CDU wins local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia as Greens surge on climate concerns
The conservative CDU has emerged as the strongest party in municipal elections in Germany's most populous federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), public broadcaster WDR reports. With 35.2 percent of the votes, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premier Armin Laschet lost 3.2 percent compared to the previous election and achieved its worst ever result in municipal elections in the state but still secured the first place by a wide margin. The Social Democrats (SPD) achieved the second place but, with 24.3 percent, it lost more than 7 percent compared to the previous ballot. The Green Party, on the other hand, gained significantly in NRW, backing a trend it has seen also in national polls in recent months. The ecologist party climbed from 12 percent last time to 20 percent in 2020, making them the third strongest camp in the state with 18 million inhabitants. The pro-business party FDP gained slightly and achieved 5.6 percent, whereas the right-wing nationalist AfD gained 5 percent of the vote. The Left Party came in last of all major parties after achieving 3.8 percent.
According to a survey published by WDR, climate change has been the defining issue for most of the voters in NRW at the local elections. Despite the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the economy, 31 percent of respondents said climate was their biggest concern ahead of the vote, whereas the economic situation was the most important topic for 28 percent of respondents.
The vote is seen as a success for centrist state premier Laschet, who hopes to become national CDU leader at an internal party vote in December, which could significantly boost his ambition to become Germany's next chancellor when Merkel steps down after next year's general election. NRW has often found itself at the centre of climate debates in Germany in recent years, as the state is home to some of the country's largest coal mines and many energy-intensive companies that are particularly affected by the transition towards low-carbon energy sources.