Saarland Gives Merkel a Needed Win, But Pirates Take Nearly 9%
The elections in the Saarland brought both good news and bad news to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The good news was that her party, the Christian Democrats, outpolled its main rival the social Democrats, the SPD, by 4% - and therefore the CDU you will form the next government of the Saarland.
The Saarland is probably the state in the worst economic condition in what was formerly West Germany. Despite this, the Christian Democratic vote remained firm, while the Party of the Left (Linke) lost 5%, scoring 16%.
The Linke have been strong in the Saar because the former Governor of the state, Oskar Lafontaine, once a Social Democrat, joined the Linke following the austerity measures carried out by the Social Democrat Schroeder government.
The bad news was that Merkel's national coalition partner, the Free Democrats, could muster only 1.5% of the vote. This means that they will not be represented in the state legislature, as Germany, on both national and state levels, has a 5% electoral threshold.
This now marks 6 straight defeats for the Free Democratic Party a party that had done extremely well in the 2009 national elections. It had done well in those elections because it promised to cut taxes if it became a coalition partner. It did not manage to live up to its promises, particularly given Germany's need to help finance a solution to the European debt crisis. Because of that, the government could not forgo tax receipts without violating the same curbs on deficit spending that it had pushed so hard to enact within the European Union.
The surprise of the election is the Pirates Party, that believes in piracy of the internet, persuasion rather than the shiver-me-timbers and walk-the- plank piracy. The Pirates would also use the Internet to monitor government performance. The Pirates easily vaulted the 5% electoral threshold by scoring 8.9%, thus surpassing the veteran Greens who just barely squeaked by the electoral threshold.
There has little been little love lost lately between the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats. The Free Democrats accuse the Christian Democrats of becoming interchangeable with the social Democrats. The Christian Democrats are upset over the Free Democrats' decision to back the left's choice for German president last month, Joachim Gauck, thus presenting the Christian Democrats with a fait accompli.
As the Christian Democrats in the Saarland do not have a majority of their own, and the Free Democratic option no longer exists, the Christian Democrats will turn to the Social Democrats to form a grand coalition in the Saarland.
The Social Democrats could theoretically form a majority with the ecological Greens and the Linke. The Social Democrats, however, have refused to form a coalition with the Linke, due to the fact that Linke are descended from the East German Communist Party as well as defectors from the Social Democratic Party - like Lafontaine.
The lack of options available to both major parties makes a return to a grand coalition the default choice on the national level.