Germany’s Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) party won Saarland’s state election on Sunday, with 40.7 percent, far ahead of the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), with 29.6 percent.
The closely-watched election in the small, western state, which was the first since Martin Schulz became SDP leader, was seen as a test for him and CDU’s Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the September general elections.
“We campaigned here together, Angela Merkel and myself. Side-by-side we campaigned here, both the federal party and us. But we made very clear that we campaigned here for our regional policies. We want to shape our future here,” Saarland’s Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters at her first press conference after the polls.
Like in the federal government, Saarland is currently governed by a ‘grand coalition’ of Merkel’s CDU and the second-placed Social Democrats.
The election result in Saarland means the most likely outcome of coalition talks will be a continuation of the current two-party government.
The far-right Alternative for Germany got 6.2 per cent, behind the Left party (12.9 per cent). The Greens and the FDP failed to make the 5 per cent threshold, having won 4.0 and 3.3 per cent respectively.
No Schulz effect
The dip in support for the SPD is a setback for Schulz, the party’s candidate for chancellor at the coming federal election. Since he was crowned party leader, the former European Parliament President has revived the fortunes of the Social Democrats in national popularity polls.
“We have not reached what we aimed for tonight. But that does not mean that we will not reach our overall goal, which is to change the government of Germany,” said Schulz.
The election in Saarland, the first of three regional polls this year, was considered a significant opportunity for parties to build – or lose – momentum ahead of the national election.
The CDU’s victory in Saarland is seen as boosting Mekel’s prospects of winning a fourth term on 24 September.