German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives yesterday were heaving a sigh of relief after a convincing win in the last regional vote before a general election that also exposed the weaknesses of Alliance 90 / The Greens, their main rival at the national level.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) under new party leader Armin Laschet won about 37 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt on Sunday, partial results showed, well ahead of the second-placed far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on about 21 percent.
The Greens, who had until recently been polling neck-and-neck with the CDU and its smaller sister party the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) at the national level, scored a disappointing result of about 6 percent.
The outcome in the former East German state is a huge boost for Laschet ahead of the general election on Sept. 26 — the first in 16 years not to feature Merkel.
“Laschet is still a long way from the chancellor’s office,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said, but the poll result has brought him “much closer to it.”
Berenberg Bank chief economist Holger Schmieding said that national polls in the past 10 days have shown the CDU and CSU slightly ahead of the Greens again after falling behind earlier in the year.
“Following the CDU doing well in Saxony-Anhalt, this nascent reversal of fortunes in favor of the CDU will likely continue,” he said.
Nominated as conservative chancellor candidate in April, Laschet inherited a series of problems, including anger over the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic and a corruption scandal involving shady mask contracts.
In Germany’s previous regional elections in March — in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg — the CDU suffered its worst-ever results in both states.
Laschet has also suffered from weak popularity, following damaging infighting within the conservatives for the chancellor nomination.
The disunity within the conservative ranks had contrasted starkly with the Greens, who in a show of harmony had nominated Annalena Baerbock as their chancellor candidate.
That had left Laschet trailing behind Baerbock in terms of popularity nationally.
However, Spiegel Online said that “the voters in Saxony-Anhalt have given Laschet an invaluable gift.”
“After his lousy start as chancellor candidate, it was clear that he would not be a man drawing euphoric optimism for his campaign. Rather, the motto was to sit it out,” it said.
“What he needs above all is calm, and now he has it,” it added.
Die Zeit also said Sunday’s result augured well for Laschet in particular.
Saxony-Anhalt Premier Reiner Haseloff “is a man of the middle, a man of compromise ... someone who keeps his cool in dicey moments,” it said. “In other words, someone who is very similar” to Laschet.
Laschet “can therefore take his party’s triumph in Saxony-Anhalt as a good omen,” it added.
However, for the Greens Sunday’s result “brought them back again to where they often land in eastern Germany: on the ground,” Die Zeit said.
Baerbock’s initial popularity after her nomination had fired speculation that she could seize Merkel’s job from the CDU and polls ahead of Sunday’s election had predicted the party doubling its share of the vote, but as it turned out, it only slightly improved it, deepening the party’s recent woes at the national level.
Baerbock last month admitted that she had failed to declare about 25,000 euros (US$30,412) in supplementary income to parliament, something that her critics leaped upon as a sign of hypocrisy from a party championing more transparency in politics.
Friedrich Merz, a prominent CDU member, said that the “Baerbock train has derailed.”
The Tagesspiegel daily also forecast a rocky road ahead for the Greens.
Sunday’s showing “could be a quiet harbinger that despite all the euphoria surrounding a Green chancellor candidate, the coming weeks could be difficult,” it said.
Chinese authorities have marshalled extraordinary resources to monitor a herd of traveling elephants and to keep it away from residential areas. Media reports quoted the Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade as saying that a team of eight people have been tracking the elephants, around the clock, on the ground and by drone. In the latest update, authorities said that the herd of wild Asian elephants had been tracked to a forest just outside a village in Xiyang Township, in Yunnan Province, about 90km southwest of the city of Kunming, heading back in the direction they came from. Drone images showed the elephants lying down
Tall, thin and brightly colored, Hanoi’s “tube houses” dominate the city’s streets as 9 million people compete for space in Vietnam’s bustling capital. Although Vietnam saw a number of villas and garden houses built during the French colonial period, Hanoi has few of these grand residential homes. Instead, tree-lined streets are packed with dwellings that are barely 4m wide, but are three times that in depth. Typically, a tube house might be home to a family of four, but two or three generations of relatives sometimes have to jostle for space. The first tube houses — known as nha ong in Vietnamese — are
The head of the Philippine military on Monday visited a coral-fringed island his country occupies in the South China Sea, a move that could stoke already heightened tensions between Manila and Beijing in disputed waters claimed by both countries. During the visit, Philippine Armed Forces Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana commended service members for the role they played in protecting the island’s residents and “guarding the country’s territories” in the strategic waterway. The visit comes after diplomatic protests made by the Philippines in the past few months over what it says is the illegal presence of hundreds of “Chinese maritime militia” vessels inside
Maori might have been the first to discover Antarctica, with connections to the icy continent and its surrounding oceans stretching back to the seventh century, researchers say. A new paper by University of Otago combines literature and oral histories, and concludes that Maori were likely the first people to explore Antarctica’s surrounding waters and possibly the continent in the distance. They write that Maori and Polynesian journeys to the deep south have been occurring for a long time, perhaps as far back as the 7th century, and are recorded in a variety of oral traditions. The oral histories of Maori groups Ngti Rrua