Monday, March 27, 2017

How to Read the Saarland Election

This state election in Germany ended yesterday at 6PM, and kinda shocked some folks.

First, for those who've never been to the Saarland....it's one of the smaller of the 16 states, and least known.  In a typical year....with the 8PM nightly news, I doubt if anything in this state gets mentioned more than five times.  Their chief economic theme is coal, some minor industry, and agriculture.  If you asked the 82-million Germans if they've ever been in the state....more than 80-percent will say "no".

Second, among the 'losers' in yesterday's election....were the Pirate Party.  Five years ago, they draw 7-percent of the state vote.  The Pirates were only able to draw 3,979 votes....roughly .7-percent.  The Pirate Party was designed in some ways as a youth-vote vehicle.  I suspect a lot of the votes in 2012 came from the university in Saarbrucken.  Their decline?  It says a lot about a limited theme political party.  Where did their voters go to?  It appears that the CDU took some of their votes.

Third, for the past month, polls were talking of this hot race and how the SPD would come near 31-percent and the CDU at 31-percent....neck and neck.  The SPD folks were only able to get up to 29.6-percent.....dropping one-percent over the 2012 election.  The CDU was able to get 40.7-percent (gaining 5-percent over the 2012 election).  It's hard to explain the popular nature of the CDU, but I think a lot goes to the chief boss running the CDU campaign....Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.  She comes off very professional....clever, and has some potential for the CDU nationally.  She's been the Minister-President of Saarland for the past five years, and will go forward for the next five.  She's 54 years old and might be some viable candidate for the 2021 national election.

Fourth, the Linke Party was able to pick up 12.9-percent of the vote.....but this was a lesser vote than in 2012 (they had 16-percent in that election).  Their message and theme?  It didn't sell as well as it did five years ago.

Fifth, the Green Party?  Dismal race.  Four-percent of the votes....losing one-percent over five years ago.  Not enough to be in the state legislature....so they will sit out for the next five years.

Sixth, AfD (the anti-immigrant party).....first election in Saarland, and they picked up 6.2-percent....so they will be able to sit in the state assembly.  Some people were thinking they'd go near ten-percent....but I don't think their theme on immigrants works that well in Saarland (it's not typically a place that most migrants would want to live in).  You might have some Turks or Kurds living in the region...but it's not a job-rich region and usually lesser known.

Seventh, the poll folks missed this election by a fair margin.  It's not just one poll group but at least four groups that missed the voting trend.  Hard to say how it was missed.  More people did show up in yesterday's race than in 2012, and the SPD really turned on the charm for the last four weeks with Schulz as their guy.

Eighth, the one odd thing that polls did accomplish over the past month.....every single poll asked who they preferred as their minister-president, and Kramp-Karrenbauer won each time with fifty to sixty percent of the public siding with her.  That might have been a hint on how votes were going to go.

Bottom line?  The news folks were expecting a close race....with maybe two points difference between the SPD and the CDU, and they could have said that SPD's national figure....Schulz....helped to reshuffle the votes.  Instead, it's a 11-point difference, and it appears that Schulz did very little to reshuffle the votes.  To some degree.....the news folks might have some explaining to do, over how the outcome was so different from the expectation.

So we come to the next election.   Schleswig-Holstein, 7 May (six weeks away).  The CDU barely edged out a victory in 2012 (less than one point from the SPD).  Four months ago....the CDU was given a 8-point lead over the SPD. Another poll was done about two weeks ago and hinted that Schulz had changed the dynamics, and the SPD was now six points over the CDU.  I have doubts over both polls.

I do believe that the Saarland election has a dynamic at work and shows Merkel's party in a better light now.  It might help in Schleswig-Holstein's election.  It's not a major state (2.8-million residents).....and no major cities in the area (Kiel is the capital of the state).  It's not a state that gets a lot of migrants or immigrants....so there might be lesser issues on the table about that topic.  

So, settle back for six weeks of hyped-up chatter.

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