Election Preview: Saarland, Saxony, Thuringia 2009
Three German states are holding state elections to the Landtag on August 30, five years after the last elections in those states. Two of these states are in the former East Germany, Saxony and Thuringia will the other, Saarland (Sarre in French) is located along the French and Luxembourgian border. Saarland is Germany’s smallest state and only became part of West Germany in 1956 (Saar is the German version of Alsace-Moselle, alternating in the past between France and Germany).
All of these states are governed by the Christian Democratic Union (which is the senior governing party federally, of course) and two (Saarland and Thuringia) are homogeneous governments consisting only of the CDU. Saxony, like the federal government, is governed by a CDU-Social Democrat (SPD) grand coalition. Saarland is governed by the CDU alone since 1999, prior to that it was governed by a homogeneous SPD government since 1985. The Minister-Presidents of Thuringia and Saxony have been members of the CDU since re-unification, although coalitions were not always homogeneous – although both states had ‘single-party governments’ at various times.
Saarland, the smallest state in Germany, is an industrial region of and is a very important coal producing area. However, the Saar is also strongly Catholic (though there are, of course, Protestant enclaves). Saarland remains dominated by the CDU and SPD with the liberal FDP and Greens unable to make any major breakthroughs to this date. Partly because there aren’t enough wealthy people (FDP) or big cities (Greens). The state is also home to Oskar Lafontaine, who was the SPD Minister-President between 1985 and 1998. Lafontaine is one of the major figures of the newish Left Party, which he founded with the East German-based post-communist PDS in 2007. Lafontaine was a member of the SPD’s left-wing until he left, but he has significant electoral clout in Saarland to this day. In fact, the state was the Linke.PDS’ best West German state in the 2005 federal election (18.5% on the second vote) partly due to the fact that Lafontaine was in fact a candidate. The party won only 12% in the European elections, probably because Lafontaine was not the standard-bearer.
The results of the 2004 election:
CDU 47.5 (+2.0) winning 27 seats (+1)
SPD 30.8 (-13.6) winning 18 seats (-7)
Greens 5.6 (+2.4) winning 3 seats (+3)
FDP 5.2 (+2.6) winning 3 seats (+3)
NPD (Nazis) 4.0 winning 0 seats (nc)
The PDS won 2.3%, trailing the Nazis and the Saarland-based Family Party (conservative).
Polling is sparse in sparsely populated Saarland, the last poll from Infratest Dimap on April 22… before the Euros… so, perhaps not the best picture for now. Here is the poll applied to election.de’s seat calculator.
CDU 36% winning 20 seats (-7)
SPD 27% winning 15 seats (-3)
Left 18% winning 9 seats (+9)
FDP 9% winning 4 seats (+1)
Greens 7% winning 3 seats (nc)
The CDU obviously loses its overall majority, falling over 10% from 2004. A CDU-FDP coalition is also short of a majority (24, 26 needed for a majority). The only options are a CDU-led Grand Coalition, obviously; or a SPD-Greens-Left coalition. While the SPD and the Left are in government together in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, such a coalition is unknown to West Germany (though it almost was realized in Hesse in 2008 before SPD dissidents blocked a majority forcing an early election).
Saxony isn’t the type of land you would see electing a Christian Democratic (aka Catholic) government in the context of German politics (Saxony is/was Protestant and is heavily de-Christianized), but voting patterns in the East are much less rigid and based around personalities. The CDU in Saxony had Karl Biedenkopf. Historically, Saxony was the early base of German socialism (or atleast, anti-establishment opposition), and the SPD won some of its first electoral victories here in the 1870s and it was the base of the Communist Party (KPD) during the Weimar era (along with neighboring Thuringia). The SPD tradition was destroyed by the Nazis and the Stasi State, and ironically, Saxony is now one of the SPD’s weakest states – along with Bavaria. However, the PDS/Linke does well here, as in the rest of the GDR. The 2004 resulted in the CDU losing its overall majority, due to Biedenkopf retiring. In addition, the neo-Nazi NPD won 12 seats here. The NPD is strong in East Germany, where protest voting is very high.
CDU 41.1 (-15.8) winning 55 seats (-21)
PDS (Left) 23.6 (+1.4) winning 31 seats (+1)
SPD 9.8 (-0.9) winning 13 seats (-1)
NPD (Nazis) 9.2 (+7.8) winning 12 seats (+12)
FDP 5.9 (+4.8) winning 7 seats (+7)
Greens 5.1 (+2.5) winning 6 seats (+3)
The latest poll was released today, August 12.
CDU 39% winning 49 seats (-6)
Left 19% winning 24 seats (-7)
SPD 15% winning 19 seats (+6)
FDP 12% winning 15 seats (+8)
Greens 6% winning 7 seats (+1)
NPD 5% winning 6 seats (-6)
The CDU-SPD Grand Coalition keeps its majority, but a CDU-FDP coalition is now possible on these numbers. The CDU would prefer working with the FDP presumably, making a CDU-FDP coalition more likely.
Thuringia, like Saxony isn’t the type of land you would see electing a Christian Democratic (aka Catholic) government in the context of German politics (Thuringia is/was Protestant and is heavily de-Christianized – however there is a Catholic enclave in NW Thuringia which is heavily CDU), but voting patterns in the East are much less rigid and based around personalities. The CDU Minister-President, Dieter Althaus, made headlines by accidentally killing a Slovenian woman while skiing in Styria (Austria).
CDU 43.0 (-8.0) winning 45 seats (-4)
PDS (Left) 26.1 (+4.8) winning 28 seats (+7)
SPD 14.5 (-4.0) winning 15 seats (-3)
FDP 3.6 (+2.5) winning 0 seats (nc)
Greens 4.5 (+2.6) winning 0 seats (nc)
The latest poll was released today, August 12. Do note that Others are 7%, and a Forsa poll on July 29 polled the NPD at 3% support. I don’t think that the Nazis or any other little joke will get in.
CDU 34% winning 32 seats (-17)
Left 24% winning 23 seats (-1)
SPD 20% winning 19 seats (nc)
FDP 9% winning 8 seats (+8)
Greens 6% winning 6 seats (+6)
A CDU-FDP coalition lacks a majority, making a CDU-SPD Grand Coalition the likeliest outcome. Of course, there is theoretically a Left-SPD-Green coalition, but it’s rather doubtful such a thing will happen under a Left Minister-President, though it could under a SPD Minister-President, if the Left wants that (not sure about that myself).
On a side note, massive posts on the German federal elections on September 27 will commence soon.