NRW Snap Polls: A Blessing in Disguise for SPD-Green coalition

A Blessing in Disguise for SPD-Green coalitionGermany's most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia, with 18 million inhabitants, is poised to hold snap elections scheduled to be in the second week of May 2012. This least surprising political development took place after the 20 month old, Hennelore Kraft led SPD-Green minority coalition government failed to pass the budget from state parliament. The CDU-led opposition parties joined hands to block the budget's passage, which compelled the minority government to dissolve the assembly, paving the way for early elections.
Since forming the minority government in July 2010, the ruling coalition was treading a thin line with perceptible instability. In the 181 members' state parliament, the ruling coalition was counting on 90 members, whereas the CDU, FDP and Left party retained 91 members in total. Previously, the ideologicalwedge between CDU/FDP and the Left party prevented them forming an alliance to make a government. This was capitalized by SPD to make their government along with their traditional ally, the Green party.
Apparently, the coalition rule suffered a setback. But it is thought to be a blessing in disguise, as snap polls put SPD in  the leading position with 38 % approval ratings comparing to 32 % in last elections. CDU sticks to its previous popularity ratings as it secures 34 % approval in the survey. The Greens are expected to improve their position from their current 11% public representation to 14 % in the coming snap elections.

Therefore, the momentary fiasco suffered by the SPD-led state government would ultimately turn into a decisive electoral victory. The outgoing state premier implicitly shared her optimism in her interview with Germany's public broadcaster ARD; "we are not backing away from the conflict; we sent a signal to Berlin in 2010 and we're quite proud of that. A good result at the election will send another signal to the country". So it is quite obvious as evinced through the snap poll conducted by Infratest-Dimap, that an SPD-Green alliance would establish a simple majority in the forthcoming elections and subsequently form a stable government. In such a case, it would be the eighth consecutive poll victory for the alliance of SPD and Greens in state elections, after losing federal elections in 2009 for the second time in a row.

The electoral defeat in NRW will have far reaching implications for Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government at the federal level. It will further marginalize their position in the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament), where they are already deprived of a majority owing to the abysmal electoral performance by FDP in 5 out of 7 state elections last year. This downslide is expected to continue in the state elections of the western state of Saarland and the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein in March and May respectively this year. Surveys, as well as political expert opinions, cast doubt over the ability of the Free Democrats to arrest this downward trend in these states. Polls suggest that there will be recapitulation of a grand alliance between CDU and SPD following the pattern of the 2005 SPD/CDU rule after the elections in May.

Seemingly another electoral dumping of FDP would undermine the sustainability of the coalition's rule and presumably catalyse the fragmentation within FDP's folds. This dwindling of political fortune of the ruling CDU/FDP coalition government in state elections may replicate in the federal polls due in 2013.

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