Elections in Lower Saxony : the SPD Breathes a Sigh of Relief

The results of the Oct. 9 elections to the state parliament in Lower Saxony do not directly call into question the future of Chancellor Scholz’ grand coalition in Berlin. But given the energy crisis, the soaring cost of living, and the international pressures on Germany, its reassurance will be short-lived. The big loser is in any case the Christian Democrats, who sank from 33.6% in the last election to 28.1% this year.

But, of the three parties in the grand coalition, only the Greens actually won votes, going from 8.7% to an impressive, but ominous, 14.5%. The Social Democrats (SPD), although still the biggest party, lost 3.5% to end up with 33.4% of the total. The Free Democrats (FDP) did not even pass the hurdle of 5% to be represented in parliament, after scoring only 4.7% (minus 2.8% compared to the last election).

The Greens benefited in part from the support of young voters who are active in the Fridays4Future protest movement and have become fixated on the “energy transition”. But more important is that the SPD wanted to put an end to the coalition it has had until now with the CDU in Lower Saxony, and govern together with the Greens. Therefore, the SPD boosted the votes for the Greens, which would explain the “migration” of 180,000 voters from social democrat to Green.

Similarly, the right-wing party Alternative for Germany went from 6.2% to 10,9% of the votes, many of them from previous CDU voters. In addition to losing votes among the general population, the CDU has also lost its longtime image of “economic competence” among small and medium-sized enterprises, and is now viewed as no better than the SPD. The party base will have to consider whether electing Friedrich Merz, a former Black Rock manager, as national party chairman at the end of past year was a wise choice. The party has steadily alienated its traditional base of support since then.

That tendency is particularly visible in the more rebellious states in the East, where the rallies are often organized by former CDU members who quit the party because of its inaction on social issues. They are now urging citizens to protest against the rising inflation, the advance of “genderism”, and radical ecologism, such as the plans for a total exit from coal.

The next government of Lower Saxony may be SPD-Green, but that it will have no effect on the situation in Germany’s east, which the broadening protest movement is centered. And if the national government becomes more “green” as a result of the Oct. 9 election, the protests will only grow.

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