Merkel hopes for regional poll boost
BERLIN: Chastened by their worst result since 1949 in September’s national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are hoping for victory in a regional vote on Sunday to strengthen their hand in thorny three-way coalition talks in Berlin.
While victory in the Lower Saxony region might strengthen Merkel’s position within her party, a conservative failure to emerge as the strongest party could prompt talk of weakening authority and possible eventual succession, said Berlin-based political expert Gero Neugebauer.
Lower Saxony, an agricultural heartland and Germany’s second biggest region, offers Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) the prospect of a morale boost as they seek to cobble together an unprecedented “Jamaica” national coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens.
The road to such an alliance, named after the Caribbean nation as the parties’ colours match those of its flag, is littered with disputes on everything from migrants to tax and the environment. It would be the clunky coalition’s federal debut if talks, due to start next week, prove a success.
Carsten Nickel, deputy research director at Teneo Intelligence, said Sunday’s election — which polls show is set to be a neck-and-neck contest between the CDU and the rival Social Democrats (SPD) — would determine momentum going into national coalition negotiations.
“If Merkel managed to steal that state from the SPD, it would probably be a little bit of a boost,” he said. “It would probably be slightly easier for her to argue internally for the required compromise and for striking the deals and so on that will be required over the next couple of weeks.”