Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives won a resounding victory in the regional elections in East Germany on Sunday, giving Armin Laschet a boost, as he hopes to succeed him in the national elections in September.
A Saxony-Anhalt election exit poll for the public broadcaster MDR had Christian Democrats (CDU) at 36%, up more than 6 points from five years ago, and far ahead of the Alternative d extreme right for Germany (AfD), which stood at 22.5%, down slightly from the previous election.
Laschet, a centrist, was seen as having made an uncertain start to his election campaign and faced calls to chart a more right-wing path to win back voters disillusioned with 16 years of compromise under Merkel.
“We won the elections,” Saxony-Anhalt State Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff said after leaving the ballot box. “A large majority of our citizens have said that we do not want to be associated with the AfD. And for that I am grateful to them.”
He and other Conservatives hailed the result as a tailwind for them ahead of the federal election.
“This will give us a boost for Berlin,” said National Conservative caucus leader Ralph Brinkhaus. “It’s a victory for Armin Laschet.”
The results were disappointing for most of the other parties, the Greens, who rank just behind the Conservatives nationally, only single digits in the regional elections.
“Of course we would have liked to have done better,” said their candidate for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock. Greens are traditionally weaker in less urban eastern Germany, which relies more on carbon-intensive industries that the Greens hope to phase out.
Baerbock said the Tories benefited from voters rallying to the incumbent president out of a desire to thwart the far right, which was only one point behind the Tories in some opinion polls.
Conservative Friedrich Merz, who lost to Laschet in his CDU leadership race, replied in a tweet: “Tonight the Baerbock train derailed.”
Carsten Nickel, analyst at consultancy Teneo, said the state election result was “a much needed boost for Laschet as the Bundestag campaign is about to intensify.”
The pro-business Free Democrats were another winner, returning to parliament after their share of the vote rose above the 5% threshold needed to win seats.
The Social Democrats, junior partners of Merkel’s ruling coalition, have had a disappointing night, with an expected 8% vote share showing they have failed to capitalize on the popularity of Minister of Foreign Affairs Olaf Scholz. Finances and their candidate for chancellor.
Haseloff recognized that forming a state government can be tricky. His ally, state lawmaker Siegfried Borgwardt, has said the party will not side with AfD or far-left Linke, but will not engage in any other scenario at this point.
Merkel, in power since 2005, stepped down after the federal election, leaving political succession more open than ever in decades. Read more
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