When more than six million voters are allowed to cast their votes in a large country, the Berlin party headquarters are always very attentive. The winners are particularly happy. “You see a very satisfied SPD chairman,” SPD leader Lars Klingbeil said less than an hour after the polling stations closed on ZDF. He dutifully points out that the election decided who would govern Lower Saxony in the future. But then he immediately tries to direct the success to the federal political mills. Everyone would have helped in Lower Saxony in the election campaign, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz. This is a success “that is also good for us at the federal level”.
The state elections in Lower Saxony on Sunday mark the end of an eventful election year that began with an absolute majority in Saarland for the Social Democrats, but was then followed by defeats in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. A victory in the last election of the year is welcome. It quickly becomes clear how closely and expectantly the federal SPD is looking at Hanover. It is pointed out that the decision on the formation of the next government in Lower Saxony will also take place there. But Klingbeil reminds that Weil has always pointed out that there will be a red-green coalition if that should be possible. He assumes that this will happen, says Klingbeil.
Stephan Weil is – and will remain – a stable partner for Chancellor Scholz. Of the social-democratic states, Lower Saxony is the most populous because it has led two legislative periods with different coalition partners, most recently with the CDU. It is unlikely that he could compete with Olaf Scholz for the chancellor candidacy before the next federal election. After this victory, however, he will continue to confidently represent the interests of the country he leads in dealings with the federal government.
The wind turned for the Greens
It was only a few weeks ago that Berlin’s government Greens said about party friends in Lower Saxony: “It would be best if they didn’t do anything during the election campaign, except take the tailwind from Berlin with them.” A few weeks are long in these times, come to Berlin the wind for the Greens now from the front. The botched gas levy, the quarrels about the nuclear phase-out, that goes home with the Greens, one or the other unfortunate performance by Economics Minister Robert Habeck is added. Only 45 percent of Lower Saxony trust him to secure the energy supply, as reported by ARD on the evening of the election. In the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia in May, these values were significantly higher.
This is reflected in the result. Around 14 percent are for the Greens. A comparison helps. In the evening, Omid Nouripour, the party leader, is happy about the “best performance in a state election in Lower Saxony”. That is a “huge leap of faith”. The Greens had just reached 8.7 percent in 2017. At the election party in Hanover, the cheering is so loud that Jürgen Trittin, member of the Bundestag from Lower Saxony, does not understand the ARD interviewer’s question as to why there was not more in it. In fact, there are also comparisons that put the result in a different light. All summer the Greens were polled at 22 percent. It’s not the first time a green high has come to an end before the election. But in other West German states, the Greens had recently come much closer to the twenty percent mark or even exceeded it.