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16 May 2022, 13:17
Benjamin Wehrmann

Conservatives win vote in Germany’s industrial heartland, “kingmaker” Green Party with big gains

Rheinische Post / ARD / Clean Energy Wire

The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have won the elections in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia by a wide margin, meaning incumbent state premier Hendrik Wüst will likely be able to lead the next government coalition in the country’s industrial heartland. According to preliminary results carried by newspaper Rheinische Post, the CDU gained nearly 36 percent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD) with just under 27 percent and the Green Party with over 18 percent, up from about 6 percent at the last election in 2017. While the SPD suffered its worst-ever result in the state, the Greens achieved their best result to date. The party, under top candidate Mona Neubaur, now looks set to become “kingmaker” and might be able to decide with whom it wants to form the next government coalition. With under six percent of all votes, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), which have governed the state together with the CDU in the past five years, almost failed to clear the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament. The far-right AfD also only narrowly managed to clear the threshold with over 5 percent, whereas the Left Party failed to enter the state parliament in Düsseldorf.

CDU premier Wüst said the election result gives him a clear mandate “to form and lead the next government,” even though the current CDU-FDP coalition can no longer continue. He said his party and the Greens were the election winners, suggesting that a coalition between the two parties would be a desirable outcome for the incumbent premier. However, the SPD, under top candidate Thomas Kutschaty, still can hope to enter into government and form a so-called “traffic light coalition” together with the FDP and the Greens, similar to the constellation currently governing Germany at the federal level. Green candidate Neubaur said her party would be open to coalition talks with both the CDU and the SPD.

A survey carried by public broadcaster ARD found that climate action had been the second most important topic for voters after rising prices, followed by energy supply security. Karsten Smid of NGO Greenpeace said the state election had shown that voters want “better climate action and a quick end to coal, oil and gas,” irrespective of who will be leading the next government. The heavily industrialised state that is home to about 18 million people is Germany’s largest emitter but has aimed to end the use of coal by 2030. “North Rhine-Westphalia must lead the way here,” said Smid.

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