MOSCOW, May 19 – RIA Novosti, Mikhail Katkov. The results of the parliamentary elections in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia seriously shook the position of the ruling party in Germany. The SPD was defeated in what the Social Democrats called the heart of their faction. Local media blame Chancellor Olaf Scholz for this – in their opinion, he turned out to be very unstable in the conditions of the Ukrainian crisis.
The Social Democratic Party lost 26.7% of the vote to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU, 35.7%). The Greens have 18.2 percent.
For the SPD, this is the worst result in history. And the region is very important.
North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most economically developed and densely populated state, home to a fifth of the electorate. Local events sometimes radically change Berlin’s political agenda. For example, in 2005, the Social Democrats also lost thanks to snap elections for the Bundestag, after which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder resigned.
German media reminded Olaf Scholz that he declared “the social democratic decade” in September last year. It seems to have been reduced to a few months. The SPD hopes to ally with the Greens to seize power in North Rhine-Westphalia, but such an alliance is uncertain. The CDU also claims to be a coalition with environmentalists.
Die Welt explains the defeat of the Social Democrats with disillusionment with the government. Scholz’s stance on the Ukraine crisis also played a role. According to the research institute Infratest Dimap, only 46% of residents agree with the prime minister’s restrictions on Kiev. A senior SPD official told Die Welt that while there will be no reckoning with the head of government over the Bundestag’s failure in North Rhine-Westphalia, discontent among the party’s grassroots members will certainly increase.
Requests are also expected from partners in the ruling coalition. According to media reports, the Greens are becoming more popular in Germany and are able to more actively impose their ideas on the allies. In the same North Rhine-Westphalia, if the Social Democrats oppose, environmentalists could unite with the CDU and drive the SPD completely out of control.
Spiegel magazine attributes the failure of the Social Democrats in local elections directly to Olaf Scholz. The publication points out that the chancellor was unable to clearly explain his position on various issues and never made clear decisions. However, it often shows self-confidence and arrogance, which must pay off.
For example, Scholz and his party long resisted the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine. They explained: Germany should not enter into a conflict with Russia, the Ukrainians cannot quickly master sophisticated German technologies, Berlin has no more weapons that can be transferred to Kiev, etc. However, under pressure from the opposition and coalition partners, the chancellor changed his mind.
Since the beginning of May, Ukraine has received more than 6,000 anti-tank grenade launchers from Germany. Also, Kyiv is waiting for 50 Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (until we find ammunition), Leopard 1 tanks and Panzerhaubitzen 2000 howitzers. .
Olaf Scholz doesn’t just suffer from opposition. Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk described the Chancellor as “an irritable liverwort” for his refusal to meet with Volodymyr Zelensky. Earlier, Scholz said he didn’t want to do this because Kiev did not accept German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and accused him of having close ties with Russia.
The Chancellor did not answer Melnik, and instead the Greens representative came to see German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock Zelensky. Unlike Scholz, he is a consistent supporter of tougher anti-Russian sanctions and arms supplies to Ukraine.
Division and polarization
Political scientists interviewed by RIA Novosti state that Germany is going through a restructuring process in the political system. Society is divided and events in Ukraine have further polarized society. According to the sociological service Forsa, 46% of Germans support sending arms to Kiev, 44% are against it.
Power in Germany is not monolithic either. There are many contradictions in the ruling coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (called the “traffic light”). CDU leader Friedrich Merz hopes to play on that and hold early elections for the Bundestag. After the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia, this scenario no longer seems unbelievable.
“This defeat does not end the SPD, but it is an alarming signal. The party has not been able to maintain the positions it achieved last year. It is too early to talk about the collapse of the coalition at the federal level, the alliance. Alexei Kuznetsov, head of the IMEMO RAS Center for European Studies, said that the Greens and the CDU had He says it’s quite possible in his wealthiest region.
Friedrich Merz looks forward to this unification to proclaim a major victory over the Social Democrats that should herald their eventual collapse.
Vladislav Belov, head of the Center for German Studies at the European Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, likens Scholz to the captain of a ship going through a storm, and despite the apparent stability of the ruling party, his top should not be relieved.
“If the hypothetical snap elections repeat the results of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Greens and the CDU will bypass the SPD and form a government,” says the expert.
However, he admits that ousting Scholz was no easy task. The Ukrainian agenda is not enough for a vote of confidence. There is a need for serious changes in domestic policy.
The interlocutor of RIA Novosti adds that the current prime minister for Russia is a relatively acceptable figure. He did not put an end to Nord Stream 2, but simply froze it, blocked arms shipments to Ukraine and called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbass.
Scholz’s main political rival, CDU leader Friedrich Merz, is seen as one of Russia’s fiercest opponents. It is clear that as chancellor he will act much more radically.
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