Freiburg City Hall, where Germany's Greens have become the largest party
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Green Party and Free Democrats
gain in Germany's local elections
By Tann vom Hove, Editor
9 June 2009: The Green Party emerged as the surprise winner in local elections, which took place in seven German states alongside voting for the European Parliament on 7 June 2009. Support for the Greens was particularly strong in southern Germany. With both, the country’s largest parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), suffering losses, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) also performed well. The results for Germany’s newest party, the left-wing Linke, were below expectations. The extreme right-wing National Party of Germany (NPD) achieved some double-digit successes in its strongholds in eastern Germany but made little impact in other areas of the country. Local elections were held in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
Nobody expected the Green Party to replace the CDU as the strongest party in Stuttgart, the state capital. Buoyed by its opposition to Stuttgart 21, a controversial project to replace the city’s existing railway station, the Greens increased their share of the vote from 17 to more than 25 per cent, while the CDU and SPD, both supporters of Stuttgart 21, suffered losses of nine and seven per cent respectively. The FDP doubled its share of the vote to almost eleven per cent.
In Freiburg, Germany’s most southern big city, the Greens became the largest party in the municipal parliament despite losing votes to a new environmental splinter group. The CDU, which has governed the city in coalition with the Greens, lost more than five percentage points. The Social Democrats and the Free Democrats, both on the opposition benches, attracted increased support. Freiburg is one of a handful of German cities with a mayor from the Green Party. The Greens have also become the strongest local party in Constance.
The industrial city of Mannheim, the state’s second-largest city, provided the SPD with one of its few successes on election night. Gaining the support of more than 32 per cent of the electorate, the Social Democrats replaced the CDU as the largest party on the city council. The Christian Democrats suffered losses of more than eight points.
The CDU was also punished further south, in Karlsruhe, although the party managed to retain its number one spot in the council chamber. The losses of the two biggest parties, CDU and SPD, went largely to the Greens and Free Democrats.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, the Greens and Free Democrats also benefited from the losses of the two big parties. In Mainz, the state capital, the Green Party gained almost eight points to achieve a 22 per cent share of the vote. Both the CDU and the SPD lost some five percentage points each but remain the largest groups on the city council, The FDP gained three points. For the first time, the left-wing Linke gained a seat on the council.
In Ludwigshafen the CDU mayor Eva Lohse won re-election with more than 52 per cent of the vote.
In the small state of Saarland, where the national co-leader of the Linke, Oskar Lafontaine, was once SPD prime minister, support for the governing Christian Democrats dropped from 47 to 38 per cent. Despite losing votes to the Greens and the Linke, the Social Democrats remain the second-strongest party in the state. Lafontaine’s Linke achieved double-digit results in most big cities.
Up to now, in the state capital of Saarbrücken, the Social Democrat mayor Charlotte Britz had to share power with a council dominated by centre-right parties. However, the 7 June election results may lead to a three-way coalition between SPD, Greens and the Linke in the chamber, thus allowing for a smoother running of the city.
Mayoral elections were held in Neunkirchen, the state’s second-largest city. Preliminary results give Jürgen Fried, from the SPD, an unassailable lead, If elected, Fried will take over from fellow Social Democrat Fritz Decker, who has governed the city for the past 18 year.
Preliminary results show that the centre-right CDU made some gains in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a state on the Baltic Sea. In the cities, the Linke, the SPD and the CDU all fought for the number one spot. The results in Schwerin, the state capital, was very close, with all three major parties winning more than 20 per cent of the vote. The Linke was on 25 per cent, while both the CDU and SPD won the support of 22 per cent of voters. The Greens won nine per cent, with the Free Democrats on six per cent. The right-wing NPD won just under three per cent and will, for the first time, be represented on the city council.
In Rostock, the state’s largest city, the Linke became the largest party by winning 24 per cent of the vote against the SPD’s 18 per cent.
Across the state, the right-wing and xenophobic NPD was supported by just over three per cent of the electorate but achieved double-digit results in some of its strongholds. For example, in Ueckermünde, on the Polish border, the party won more than 12 per cent.
Very early results in Saxony indicate losses for the Social Democrats and gains for the Greens and Free Democrats. In Leipzig, the SPD lost its position as strongest party to either the CDU or the Linke, which are both on 23 per cent. Support for the Social Democrats dropped from 27 to 20 per cent. The city’s Greens achieved almost 15 per cent, while support for the Free Democrats rose to just under ten per cent. The NPD is on three per cent.
The CDU comfortably defended its dominance in Dresden, Saxony’s state capital, while the result in Chemnitz are too close too call, with both the CDU and the Linke aiming to become the strongest party.
Statewide, the Greens and Free Democrats made gains in the larger cities. Support for the extremist NPD, which fielded candidates in more than 100 communities, varied between 2.5 and four per cent.
The Linke is on course to become the largest party in Magdeburg, the state capital. Preliminary results show the left-wing party on 27 per cent, with the Social Democrats in second place with 24 per cent. The CDU is expected to gain more than 22 per cent. The Christian Democrats are forecast to become the strongest political force in Halle, with close to 28 per cent, followed by Linke on 26 per cent.
Despite suffering painful losses, the Christian Democrats remain the strongest party in Thuringia. Statewide, the CDU is forecast to have collected some 35 per cent of the vote, with the Linke in second place with a 21 per cent share of the vote. The Social Democrats are not expected to exceed 16 per cent.
In other states
Mayoral elections were also held in Wetzlar and Giessen (Hessen) and in Neumünster (Schleswig-Holstein). In Wetzlar, the Free Democrat mayor, Wolfram Dette, was re-elected, while in Giessen the incumbent CDU mayor Heinz-Peter Haumann appears to be losing to his SPD challenger Dietlind Grabe-Bolz. In Neumünster, Olaf Tauras, supported by the CDU, FDP and Greens, was victorious over the SPD candidate Günter Humpe-Waßmuth.
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