Merkel’s celebration does poorly in state elections, third wave of Covid hits

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on September 30, 2020 in Berlin.

Michele Tantussi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party collapsed after losing two important state elections on Sunday, which put the leadership in even more distress as the country appears to be facing a “third wave” of coronavirus infections.

The ruling party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany recorded the worst performance since the Second World War in the state elections this weekend. In the vote in Baden-Württemberg, it lagged behind the center-left Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD) in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The results largely confirmed the political status quo in both federal states, with the incumbent Prime Ministers – Winfried Kretschmann from the Greens in Baden-Württemberg and Malu Dreyer from the SPD in Rhineland-Palatinate – winning the elections. The CDU took second place in both regional votes, followed by the right-wing alternative for Germany, although their support also declined.

Results of the state elections in Germany


Paul Ziemiak, Secretary General of the CDU, admitted that the results for the center-right party were disappointing and said: “To be very clear, this is not a good election night for the CDU. We would have different and better results in the State wanted. ” Elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. “

The party’s poor performance can be seen in the preparations for the national elections in September – with four more state elections beforehand – and for the period after Merkel. Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not run for a fifth term, leading to uncertainty about who would succeed her to take over Europe’s largest economy.

Arne Jungjohann, political scientist and member of the Green Academy of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, told CNBC that the results signaled that the CDU could get into trouble with the national vote in September.

“The CDU party under Angela Merkel built the image of being indispensable, of being the natural governing party, and this image has been fading since last night (Sunday evening),” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe. “We saw in both states … that the parties can actually form governments without the CDU, and that is the signal from last night.”

Push election year

For some parties in Germany, however, the latest results are encouraging, especially for the environmentalists Greens, who also achieved good results in the local elections in Hesse this weekend.

This could herald a change in the political landscape later this year as the Greens are likely to become a coalition partner for the CDU in the next government. Jungjohann told CNBC that the Greens had established themselves in Germany as a “hinge party” that could rule both center-left and center-right. They are already part of coalitions in 11 out of 16 federal states. “They have become a federal political force despite being in opposition at the national level,” he noted.

Robert Habeck, green The party’s co-chairman said the results were “a great start to the super election year for us, and hopefully we’ll be able to take the tailwind of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate with full sails and continue to gain momentum in the US. ” Months to come. “

He added that the results reflected a loss of public confidence in the ruling CDU party due to what he described as “mismanagement” of the government during the pandemic and a corruption scandal that the party had in recent weeks over allegations made by several CDUs Legislators have taken advantage of deals to procure face masks in the early days of the pandemic. The allegations have led to several resignations.

Winds of Change?

After the results of the weekend, the CDU is likely to be looking for the soul as it is considering who could fill Angela Merkel’s shoes as Chancellor after the elections in September.

Merkel, arguably the strongest and most respected leader in Europe, was generally seen as a safe couple during her leadership and is helping steer the euro zone through the financial crisis. However, she has been criticized in Germany for her decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the country in 2015. This move was seen as increasing support for the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland.

The CDU has not yet chosen who it will vote for in the federal elections, although the main candidates are Armin Laschet, the chairman of the CDU, and Markus Soeder, the chairman of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Angela Merkel (CDU, lr), Armin Laschet (CDU), Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Markus Söder (CSU), Prime Minister of Bavaria, talk to the heads of government.

Image Alliance | Image Alliance | Getty Images

A decision is expected in April or May, although the CDU’s defeats this weekend will increase the pressure on party leaders to quickly nominate a candidate, according to Carsten Brzeski, global macro chief at ING.

“With the results on Sunday, the chances of the Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder of being the third Bavarian to lead the CDU to national elections have increased significantly,” he said in a note on Monday.

“In our view, Sunday’s state elections … showed clear dissatisfaction with the national government,” he said, noting that “the main message for the September elections is that the electorate is seeking continuity, but it is unclear what continuity exists. “

Coronavirus suffers

Germany was lauded last year for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and for its robust system for tracing and quarantining contacts, which helped contain the spread of the virus, and modern hospital infrastructure, which helped reduce the number of Preventing viruses lauded deaths in other European countries, particularly Italy, Spain, Great Britain and France.

However, in recent months, like other countries, it has had to grapple with the spread of more infectious variants of the virus, which in some cases have spiked, aided by the winter season and a slow roll-out of coronavirus vaccines around the world Block.

National surveys show that support for the CDU rose at the beginning of the pandemic and has remained relatively high over the past 12 months. Whether this continues, however, could be determined by the government’s handling of a third wave of infections, just as citizens are desperate to get their lives back to normal. On Friday, the head of the German health department warned that a third wave had already started.

The political scientist Jungjohann noted that support for the CDU is now waning. “Most people are now saying that the vaccination rollout is not going well and now we’ve seen the corruption scandal unfold and it’s still going on. It is still unclear who will try to follow Angela Merkel,” he said . “It looks like a moment of crisis (against this backdrop) towards the elections.”

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