According to election night projections, the Christian Democratic Union bloc of center-right Germany achieved a stark victory on Sunday in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Sunday’s election for the state legislature was seen as a test for the Social Democrat-led coalition government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz while handling the war in Ukraine.
The vote gave the CDU, the party of former Chancellor Angela Merkel – who nationally opposes Scholz’s government – a strong victory after a series of electoral defeats.
The ARD and ZDF TV projections based on exit polls and early vote counting put Sunday support for the CDU at around 43%, well ahead of other parties. Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats seemed to drop to third place behind the Greens, with projections showing them winning around 16%, compared to 17% -18% for the Greens.
Compared to five years ago, the CDU and the Greens on Sunday achieved significant gains while the Social Democrats – who came second in 2017 with 27.3% of the votes – suffered heavy losses.
Based on Sunday’s projections, incumbent Governor Daniel Günther, whose CDU has led Schleswig-Holstein since 2017, ruling in a coalition with environmental Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, is on track to secure another term. The northernmost state of Germany is home to around 2.9 million people.
Furthermore, projections showed that the populist far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) only got 4.6% to 4.7% of the votes, which would put them below the 5% threshold needed to win. seats in the state legislature. If that holds true, it would be the first time the AfD has exited one of Germany’s 16 state legislatures since its founding in 2013.
The state elections came after a few turbulent months for Scholz, who took office in December at the head of a tripartite coalition government with Greens and Free Democrats. In recent weeks, Scholz has been criticized for his approach to the war in Ukraine.
Germany broke with the post-Russian invasion tradition of supplying arms to Ukraine, but was criticized by Kiev for its perceived hesitation and slowness in providing material.
Sunday’s vote was a positive point for the CDU, which last fall was relegated to the opposition nationwide for the first time in 16 years. It was the second of three state elections in two months that will set the political tone in Germany for the year.
In March, Scholz’s Social Democrats won a big victory in the small western state of Saarland, led by the CDU since 1999. The biggest state vote came on May 15 in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
“This is really a huge vote of confidence,” Günther said at CDU election night on Sunday. “I can’t even remember the last time we got a result like this.”
Social Democrat leader Saskia Esken acknowledged that the result was worse than expected, but said she had higher hopes for the elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.
“I must say very clearly that we did not expect this election result,” he told broadcaster ZDF.