Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives secured a landslide win in an eastern German state election on Sunday, providing a boost to Armin Laschet, who seeks to succeed her in September’s national election.
According to an exit poll for public broadcaster MDR from the Saxony-Anhalt election, the Christian Democrats (CDU) were on 36 percent, up more than 6 points from five years ago, and far ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), who were on 22.5 percent, slightly down from the previous election.
“We have won the election,” Saxony-Anhalt state premier Reiner Haseloff said after the exit polls came out. “A great majority of our citizens have said we don’t want to be associated with the AfD. And for that I’m grateful.”
He and other conservatives hailed the result as a tailwind for them ahead of the federal election.
“This will give us a boost for Berlin,” national conservative caucus leader Ralph Brinkhaus said. “It is a victory for Armin Laschet.”
The results were disappointing for most other parties, with the Greens, who are running a close second to the conservatives nationally, only in the single digits in the regional election.
Armin Laschet, State Premier of North-Rhine Westphalia and a leader of the Christian Democratic Union party CDU reacts during a CDU party convention in NRW’s capital Duesseldorf, Germany, June 5, 2021. Picture taken June 5, 2021. Marcel Kusch/Pool via REUTERS
“Sure, we’d like to have done better,” said their candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock. The Greens are traditionally weaker in less urban eastern Germany, which is more reliant on the carbon-intensive industries that the Greens hope to phase out.
Baerbock said the conservatives had benefited from voters rallying to the incumbent out of a desire to thwart the far-right, who had been as little as one point behind the conservatives in some opinion polls.
Conservative Friedrich Merz, who lost out to Laschet in their race for the CDU leadership, countered in a tweet: “This evening, the Baerbock train came off the rails.”
Carsten Nickel, an analyst at consultancy Teneo, said the state election result was a “much-needed boost for Laschet just as the Bundestag campaign is about to heat up”.
The pro-business Free Democrats were another winner, re-entering parliament after their vote share climbed back above the 5% threshold needed to win seats.
The Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, had a terrible night, with their anticipated vote share of 8% indicating that they were unable to capitalise on the popularity of Olaf Scholz, finance minister and their candidate for chancellor.
Haseloff admitted that creating a state government would be difficult. His ally, state legislator Siegfried Borgwardt, stated that the party would not join forces with the AfD or the far-left Linke, but would not commit to any other possibilities at this time.
Merkel, who has been in office since 2005, will step aside following the federal election, leaving the political succession more open than at any point in decades.