Berlin, May 15 (EFE).- The regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW), the most populous “Land” (or state) in Germany, have provided a new warning for the ruling Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, which ran up against the local strength of the Christian Democrats and skyrocketing support for the Greens.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party that currently heads the regional coalition with the liberal Free Democrats, obtained 35.2 percent of the votes in the regional election, an increase of 2 points since the 2017 balloting, according to projections made public by ZDF public television an hour after the polls closed on Sunday.
Scholz’s SPD obtained 27.7 percent of the votes, down 3 percent from the last regional election, a result that is perhaps not so bad compared with the plunge in popularity suffered by the chancellor’s party a week ago in the small northern Land of Schleswig-Holstein, where they dropped to a historic low.
However, the CDU is not necessarily on the verge of recovering its former dominion over NRW, the most populous German Land with 18 million citizens – one-quarter of Germany’s population – and the area from which CDU leader Friedrich Merz, the head of the opposition in the federal parliament, the Bundestag, hails.
The Greens, meanwhile, garnered the third-most votes, 18 percent, and are the big moral winners in the election not only because they have gained almost 12 percentage points since the 2017 election but also because they will be a key factor in the formation of the upcoming government, perhaps as a minor partner in coalition with the CDU.
Up to now, the CDU has been in coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP), who obtained 5.5 percent in Sunday’s vote, half a point above the 5 percent threshold needed to qualify for seats in the regional legislature.
The ultrarightist Alternative for Germany (AfD), meanwhile, received about the same percentage of the vote as the FDP, although in the Schleswig-Holstein election they had slipped below the 5 percent threshold and thus will be excluded from holding any seats in the regional parliament there.
Now, it is a matter of which party – the SPD or the CDU – can form a governing coalition, with CDU chief Hendrik Wuest, who has headed the regional government for the past six months, and the SPD’s Thomas Kutschaty, who was the local justice minister from 2010-2017, as the key players, although they are both relatively unknown to the voters.
Wuest ascended to the leadership post in NRW after Armin Laschet stepped down to run for chancellor, an election he lost to Scholz five months ago.
At present, two of Scholz’s ministers – Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, both from the Green party – are the most favorably viewed politicians in the country.
Some 13 million voters were eligible to vote in the Nordrhein-Westfalen elections.