The CDU has won the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia by distance. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD lost heavily. After last week’s state elections in Schleswig-Holstein, where the SPD nearly halved, the result in North Rhine-Westphalia is a second blow to Scholz and the Social Democrats.
In the state with nearly eighteen million inhabitants, the Christian Democrats received 35 percent of the vote on Sunday evening, according to forecasts, compared to 27 percent for the SPD. The party leader of the CDU was the current Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (46). Wüst was Minister of Transport in North Rhine-Westphalia until this autumn, but replaced Armin Laschet in October, who also resigned the Prime Minister after his unsuccessful bid for the chancellorship.
Wüst originally belonged to the conservative wing of the CDU, but in recent months presented himself as a progressive and pragmatic manager. The image that the CDU spread of Wüst was that of Wüst sporty on a recumbent bike, sporty with a ‘desk bike’ and emancipated with the pram.
For the SPD, the defeat is all the more sour because the industrial state has traditionally been a social-democratic bastion: between 1966 and 2005 the SPD was in power there continuously. Many voters expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the SPD under Olaf Scholz in Berlin; According to a poll by the Infratest Dimap bureau, 59 percent of voters in North Rhine-Westphalia think that the government does not seem resolute.
Many voters also switched from the SPD to the Greens. The Greens got an estimated 18 percent of the vote, making it the best result ever in North Rhine-Westphalia. That gain can also be traced back to Berlin: the two most popular politicians in Germany at the moment are Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of Economy and Climate Robert Habeck, both Greens.
The FDP appears to have barely passed the 5 percent electoral threshold
In Berlin, the SPD rules with the Greens and the liberal FDP. The FDP appears to have barely passed the 5 percent electoral threshold – a lousy result. The FDP’s often conservative clientele does not seem to like the coalition in Berlin with two left-wing partners.
In the state capital of Düsseldorf, a coalition between the two winning parties CDU and Greens seems the most obvious. Nevertheless, the SPD showed itself to be combative: according to the secretary-general of the party Kevin Kühnert, a sort of head of PR, the result leaves room for a government of SPD and Greens. According to Kühnert, this is even preferred by the voters. This somewhat daring interpretation of the result may be interpreted as a sign of nervousness within the SPD.
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A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of May 16, 2022