Un little more than 100 days after coming to power, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party has won its first electoral test, a regional election in Saarland, hands down, against conservatives in crisis. The chancellor’s party won 43.5% of the vote, against 28.5% for the Christian Democrats of the CDU, at the head for more than 20 years of this small region of western Germany, according to first official results.
The SPD would even obtain an absolute majority in the Land parliament, with 29 of the 51 seats, against 19 for the CDU. Voters “clearly opted for a change at the head of their region”, reacted on Twitter Olaf Scholz, hailing a “convincing victory”. The Social Democrats, at the head of the ruling coalition since the beginning of December, would thus win more than 13 points compared to the previous election in 2017 in this Land, the smallest in Germany after the cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen.
Given as dying a few months ago, before winning a surprise victory in the general elections in September, the SPD will thus put an end to 23 years of conservative rule in this small border region of France.
Regional issues “tipped the scales”
This life-size test since the accession to power of Olaf Scholz, at the head of a coalition formed with environmentalists and liberals, is the first of an electoral “super-year” in Germany, marked by three other regional elections. . In five years, the Social Democrats have thus managed to completely reverse the trend with the CDU, which had clearly won in 2017 with more than 40% of the vote.
The question remains, however, what national lessons can be learned from this election in this very small region. National polls indeed show an erosion of the SPD since the legislative elections: they are now overtaken by the conservatives and Olaf Scholz is the subject of numerous criticisms, aimed in particular at his lack of leadership in the face of the war in Ukraine or the pandemic. Regional issues “tipped the scales” in this election, said CDU Vice President Andreas Jung, not wishing to draw national conclusions from this “bitter evening”.
This regional success shows that the victory of September was not a “unique success”, without a future, on the contrary judges the co-president of the SPD, Lars Klingbeil. In Saarland itself, the SPD seems to have benefited from a form of sacred union which followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Everything that is said and done now is under the influence of war. This is not the time to make the opposition, “summarized before the election Thorsten Frei, one of the executives of the CDU group in the Bundestag. The other parties, from the ecologists to the far right via the liberals, would struggle to reach the 5% necessary to sit in the regional parliament, according to initial estimates.
The Social Democrats relied on the popularity of their regional leader, Anke Rehlinger, 45, a lawyer and holder of the Saar shot put record. Minister of the Economy and vice-president of the previous regional government, Anke Rehlinger enjoys a good image with the Saarland, who particularly appreciate her involvement with the victims of deindustrialisation. His opponent, the current Minister-President Tobias Hans, 44, will have to hand over the management of a Land he has held for four years.
In search of a new impetus after its defeat in September, which ended 16 years at the head of the country, the CDU, now led by a rival of Angela Merkel, Friedrich Merz, therefore still has work to do. to get his party out of the crisis it has been going through since the departure of Angela Merkel. Elected in January on a very right-wing line, Friedrich Merz canceled his visit to a support meeting on Thursday and seemed to have drawn a line under victory before the polls even opened. After Angela Merkel’s four terms, the DU seems to be causing a “general weariness”, estimates the weekly Der Spiegel.