Six months after the SPD’s victory in the Bundestag elections, a new state parliament will be elected for the first time this Sunday. In Saarland, more than 750,000 voters decide whether there will be a change of power after more than two decades.
In the polls, the CDU under Prime Minister Tobias Hans recently trailed far behind the SPD, previously the smallest partner in a grand coalition. The previous Deputy Prime Minister, Economy Minister Anke Rehlinger, has a good chance of becoming Saarland’s first Social Democratic Prime Minister.
Polling stations have been open since 8 am The first screenings are expected shortly after closing at 6 pm The provisional official final result will be known in the afternoon.
Sarre, with almost a million inhabitants, is the smallest of the federal states. The state parliament with 51 members is the smallest in Germany. However, the election is also considered a humor test for federal politics. State elections will be held this year in Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.
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The CDU has been the head of government in Saarbrücken for almost 23 years. However, Hans is the leading candidate of his party for the first time. The 44-year-old took office in 2018. The CDU’s predecessor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, later switched to federal politics.
For Rehlinger (45) it is the second attempt to become head of government. The SPD last provided the prime minister in the Saarland until 1999.
According to the polls, it is quite possible that there will be another grand coalition in the future, this time, however, under the leadership of the SPD. Hans has left it open whether he would enter the cabinet as a deputy under Rehlinger.
The future constellation also depends on which of the other parties makes it to the state parliament. Until now, the left and the AfD are still there. However, according to polls, it is not certain that they will be able to overcome the five percent hurdle. The same applies to the Greens and the FDP.
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The ZDF “Politbarometer” saw the SPD at 41 percent this week (2017 elections: 29.6 percent), far ahead of the CDU at just 28 percent (40.7 percent). For the left there was only four percent (12.8), for the AfD 6.5 percent (6.2), for the Greens 5.5 percent (4.0) and for the FDP exactly one. five percent (3.3).
Thus, a coalition led by the SPD with the CDU and the Greens could obtain the majority. It could also be enough for a social-liberal government or a coalition of traffic lights like in Berlin if the FDP makes it to the state parliament. On the other hand, even an outright majority for the SPD would not be ruled out if several smaller parties failed the five percent hurdle.
However, the surveys are subject to a number of uncertainties. As a result of the corona pandemic, a significantly higher share of postal voters is expected than five years ago (20.3 percent). At the time, the pollsters were dead wrong. They predicted a head-to-head race, but the SPD then lost by a huge margin. In the federal elections in September last year, it became the most powerful force in the Saarland for the first time in 16 years.
Rehlinger, who is also deputy federal head of the SPD, has shown “great sympathy” for a relaunch of the grand coalition, but now under her leadership. She keeps a low profile about other potential coalitions. Only an alliance with the Left ruled them out. As Prime Minister, she wants to create 400,000 jobs subject to social security contributions, double the share of renewable energy in electricity consumption to at least 40% by the end of 2030, and create free childcare places.
Structural change and future technologies are close to the heart of the CDU candidate. Hans fights for the installation of companies that come to the Saar to do research in IT and create new jobs, as well as for more digitization, reduction of bureaucracy, modern schools, including a new international school. Unlike the SPD and the Greens, he does not want a “massive increase in wind power”. (dpa)