German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party suffered a setback in an important regional election on Sunday as the Social Democrats claimed an historic low percentage of the vote. The Greens, their partners in the national government, almost tripled their support in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and are now poised to play kingmaker in forming the federal state’s next government.
NRW is the most populous region in Germany, with 13 million registered voters, and is a political and economic powerhouse. Sunday’s election was held six months after the general election that put Scholtz in power in Germany.
The regional vote was considered a ‘mini-federal election’ serving as a bellwether for national politics. Scholz personally campaigned on behalf of Thomas Kutschaty, the leading candidate from his Social Democratic Party (SPD), further turning it into a symbolic referendum on his policies.
The projected results indicate a huge loss for the SPD, which won just 27% of the vote, down from 31.2% in 2017. The party has never scored below 30% in the region since modern Germany was created in the wake of World War II.
Opposition Christian Democrats (CDU), the party that remained in power in Germany for 16 years under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, came first with a projected 36% of the vote, up from 33% in the previous election.
The Greens showed the biggest gain by grabbing 18% of the vote, compared to just 6.4% four years ago. Free Democrats (FDP), the CDU’s coalition partners in the current NRW government, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party both took a hit.