Germany’s SPD is on course for another victory as Saarland heads to the polls

Election posters for the Saarland federal election
FILE PHOTO: Election posters of Anke Rehlinger (L), top candidate of the SPD and Tobias Hans, top candidate of the CDU for the upcoming March 27, 2022 election in Germany’s smallest state Saarland are pictured in Voelklingen near the Saarland capital Saarbruecken March 21, 2022 . REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

March 27, 2022

By Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans go to the polls in the small western state of Saarland on Sunday in the first of four regional elections this year that could allow Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz to consolidate his power.

The first regional election since the federal elections last September, which the Social Democrats (SPD) unexpectedly won – for the first time in 16 years against the conservatives – should give the party a further boost.

A poll published by ZDF Politbarometer on Thursday put the SPD at 41% of the vote versus 28% for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). Since 2012, the two parties have governed the Saarland in a conservative-led so-called “grand coalition”.

State elections in Germany are important mood makers and determine the distribution of votes in the Bundesrat.

While the governing coalition of SPD, environmentalists and FDP has a solid majority in the Bundestag, conservative-led or co-governed states have 51 out of 69 votes in the Bundesrat.

Three of the four states voting this year are led by the CDU. Should the CDU lose these votes, it could make it easier for the government to pass legislation.

In the case of Saarland, however, political analysts point out that it does not carry much weight in the Bundesrat, as it only has a population of around one million.

In addition, voters there are primarily motivated by local issues such as concerns about high unemployment and the popularity of SPD state chairwoman Anke Rehlinger.

In fact, the conservatives lead in nationwide polls with 27 percent compared to 23 percent for the SPD, said Manfred Güellner, head of the opinion research institute Forsa.

A more critical signpost are the May 15 elections in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, said Naz Masraff of the Eurasia Group.

“A possible change of government from the CDU to the SPD would be crucial for Scholz to further consolidate power in his party and give the government greater political leeway,” said Masraff.

The CDU prime ministers of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, who are holding state elections on May 8, are currently ahead of the SPD in polls. Lower Saxony, where the SPD is leading a grand coalition, is also voting on October 9th.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Jonathan Oatis) Germany’s SPD is on course for another victory as Saarland heads to the polls

Bobby Allyn

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