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Carsten Brzeski's blog

Germany: Saarland votes for grand coalition

The first elections of the year in Germany brought a victory for Angela Merkel’s CDU. The impact on the September elections remains limited.

The first election of the year brought a victory for Merkel’s CDU. In Saarland, the CDU gained some 5 percentage points and came in as the largest party at yesterday’s election. According to the preliminary results, the CDU came in at 40.5%, the SPD at slightly less than 30%, the Left Party at 12.9% and the AfD at 6.2%. Both the Greens (4.0%) and the liberal FDP (3.3%) did not make it into parliament. Interestingly, the voter turnout increased by almost 10 percentage points to around 70%; the highest level in almost 20 years. With this result, a continuation of the current grand coalition looks like the only possible next government in Saarland.

Political spin-doctors and analysts will now try to find any impact from yesterday’s elections for the national elections in September. In fact, it will be hard to find a lot. The preliminary result confirmed what earlier polls had suggested, namely that the elections in Saarland would be mainly dominated by regional interests and characters. The impact from the so-called Schulz-hype and the Merkel-Schulz rivalry on the elections was very limited from the start.

Nevertheless, even if yesterday’s results bear hardly any consequences for the September elections, they at least illustrated several interesting trends in German politics: i) the interest in politics is increasing again (illustrated by the high voter turnout); ii) finding an alternative to the so-called grand coalition of CDU and SPD will not be easy; iii) the duel between Schulz and Merkel or SPD and CDU comes at the expense of less votes for the Greens and FDP. Both smaller parties will sharpen their profiles to turn around the current negative trend; and iv) even though the AfD received less votes than expected, it will now be represented in 11 out of 16 state parliaments.

All in all, yesterday’s state elections in Saarland were a rather unexciting start of Germany’s election year. In our view, it hardly looks as if this election will be of relevance for the national elections.