SPD faces key regional election test

24th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 September 2004, DUSSELDORF - Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, go to the polls in municipal elections on Sunday to wrap up a busy election year in Germany and pose one further test for the ruling Social Democrats of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The voting for mayors and counsellors in nearly 400 cities and communities will be closely watched to see whether the SPD's claim holds up that it is now on the comeback trail after a series of stinging setbacks in state and Europe

24 September 2004

DUSSELDORF - Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, go to the polls in municipal elections on Sunday to wrap up a busy election year in Germany and pose one further test for the ruling Social Democrats of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The voting for mayors and counsellors in nearly 400 cities and communities will be closely watched to see whether the SPD's claim holds up that it is now on the comeback trail after a series of stinging setbacks in state and European polls this year.

With more than 13 million eligible voters being called to the polls, Sunday's voting is also a dress rehearsal for the parliamentary elections set for May 2005 in the state now run by an SPD-Greens coalition under Premier Peer Steinbrueck.

For the conservative opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), led by Juergen Ruettgers, the party will be out to try to repeat its success in the municipal elections of 1999 when it won 50.3 percent of the 1999 vote in a state which is traditionally an SPD bastion.

However, the most recent opinion survey shows both the SPD and CDU losing ground this time around, with the environmentalist Greens being the beneficiaries. The main question for the two centrist parties will be how much support they stand to lose.

The poll of 1,200 eligible voters by the University of Duisburg- Essen's social sciences department showed that the CDU may lose 5.2 percentage points, to 45.1 percent. The SPD's losses were forecast to be less severe - a drop of 1.3 points to 32.6 percent.

At the same time, the Greens were projected to gain 3.8 points to reach 11.1 percent of the vote, while the liberal Free Democrats were expected to gain 4.5 percent, an improvement of 0.2 percent from the last municipal elections, the university pollsters reported.

Fringe groups, whether rightist parties or the formerly communist Party of Democratic Socialism, were only foreseen getting minimum support. The PDS was projected at 0.8 percent, the same as in the last elections.

Election analysts note that municipal elections are not entirely reliable for predicting how the parties may fare in the state parliamentary elections.

Municipal voting is more heavily influenced by specific local factors involving the politicians vying head-to-head for mayoral or city council posts, so the results can vary from city to city without being a sure-fire indicator of how a statewide election will go.

But heading towards Sunday's voting, the SPD is in a more buoyant mood while the CDU is hedging its bets.

Both parties suffered downturns in the September 19 state parliament elections in the eastern German states of Saxony and Brandenburg, but the CDU's losses were more severe, with that party losing its previous absolute majority in Saxony.

Now, SPD national leaders believe that their party, having suffered in the polls this year amid broad public dissatisfaction over the painful reforms to Germany's expensive social welfare system, is starting to turn the corner.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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