Actually, it’s all about the future composition of the state parliament and a new state government in a country with eight million inhabitants. But the elections in Lower Saxony on October 9 should be a nationwide test of how citizens react to the crisis, the extent of which cannot yet be foreseen, which is triggering inflation and the horrendous energy prices in the wake of the Russian war of aggression.
Far more than in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia in May, which were also overshadowed by the war, fears of a cold winter and of one’s own economic survival are now dominating the public debate in Lower Saxony before the decision in good two weeks.
If you believe the election campaigners between Spiekeroog and Göttingen, both ordinary citizens and owners of small and medium-sized businesses are concerned. Many of them see their existence threatened.
I’ve never experienced such an election campaign, it’s hardly about national issues
Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stephan Weil
State politics therefore only plays a subordinate role in the Lower Saxony election campaign. Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD), who has been in power since February 2013 and is aiming for a third term, says: “I’ve never experienced such an election campaign, it’s really hardly about state issues.”
But the SPD politician, who would like to swap his coalition partner CDU for the Greens after October 9, only partially has his fate in his hands. Because it is primarily the federal government that decides on rescue measures against the high prices. For weeks, the Lower Saxony has therefore been putting pressure on the traffic light coalition in Berlin.
After all, Weil can count on the fact that in polls significantly more people trust him to lead the country than his challenger, Vice Prime Minister Bernd Althusmann of the CDU. The state SPD, of which Weil is the chairman, relies entirely on the Lower Saxony’s confidence in their Prime Minister, advertises on large posters with his likeness and the sentence “Responsibility in difficult times”.
From the point of view of the federal SPD, Weil must remain in office: A third defeat this year after the ones in Kiel and Düsseldorf would be a devastating signal for the Social Democrats.
Althusmann wants to make a name for itself as the savior of small and medium-sized businesses
Althusmann, on the other hand, is remarkably often reminiscent of the two state elections that ended with a black-green alliance. For the Economics Minister, a conceivable role model for Lower Saxony, too, and so he is courting the party: “The Greens are an independent party that should not be underestimated,” Althusmann told the Tagesspiegel. He also has ambitions in the expansion of renewable energies and also has an equal representation on the CDU state list, Althusmann advertises for common ground.
At its core, the affable Althusmann, who entered the state parliament in Hanover for the first time in 1994, is trying to make a name for himself as the savior of small and medium-sized businesses. The top candidate is demanding corporate aid such as the pandemic and inexpensive industrial electricity.
But here Weil keeps competing with him with his own advances. With other demands, such as the continued operation of nuclear power for a limited period of time or gas drilling in the North Sea, he is more isolated – but is antagonizing the potential coalition partner.
Greens can apparently live easier with oil power plants than with nuclear power plants
For the Greens, Althusmann is virtually a red rag. The national association belongs almost entirely to the left wing of the party. Resistance to nuclear power in particular is part of the party DNA here.
Also with regard to the Lower Saxony elections, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) wants to take the nuclear power plant in Emsland off the grid as planned at the turn of the year. The fact that floating oil power plants are to be moored off the coast of Lower Saxony is apparently easier for the Greens in the state to convey than a stretching operation.
The Greens are hoping for the third historical electoral success in a row and the twelfth government participation in the federal states – this would further increase their influence over the Bundesrat. An alliance with the SPD is favoured, as was the case in Stephan Weil’s first term. The attacks on the CDU and FDP are all the harder.
The FDP would like to downplay the importance of the elections in Lower Saxony for the party. It could be their third defeat in a state election this year. The supporters are dissatisfied with the traffic light coalition in Berlin. It is possible that the voters in Lower Saxony will let the party feel it.
The liberals rely on nuclear power as a campaign issue, the debate about the last three nuclear power plants and the energy crisis should give them impetus. The race is on, said FDP leader Christian Lindner recently in Berlin. They have an ambitious goal: Lead candidate Stefan Birkner wants to lead the FDP into a tripartite alliance and government responsibility – despite the major differences with the Greens.
At the moment, however, the party has to worry about re-entering the state parliament: According to the latest NDR survey, there is a race between the SPD and the CDU. Accordingly, the SPD is 32 percent, the Union 28 percent of the votes.
The Greens lose easily and would come to 17 percent. The FDP, however, has to worry about entering the Lower Saxony state parliament: just under two weeks before the election, only five percent would vote for it.
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