Over the weekend, as Germans struggle to stay afloat amid all-time high inflation rates, runaway energy prices, and the euro’s painfully low purchasing power, voters in the northwest federal state of Lower Saxony went to the ballot boxes to elect a new Landtag, the state’s legislative assembly.
When votes were counted on Sunday evening, although Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s left-liberal Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) emerged as the clear winner, having garnered 33.4% of the region’s total vote, the Rightist, anti-globalist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party saw its share of the vote increase two-fold compared to the last election, rising to nearly 11%, Der Spiegel reports.
Supporters of the left-liberal Die Grünen also had reason to celebrate on Sunday, as it too saw significant electoral gains, achieving a record result of 14.5%, up from 8.7% in 2017. The establishment, liberal-conservative Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU), for its part, posted its worst state result in more than 60 years, at 28.1%. Finally, the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP), collected just 4.7% of the region’s vote, failing to surpass the 5% threshold required to re-enter the Landtag.
Thus, the new Landtag will see only four parties represented. The SPD is the strongest parliamentary group with 57 MPs, while the CDU remains the second largest group with 47 seats. Meanwhile, the AfD and the Die Grünen have 24 and 18 seats, respectively.
It’s worth noting that the AfD and Die Grünen, as the only two parties that gained votes compared to 2017, each managed to win over some 100,000 voters who had cast their ballots for the SPD, CDU, or the FDP in the last election. In the case of the AfD, the party managed to convince 40,000 voters from the FDP, 40,000 from the CDU, and 25,000 from the SPD.
With energy costs skyrocketing due to supply shortages—and as thousands of German businesses stand on the edge of bankruptcy as a result—it’s not especially surprising that energy policy played a decisive role in voters’ decisions. In fact, according to a survey carried out by the German broadcaster ARD, the energy supply was the most important issue for supporters of all parties, except for Die Grünen, where 50% of the party’s supporters stated climate policy was the most consequential issue.
On Monday, following a meeting with the leaders of the federal SPD in Berlin, Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) said that “after yesterday’s result we will have a red-green state government,” adding that the goals of both parties are to “a large extent identical.”
For her part, Lower Saxony’s Die Grünen leader Julia Willie Hamburg said: “I’m assuming that we’ll talk for the first time this week and then start negotiations quickly.”