Green Lawmaker’s Switch Opens Door to Merkel’s Party

  • German region of Lower Saxony heads toward early election
  • SPD state premier in limbo seven weeks before national vote

Angela Merkel

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Lower Saxony, the German state that’s home to carmaker Volkswagen AG, faces early elections after regional premier Stephan Weil lost his legislative majority with the defection of a Green lawmaker to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Seven weeks before Merkel seeks re-election in a national ballot, the Social Democratic Party accused her party of undemocratic tactics by poaching Green legislator Elke Twesten and undermining the SPD-led state government. The Social Democrats, led by Martin Schulz, trail Merkel’s party bloc in all polls ahead of the Sept. 24 election.

Stephan Weil

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

While the unexpected political turmoil is unlikely to affect the national vote, it’s a reminder of the pitfalls of coalition governments that rule both at the national level and in almost all German states. If polls hold true and Merkel wins a mandate for a fourth term, she’s likely to face an increasingly complex array of possible partners to form her next government.

“I’m happy to face the will of the voter at any time, but I will not give in to intrigue,” Weil, a Social Democrat, told reporters in Hanover, the state capital, on Friday. He said it’s “indispensable” that the state legislature clear the way for early elections “as soon as possible.”

Twesten said she personally favors a CDU-Green coalition, an option that polls suggest could come into play after the national election, either by itself or in combination with the Free Democratic Party. Given her ideological affinity, “I see my political future in the CDU,” Twesten told reporters.

For Weil, who sits on Volkswagen’s supervisory board in his capacity as state premier, early elections may come at a risk as the Social Democrats slump in the polls. The last survey in the state, published in May, suggested a CDU-Green state coalition would muster a legislative majority while the current SPD-Green alliance wouldn’t.

The next regular election in Lower Saxony, a region of 7.8 million people in northwestern Germany, is scheduled for Jan. 14.

— With assistance by Arne Delfs

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