Category Archives: Saarland

Saarland (Germany) 2012

State elections were held in the German state of Saarland on March 25, 2012. All 51 seats in Saarland’s state parliament, the Landtag were up for reelection. The state is divided into three electoral districts (Saarbrücken, Neunkirchen and Saarlouis) and there is a 5% threshold for representation.

The heavily industrialized and largely Catholic working-class Saarland has usually been fought over by the CDU and SPD. The SPD, led by Oskar Lafontaine, governed the state between 1985 and 1999 until Lafontaine’s successor was defeated in 1999 by the CDU’s Peter Müller who governed without coalition allies between 1999 and 2009. In 2009, in state elections held a bit more than a month before the federal elections, Peter Müller’s CDU lost 13% support and ended up with 34.5% and 19 seats. At the same time, the SPD, which was in dire straits throughout Germany in 2009, won its worst result since 1955 in the state with only 24.5% (down 6% on an already terrible result in 2004). The SPD suffered a lot from the emergence of the post-communist socialist Left Party (Die Linke) in the home-state of one of its top leaders, Oskar Lafontaine. Lafontaine led the party to a dramatic result for the heavily GDR-based party in the western state: the Left took 21% of the vote. The FDP also did well, taking 9% of the vote. While a left-wing red-red-green coalition could have been formed with the SPD, Left and Greens, the usual problems with such a coalition combined by bad blood between the two main left-wing parties prevented the formation of a left-wing government. Ultimately, Peter Müller formed an historic ‘Jamaica’ coalition uniting the CDU, FDP and the Greens.

Müller resigned in August 2011 and was replaced by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The coalition collapsed in January 2012 following internal wranglings in the FDP. Following the failure of talks with the SPD to form a Grand Coalition, snap regional elections were called. The results were:

CDU 35.2% (+0.7%) winning 19 seats (nc)
SPD 30.6% (+6%) winning 17 seats (+4)
Left 16.1% (-5.1%) winning 9 seats (-2)
Pirates 7.4% (+7.4%) winning 4 seats (+4)
Greens 5% (-0.9%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Familie 1.7% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FDP 1.2% (-8%) winning 0 seats (-5)
NPD 1.2% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FW 0.9% (+0.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The CDU ended up winning by a fairly comfortable margin, while the SPD underpolled quite a bit compared to pre-electoral expectations – the party was tied or ahead of the CDU in most of the last polls with roughly 34% support. According to the ARD’s vote transfer analysis for the SPD, while the party gained 7000 voters from the CDU and Left (and 8000 from the FDP and 6000 from the Greens) it lost 7000 voters to abstention – turnout fell by a full 6% since 2009 – and 3000 votes to the Pirates.

The Pirate Party had been the sensation of the state elections in Berlin last year, where they emerged as the fifth largest party with nearly 9% of the vote and 15 seats in the state parliament of Germany’s particularly left-wing capital. Berlin was a perfect territory for the Pirates, made all the more appealing by a terrible Green campaign. They took most of their support from young males who had not voted in previous elections or young left-wing voters who had voted for the Greens, Left or SPD in past elections. I ended up being wrong on the assumption that the Pirate Party’s success in Berlin would prove a fad and peter out quickly. The Pirate success in Berlin has had repercussions across Germany, with the party polling over the 5% threshold for seats in the Bundestag and registering support in a good number of other states.

The main reason for the Pirate Party’s success in expanding beyond their original base in Berlin seems to be the state of the German left. Pathetic would be a fair descriptor, as would divided. The Greens have fallen back considerably from their monumental surge(s) last year, as they lose some more left-wing young voters eager for a more radical and hip alternative to the Pirates. The Left is polling much lower than what it won in 2009, the SPD’s gains from 2009 probably coming largely on the back of the Left’s loses. Fortunately for the left, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner – the liberal FDP – is in a state which is best summarized as ‘lol FDP’. The party has been averaging 1-2% at most!

In Saarland, the Pirates probably benefited from a local factor: left-wing Green voters punished the Greens for their unwise choice of entering a coalition with the right – a proven recipe for disaster for the Greens.

Exit polls are always interesting to analyse the Pirate phenomenon. The Pirates won 23% of first-time voters (27% of male first-time voters), and obviously did best (22%) with the youngest cohort (aged 18 to 24) and worse with the oldest cohort (2% with those over 60). As in Berlin, the Pirates also appealed to a not-so-artsy left-wing electorate (which are not Green voters): unemployed voters and working-class voters. The Pirates won 9% with the unemployed (against 30% for the SPD and 26% for the left), and 11% with ‘workers’. The Pirates, in this respect, have a wider potential base than the Greens, given that they carry an appeal to unemployed or low-income youths which the Greens certainly do not have.

