Conservatives celebrate victory in Schleswig-Holstein state elections

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) easily defeated the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) in state elections in Schleswig-Holstein on Sunday, May 7, exit polls and early returns broadcast by public service TV stations showed.

Provisional results show the CDU received some 33 per cent as compared with around 26 per cent for the SPD. The SPD has been governing in coalition with the Green party and the regionalist Südschleswigscher Wählerverband (SSW) in the northern state for the past five years.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) will enter the state parliament for the first time after getting 5.5 per cent of the vote, thus clearing the 5 per cent hurdle needed to enter a German legislature.

Although receiving just 3.5 per cent of the vote, former junior coalition partners the SSW – a party representing the interests of Danish and Frisian minorities in the state – will keep some seats as it is not subject to the same hurdle as other parties.

The Green party made slight gains on its 2012 results, receiving about 13.5 per cent of the vote, while the liberal FDP jumped 3.3 per cent in the polls to reach 11.5 per cent, leaving options open for a coalition.

“This is a clear victory for Herr Günther,” reported German TV station ARD, referring to the CDU’s top candidate Daniel Günther, a political scientist and businessman who has represented the CDU in the state since 2014.

Günther claimed victory on Sunday in an interview with ARD. “The SPD has been voted out of power and it is up to the CDU to form a coalition,” he said, adding that he would hold coalition talks with the FDP and Green party.

Preliminary figures show that such a coalition would form a 42-seat majority in the region’s 69-seat parliament.

SPD Secretary-General Katarina Barley admitted defeat from the capital, Kiel, shortly after the results were announced.

“This is a bitter result for us,” Barley said, but downplayed the idea that this could hurt the momentum of the party ahead of the next round of regional elections on May 14 in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, an SPD stronghold.

“That is a whole other ballgame,” she said.

The state election in Schleswig-Holstein was seen as an important test for Germany’s federal elections in September, when Chancellor Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

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