How people elect parliaments
Voters in the small German state of Saarland have swung behind national Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.
The centre-right CDU party will fall just short of a majority in its own right – a rare outcome for a single party in German elections – with an estimated 23 seats in the 51-seat state Landtag.
The CDU party result is a gain on the 19 seats won in 2012, and leaves them just 3 seats short of the necessary governing majority of 26 seats.
The chamber of the Landtag (state legislature) of Saarland
The CDU has been in a ‘grand coalition’ with its traditional rival, the centre-left Social-Democratic Party (SPD), in the last five-yer term of the state assembly.
According to late-night election results at the Saarland electoral authority (in German), the CDU’s vote share rose from 35% in 2012 to nearly 41%, while the SPD vote share fell from 30% to 29%.
SPD still looks set to retain the 17 seats it held in the last term.
The populist far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will enter the Landtag for the first time, winning an estimated 4 seats on 6.2% of the vote.
The Left party (De Linke) will remain in the assembly, holding 7 of its previous 9 seats.
The Pirate Party will lose its former 4 places after falling below the 5% vote threshold to be eligible for seats.
Traditional German political parties the Greens and the Free Democratic party have also each failed to clear the 5% vote threshold in the state election, and will get no seats.
The AfD party, which did not exist at the previous state election in 2012, has only made a modest gain on the 5.2% vote share it won at the previous national elections in 2013.
But even that slight gain may concern the governing national parties. If AfD improves on the 2013 nationwide 4.7% of the vote at the national elections due in September this year, it will secure seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag.
The aggregate vote for right-wing political parties in Saarland has jumped from 38% to 48% since the 2012 elections, with voter support for political parties of both the centre and the left each falling.
Voter turnout was also up sharply, by around 10%, from 481,000 voters to 533,000.
Technically, the Saarland CDU should now be able to establish a right-wing coalition state government with AfD, relying on the new party’s 4 Landtag votes.
But with the two major parties still governing in coalition nationally, the near-certain outcome of the election is a continuation of the coalition arrangement in the Saarland state government as well.
With CDU’s national leader Chancellor Angela Merkel fighting off the rise of the far-right party nationally, the CDU will not want to set a precedent of showing any willingness to work with the AfD in government.
Preview: First German test for the far-right
More reports: Merkel’s party wins in Saarland bellwether vote for Germany (BBC)