First electoral success for the CDU since the end of Angela Merkel - the state parliament elections in Schleswig-Holstein

by Niklas Burg


On 08 May 2022, state elections were held in Germany's northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein.

The clear winner of the election is the incumbent Daniel Günther of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU). According to the preliminary final results, his party achieved 43.4% of the vote. This is an increase of 11.4 percentage points compared to the last election. The Greens also made big gains, coming in as the second strongest party with 18.3%. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats suffered a bitter defeat. The party lost 11.3 percentage points compared to the last state election and only got 16% of the vote. The Liberals - as well as the Südschleswigsche Wählerverband (SSW) - entered the new Landtag with 6.4% and 5.7% respectively. The right-wing populist AfD, on the other hand, missed out on re-entry and will accordingly no longer be represented in the state parliament.

With the election result achieved, the CDU only narrowly missed an absolute majority in the new state parliament. This puts it in the position that no realistic coalition will come about without the party. During the election campaign, Günther had announced that he wanted to continue the existing coalition with the Greens and the Liberals. An alliance of three parties will not be necessary this time. The CDU will therefore be able to choose with which of the two parties it wants to enter into a coalition. The CDU could also mathematically enter into a coalition with the other parties represented in parliament, even if this seems rather unrealistic in view of the circumstances.

Alongside the CDU, the Greens are considered a big winner of the elections, with relatively strong gains of 5.4%. For this reason alone, a black-green alliance seems obvious. At the same time, the Greens' strong gains will make them more demanding than after the last election. On the other hand, the Liberals are considered to be closer to the CDU than the Greens in terms of content, but they have suffered the second-largest losses after the SPD compared to the last election. It will be interesting to see what the FDP is potentially willing to give up in order to stay in power.

The clear loser is the SPD, which lost the same amount of vote share as the CDU gained. On the one hand, the party's top candidate in Schleswig-Holstein, Thomas Losse-Müller, was unable to assert himself with his issues and positions. On the other hand, the party certainly also suffered from the difficult stand it is currently taking in federal politics. Here, the party is being criticised for its "Russia-friendly" policies of recent years. In addition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has to put up with the reproach that he is acting too passively in the context of the Ukraine crisis.

The Südschleswigsche Wählerverband (SSW) is a special case in Schleswig-Holstein. This is the party of the Danish and Frisian minority in the state. Due to its minority rights, the party is exempt from the 5-percent threshold, but this time it entered the Landtag without this special regulation. The party's participation in government is considered very unlikely.

The right-wing populist AfD failed to re-enter the state parliament for the first time since its existence. Representatives of the other parties expressed relief at the AfD's exit.

Even though the election was a state election that took place under its own individual circumstances, certain conclusions can be drawn for federal politics. Daniel Günther, for example, is considered a representative of the so-called "Merkel camp" and a confidant of the former Chancellor. This is particularly relevant since the new CDU federal leader and Merkel's successor in this position, Friedrich Merz, has always appeared as a clear opponent to Merkel. At the same time, Günther, due to his age of 48, is still considered a relatively young hopeful for the party. In the past, the two have clashed a time or two due to their different positions within the CDU. Günther usually appears as calm and level-headed. On the evening of the election, he showed an open and fair approach to his coalition partners. In his speech, he even mentioned them and thanked them for the excellent cooperation.

Günther is also regarded as a role model by many in the CDU with regard to his coalition partners. In the past five years, he has already gained experience with a so-called "Jamaica coalition" (CDU, Greens, Liberals). This is a model that was already being discussed in the context of the last federal election and will also be an important option for the CDU in the future in order to regain power in the chancellery. Merz will therefore have to involve Günther more prominently in the future leadership of the party. After all, it is the latter who brings the CDU its first electoral success since Friedrich Merz took over as party leader.

Even more relevant for federal politics in Germany will be the state election in North Rhine-Westphalia on 15 May. RPP will also be observing and analysing this election. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time.


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