German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

For Chancellor Angela Merkel the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the  Franco-German friendship “Elysée Treaty” kicked off with a lot of questions and even more visitors. Along with French President François Hollande she took part in a discussion at the Federal Chancellery with some 200 young people from Germany and France. (German Federal Government’s photo gallery)

For Chancellor Angela Merkel the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Franco-German “Elysée Treaty” kicked off with a lot of questions and even more visitors. Along with French President François Hollande she took part in a discussion at the Federal Chancellery with some 200 young people from Germany and France. (German Federal Government’s photo gallery)

The defeat in the Lower Saxony election of the German governing coalition led by Angela Merkel’s CDU and comprising as a junior partner the pro-business party of Free Democrats (FDP), may change the political landscape in the entire European Union. It has already prompted Philipp Rösler to offer his resignation from the leadership of FDP, which was not accepted by the Party.

He is currently Federal Minister of Economics and Technology and Deputy Federal Chancellor in the government and has served as Minister for Economics in Lower Saxony. Rösler also was General Secretary of the FDP in Lower Saxony. Probably that’s why he had at least to offer his resignation from the party’s leadership because he was personally involved in this defeat.

It’s not the first time

In any case public opinion polls are a disappointment for the CDU-FDP coalition. The junior partner is reported to gain only 2% of the federal vote, a percentage that keeps the Free Democrats out of the Bundestag, and may cost Merkel her third term as Chancellor. German political analysts are unanimous that the defeat in Lower Saxony is to be blamed entirely on FDP. However this is not the only defeat for the governing coalition in regional elections. Over the past years the CDU-FDP partners lost key elections in Rhineland, North Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

According to the final results in Lower Saxony the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens wan 33% and 14% of the votes respectively in the 8 million people federal state and got 69 sits in the region’s Parliament. CDU and the FDP wan 36% and 9.9% of the votes and 68 sits. The result changes also the balance in the upper House, the Bundesrat, where the SPD and the Greens may block now the legislative initiatives of the government.

After the defeat Merkel tried to defuse the pressure and said that, “we are not yet in a pre-electoral period for the 22 September federal election”, and she added, “we are working now on the employment front so as it stays at its present levels or possible gets better”. Obviously a lot will depend on that on 22 September.

As narrow as it may be the win of Social Democrats and the Greens, this development crates dark spots on the prospects of Merkel winning a third term in the federal Chancellery. After all those defeats in federal state elections, Merkel and the CDU-FDP coalition are not anymore the unquestionable champions of the September general election in Germany.

What if?

If this is the case what is going to happen during the next eight months? What if Merkel ceases to be the charismatic leader she was over the many past difficult years? She saved the euro and led Germany, the Eurozone and the entire EU to a tighter entity. She also convinced almost everybody to concede more national sovereignty and forge new political bonds, some things that Britain detests.

Can now Merkel’s Germany continue being the unquestionable leader of Eurozone? What about Britain’s new initiative to redefine its relations with the European Union? Is Berlin able to block London’s demands for less Union? Will Brussels continue to give special weight to Berlin’s plans? What if the SPD-Greens coalition wins the next election and change Berlin’s strategy towards the European Union?

Of course all those questions will be answered in practice during the next few months, but political analysts have already started to gather data. It is even probable that Merkel itself might avoid until next September to push things to limits on issues that may wait for a later solution. However in avoiding testing her political abilities Merkel might let the EU freeze for the next eight months and thus give London more room for manoeuvres.

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