Baltic Sea

Germany’s conservatives on course to win elections in the north of the state

  • Conservative CDU leads with 43% in polls for early exit
  • Energy transition an important campaign issue in the midst of the Ukraine war
  • Wahl is considered to be the figurehead for the NRW elections on May 15th

BERLIN, May 8 (Reuters) – Germany’s conservative CDU appeared to win an election in northern Schleswig-Holstein on Sunday, a boost for former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, which was ousted from national government in last year’s federal election.

An election exit poll by infratest dimap showed that the Christian Democrats (CDU) won 43% of the vote, 11 percentage points more than in the last state election in Schleswig-Holstein in 2017.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, the main party in Germany’s “traffic light” coalition with the environmentally conscious Greens and the Liberal Free Democrats (FDP), slumped to 15.5 percent.

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The Greens and the FDP, who have been in a coalition with the CDU in Schleswig-Holstein since 2017, are 17% and 7% respectively in the exit poll, meaning the Conservatives there may form a government with only one of the two parties be able .

The CDU’s stronger standing in the country than nationally — where it stands at 26% after its worst federal election result in September — is partly due to Prime Minister Daniel Günther’s popularity, analysts say.

A different designation for 48-year-old Günther, who polls say is the most popular prime minister in Germany, could bolster the role of moderates within the CDU, in opposition to its more right-wing leader Friedrich Merz, CDU sources told Reuters.

The Südschleswigsche Party (SSW), which represents the country’s ethnic Danish minority, won 6% of the vote, while both the far-right AfD and the far-left Linke party failed to get the 5% of the vote needed to win seats secure the state parliament.

The elections in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), will be more significant next week, where the SPD and CDU are going head-to-head.

A defeat for the conservatives in North Rhine-Westphalia after the defeat in March in the small Saarland would be a major setback for the party.

It would also make it easier for Scholz’s coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP to pass laws in the upper house of the Bundestag, where state elections have a say in the distribution of votes. Continue reading

Typically, regional issues such as childcare costs or real estate transfer taxes dominate in such state elections.

But national issues are also a particular focus this year in view of the tectonic shifts in German foreign, energy and security policy since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

On the one hand, Germany wants to accelerate the expansion of renewable energies in order to reduce its dependence on Russia as an oil and gas supplier.

Located between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, Schleswig-Holstein is one of the leading federal states in wind energy generation in Germany with over 3,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines.

The Greens aim to increase the number of turbines and reduce the required minimum distance between wind farms and residential buildings, while the CDU wants to increase the production capacity of existing wind farms without further increasing their number.

One of the two planned terminals for liquid natural gas (LNG) in Germany is also to be built in Schleswig-Holstein, the construction of which was brought forward due to the Ukraine war. The Greens and the SSW had previously opposed the project.

But they are no longer expected to strongly oppose becoming part of the government amid energy concerns, according to Christian Meyer-Heidemann, the country’s commissioner for civic education, a non-partisan office.

The battery manufacturer Northvolt plans to open a third giga factory for battery cells in the city of Heide in 2025, citing the country’s high proportion of green electricity.

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Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Vera Eckert, editing by Mark Heinrich and Catherine Evans

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