Weakened German SPD Projected to Win Smallest State’s Election

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Germany’s Social Democrats won elections in Germany’s smallest state with their lowest share of the vote since World War II, while support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party increased, according to projections based on partial returns.

The Social Democratic Party took about 33 percent of the vote in the city-state of Bremen in elections Sunday, compared with 38.6 percent in 2011, projections by ARD television showed. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union took about 23 percent, a gain of more than two percentage points. The Greens were at 15.4 percent, seven points lower than four years ago, though probably enough to continue their local governing alliance with the SPD.

“Naturally, the SPD always stands for pragmatic solutions,” said Yasmin Fahimi, the Social Democrats’ national general secretary, in a signal that the party may also consider a local coalition with CDU.

Bremen, a port city that has the highest per-capita debt among Germany’s 16 states, has been ruled by Social Democrats without a break for almost 70 years. The CDU leads the SPD by as many as 18 percentage points in the five main national voter polls as Merkel focuses on crises such as Greece and Ukraine.

As Bremen’s burghers voted, Merkel was in Moscow meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin to commemorate the Nazi defeat at the end of World War II in 1945. Her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, is due in Brussels on Monday for the latest euro-area talks aimed at prodding Greece into a financing deal.

Anti-Euro Party

At two campaign rallies in Bremen, Merkel alluded to the local economy. Bremen’s economic growth last year, 0.7 percent, was the second-lowest among German states. Unemployment fell in all states except Bremen in the first quarter of 2015.

“Nowhere else are there so many poor people as here in Bremen,” Merkel said at a rally last week. “That has to change.”

The anti-euro Alternative for Germany, running in Bremen for the first time, and the Free Democratic Party, which dropped out of the city assembly in 2011, will probably win seats this time, the exit polls showed.

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