Voters will go to the polls in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on 15 May to elect the state parliament. Up for grabs are at least 181 seats in the parliament which are being contested by the major political parties, including the CDU, SPD and the Greens.
An African is contesting and if he wins, he will make history as the first African-born member of parliament in NRW, Germany’s most populous federal state with about 18 million inhabitants. The parliament is the central legislative body and it elects the Minister-President (Premier) of the state.
Running on the platform of the Greens in the city of Hamm, 31-year-old Nelli Soumaoro has enjoyed ample support from the national leaders of the party. Robert Habeck, Deputy Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, who is the leader of the Greens in the current federal governing coalition, has been to Hamm to lend his weight to the ambition of the Guinean-born politician.
Soumaoro, a social entrepreneur and development consultant, believes that an effective inclusion in Germany requires the participation of people with a migrant background in the political parties that play a central role in the political system.
If elected, Soumaoro says he would work for the low income inhabitants of his town, Hamm, and for an increased intercultural openness and accessibility of the naturalisation process in the state. He would also fight for a more just education system, where nobody is disadvantaged because of their social or ethnic background. Moreover, as an active actor in development co-operation between NRW and Africa, he would devote energy to increased German-African ties.
NRW is currently governed by a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP).
At the last state elections in 2017, the CDU, with 72 seats in parliament, became the strongest party after significant gains in votes, just ahead of the SPD (69), which in turn suffered major losses. The FDP gained votes and became the third strongest party (28), followed at some distance by the AfD (16), which contested for the first time. The Greens are represented by 14 members in the 181-strong parliament.