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Narrow defeat for Merkel's CDU in Lower Saxony points to close federal election

By Tim Montgomerie
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CDU candidate David McAllister played on his Scottish roots

The CDU had been expected to lose control of Lower Saxony for some time and, yesterday, by the narrowest of margins it did lose control of this North West German laender. It turned out to be a much closer contest than expected, however.

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 07.58.24The low CDU expectations in these regional elections had been rooted in fears that the CDU's FDP partners were unlikely to cross the minimum 5% threshold and the SPD opposition had been performing competitively in opinion polls. Two things then changed. The popular CDU candidate in Lower Saxony - the half-Scottish David McAllister (read about him here) - urged some of his supporters to lend their votes to his FDP junior coalition partners. This political blood transfusion seemed to work and up to 100,000 Christian Democrat voters ended up tactically in the Free Democrat column - ensuring it more than passed the 5% threshold. The other factor that made the election surprisingly competitive were repeated gaffes from the recently confirmed German-wide leader of the SPD, Peer Steinbrueck. He has made repeated gaffes since becoming his party's candidate for Chancellor - including a foot-in-mouth suggestion that he'd like a bigger salary if he was elected to Germany's top job.

For the first time in a decade Lower Saxony is now expected to be governed by an SPD-Green coalition with 69 seats to the outgoing CDU-FDP coalition's 68 seats.

The overall national picture is one of significant CDU strength. Angela Merkel's personal popularity helped the CDU to a 17% lead in one recent survey. Like in Lower Saxony, however, the FDP's weakness endangers the German Chancellor. It remains an outside possibility that the weak SPD could form a Red-Green coalition with the strengthening German Green Party.

The Electionista Twitter feed calculated the following poll averages for Germany as whole:

  • CDU/CSU 40.62%
  • SPD 27.35
  • Green 13.83
  • Left 7.24
  • FDP 3.73
  • Pirates 3.43

It is the persistent weakness of the FDP vote that is Angela Merkel's biggest worry.

> Andrew Marshall's recent blog on Merkel: Listen to Mutti. What the Conservatives can learn from the CDU.


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