The German tradition of vote transfer analyses is also quite instructive, as in Berlin. The party gained 8,000 votes from non-voters and 7,000 voters from 2009 Left Party voters. It took 4000 votes apiece from the CDU and FDP, and 3000 votes apiece from the Greens, SPD and other parties. The Greens had not done very well in the state in 2009, which might explain why their loses to the Pirates were less pronounced. The FDP, obviously, gained no voters, but lost a full 12,000 votes to the CDU and an additional 9,000 to abstention. The CDU’s gains from FDP voters compensated the CDU’s loses to abstention and other parties.

A grand coalition, CDU-SPD, seems to be the most likely option.

Saarland, Saxony, Thuringia 2009

As I had previously mentioned in an earlier post, three German states held state elections for their Landtags on August 30. Prior to the elections, the centre-right CDU, currently the senior governing party federally, was the senior governing party in all three and in two of them, Saarland and Thuringia, the CDU had an outright majority alone, meaning that it did not need to form a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) or the free-market liberal FDP, the CDU’s preferred partner.


In Saarland, the CDU took a major thumping compared to it’s landslide in 2004, therefore returning to more usual election results for the CDU in Saarland. The Left did better than expected, far better than the party did in the June Euros and better than the party’s 18.5% showing in the 2005 federal election (and, of course, it’s 2.3% showing in the 2004 state elections). Do note that Saarland does not have single-member constituencies at the state level.

CDU 34.5% (-13.0%) winning 19 seats (-8)
SPD 24.5% (-6.3%) winning 13 seats (-5)
Left 21.5% (+19.2%) winning 11 seats (+11)
Greens 5.9% (+2.4) winning 3 seats (±0)
FDP 9.2% (+4.0%) winning 5 seats (+2)
NPD (Nazis) 1.5% (-2.5%) winning 0 seats (±0)

The two coalition options currently on the table is Red-Red-Green (meaning a coalition between the three left-wing parties, the SPD, Linke and Greenies) and Jamaica. Red-Red-Green, if it works out, would be the first such coalition in West Germany, though an earlier attempt at such a coalition in Hesse in 2008 resulted in several SPD members defecting and led to a snap early election and blablabla. The other option on the table is the Jamaica Coalition, an idea floated around in the 2005 federal election season, but dead since. It is a coalition between the CDU, FDP and Greens. In this case, the CDU would obviously retain the Minister-President position. Red-Red-Green remains the likeliest, but the Greens plan on taking their time to figure out where they stand.


In Saxony, the CDU resisted better than in the two other states up that day. I would assume that part of the reason is that the incumbent government was a coalition between the CDU and SPD as opposed to a CDU-only coalition as in Saarland and Thuringia. While the Nazis lost votes compared to their spectacular 2004 showing, they, sadly, remain in Parliament.

CDU 40.2% (-0.9%) winning 58 seats (+3)
Left 20.6% (-3.0%) winning 29 seats (-2)
SPD 10.4% (+0.6%) winning 13 seats (+1)
FDP 10% (+4.1%) winning 14 seats (+7)
Greens 6.0% (+1.3%) winning 9 seats (+3)
NPD (Nazis) 5.6% (-3.6%) winning 8 seats (-4)

There is very little doubt that Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich (CDU) will form a coalition with the FDP, which is now possible.It’s not as if anybody wants to keep the Grand Coalition anyways.


In Thuringia, finally, the CDU took a major thumping after the party’s landslide win in 2004 (and prior to that).

CDU 31.2% (-11.8%) winning 30 seats (-15)
Left 27.4% (+1.3%) winning 27 seats (-1)
SPD 18.5% (+4.0%) winning 18 seats (+3)
FDP 7.6% (+4.0%) winning 7 seats (+7)
Greens 6.2% (+1.7%) winning 6 seats (+6)

There are two options on the table in Thuringia, each demanding some major choices from some party leaders. The preferred one is a Red-Red coalition in which the Social Democrats would get the spot of Minister-President, or atleast might get it for some time before giving it over to the Left. This scenario would likely require that the Left leader, Ramelow, not want the post of Minister-President. The other option would be a Grand Coalition, probably without current Minister-President and CDU leader Dieter Althaus. He is under mounting intra-party pressure to go, and if he does, that will likely mean a Grand Coalition, which, in my opinion, would be bad for the SPD here.

Local elections were also held in North Rhine-Westphalia. The CDU won 38.6%, 4.8% less than in 2004, while the SPD won 29.4%, 2.3% less than in 2004. The main winners were the Greenies (12%, +1.7%), the FDP (9.2%, +2.4%), and the Left (4.4%, +3.0%). The SPD did pick up Cologne and Essen, however. A map can be found here.

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’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.