October 16, 2017
What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
We could answer the question with: none and the story would end right here. The SPD won the elections in Lower Saxony, the first time that Martin Schulz can celebrate an electoral gain since he became party chairman at the beginning of the year. But the SPD will not be able to form a coalition with the Green party as it had hoped. They will be one vote short. And here is the spooky parallel to the Austrian elections. The outgoing SPD/Green government lost its majority after a singe MP quit the Green party - and joined the CDU. With this election, the SPD and the Greens ended up at exactly the same place as before. Since the FDP has categorically rejected a coalition with SPD and Greens, this leaves us with two coalition options: SPD and CDU or a local version of the Jamaica coalition - CDU, FDP and Greens. But a coalition of the losers would not look good, especially in view of the negotiations that will soon take place in Berlin. So we think there is going to be another grand coalition, this time under the SPD‘s leadership. What is also noteworthy is that the AfD did not do well. They only just managed to cross the 5% threshold.
Apart from a morale boost for the SPD, the elections have little meaning for Berlin, except that coalition negotiations can now begin soon. The future of Schulz remains open, though Schulz seems determined to fight for re-election to his role as SPD chairman in December. His most likely future is that of an interim leader who will give way to a new generation of politicians. The list of potential next-generation leaders has grown by one last night - Stephan Weil, the outgoing and probably future first minister of the Lower Saxony. It is the first time since 1998 that the SPD is the largest party in the state legislature.