Polls indicate Hamburg stalemate on falling CDU support

20th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The political stalemate between the major political forces in Germany appears set to spread to Hamburg when the northern city-state votes on Sunday.

Berlin -- The political stalemate between the major political forces in Germany appears set to spread to Hamburg when the northern city-state votes on Sunday.

Mayor Ole von Beust, a political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is certain to lose his overall majority in the state legislature, according to the opinion polls.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is forecast to receive around 40 percent of the vote, down from 47.2 percent in 2004, while its main rival, the Social Democrats (SPD), are on around 34 percent, up from 30.5 percent last time round.

The decline in the Merkel's conservative Christian bloc mirrors that in the Jan. 27 state elections in Lower Saxony and Hesse and could lead to drawn-out negotiations to form a new governing coalition in the port city.

The rise in western states of the Left Party, which draws most of its support in the formerly communist east, has contributed to the political stalemate.

According to the polls, the Left appears set to gain 7 or 8 percent of the Hamburg vote. The party, which is treated as a pariah by the other parties in the west, did not campaign last time round.

The party's support may have been boosted by the tax evasion scandal that hit the elite of German business just 10 days before the election.

The Greens have seen a decline in support to around 10 percent from 12.3 percent in 2004, while the liberal FDP, currently not represented, could clear the 5-per-cent hurdle.

The surveys indicate between a quarter and a third of the 1.3 million voters remained undecided less than a week before polling day.

The numbers indicate that the "normal" coalitions of CDU/FDP and SPD/Greens will not muster the support necessary to form a government.

Politicians in the city have not ruled out the possibility of a CDU/Greens coalition, the first at state level in Germany, although the two parties have formed partnerships at local authority level.

Given the relatively cordial campaigns mounted by Von Beust and SPD challenger Michael Naumann, a CDU/SPD coalition of the kind Merkel heads at federal level remains a strong contender.

It was precisely the combative campaign run by Roland Koch, the CDU premier in Hesse, along with the leftist stance taken by his SPD challenger Andrea Ypsilanti, that ruled out this combination in the state, where coalition talks have proved fruitless thus far.

In Lower Saxony, by contrast, CDU Premier Christian Wulff's low-key style kept him in office at the head of a CDU/FDP coalition, although with a reduced majority.

Von Beust is banking on a similar approach to ensure that the CDU remains comfortably the largest party in Hamburg and can thus play the central role in forming a coalition.

DPA with Expatica

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