are weird, also because they appeared within a few days. Nobody has the faintest clue what will be happening on election day.

The CDU in Schleswig-Holstein says it wants “good education” and “make schools launch pads for the future”. They use a phrase that is very popular during election campaigns in the United States of America: “No child will be left behind.” Other subjects the conservatives talk about include the energy transformation, which they were opponents of not so long ago. And they want a strong police, an improved public transport system and fast Internet connections.

Close Race

What the Social Democrats want does not sound very different. They intend to be “caring, digital and climate neutral”. In Kiel, they announced a “rent brake”. If they head the next government, they want to decrease the real estate transfer tax, get rid of kindergarten fees and purchase laptop computers for all kids in grades 8 to 12. First, they need to win, which could prove difficult up there in Schleswig-Holstein. The conservatives have been heading the governments in this stage for 17 years.

Federal States with Upcoming Elections:

  • Schleswig-Holstein:
    Daniel Günther (CDU) heads unconventional coalition with the Greens and the FDP, elections on May 8th, 2022
  • North Rhine-Westphalia:
    Hendrik Wüst (CDU) heads coalition with the center-right FDP, elections on May 1th, 2022
  • Lower Saxony:
    Stephan Weil (SPD) heads grand coalition government with CDU, elections on October 9th, 2022

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is a different case. Hendrik Wüst has not been a main candidate in state elections yet. The state parliament in Düsseldorf elected him First Minister (or Governor) when his predecessor Armin Laschet became candidate for Chancellor. He needs more luck than Daniel Günther because the Social Democrats in NRW are stronger. According to the polls, the CDU and the SPD are about even right now, which means that every single vote counts. The Social Democrat Thomas Kutschaty might very well become the next First Minister.

Growing Margin

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU has been in a crisis since they picked a weak candidate, Laschet, for the Bundestag elections. If they lose both state elections in May, the trouble they are in will increase. If they lose one of them, things will look about as bad as they do now. They have to avoid a downfall of the kind the Social Democrats experienced. It took the SPD 16 years to get out of the vortex that pulled them down.

In Lower Saxony, Bernd Althusmann (CDU) is Minister of the Economy, Labor and Transport under First Minister Stephan Weil (SPD), in a grand coalition. Last time, in 2017, Althusmann lost the election by about 3 percent. This time, the Social Democrats’ margin might grow substantially, judging from the latest polls.

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