Scholz’s Social Democrats seen winning state vote in Germany

Oct 9, 2022, 9:27 AM | Updated: 9:58 am
Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony, talks to media after casting his ballot for...

Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony, talks to media after casting his ballot for the state election in Lower Saxony in Hannover, Germany, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)

(Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats were set to win a German state election Sunday in which the environmentalist Greens and the far-right were expected to make gains as the country faces high inflation and worries about energy supplies this winter, exit polls showed.

Some 6.1 million people were eligible to vote for the state legislature in Lower Saxony, which occupies a large swath of northwestern Germany and has strong industry and agriculture.

Exit polls for ARD and ZDF television showed the Social Democrats leading with around 33% of the vote, with the main opposition party at national level, the center-right Christian Democrats, polling around 27.5%.

That was a lower score for both parties than five years ago. The Greens were projected to take around 14% of the vote and the far-right Alternative for Germany 11-12%.

In Lower Saxony, the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats have governed together for the past five years. Pre-election polls in a campaign that failed to generate much excitement showed voters preferring center-left governor Stephan Weil, who has led the state since 2013, over his center-right challenger and current deputy governor, Bernd Althusmann.

A senior federal official with Scholz’s party, general secretary Kevin Kuehnert, called it “a clear election victory for Stephan Weil.” The expected results may allow Weil to ditch his coalition with the center-right and govern with the Greens instead.

Althusmann had sought to capitalize on bickering in Scholz’s three-party national government over issues such as how much longer Germany should keep using nuclear energy and how to relieve the pressure from high gas prices.

The exit polls showed the third party in Scholz’s national government, the pro-business Free Democrats, right on the 5% support threshold needed to remain in the Lower Saxony state legislature in Hannover. If the party fails to do so — after disappointing showings in three other state elections this year — that could increase tensions in the national government.

Recent national surveys have shown the Social Democrats behind the Christian Democrats and sometimes the Greens, and the Free Democrats polling poorly.

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              Bernd Althusmann, CDU top candidate, stands at the polling station casting his vote for the state election in Lower Saxony in Suedergellersen, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022.  (Marcus Brandt/dpa via AP)
            
              Lars Schieske (AfD), candidate in the runoff election for mayor of the city of Cottbus, arrives at the polling station in the Cottbus district of Kiekebusch, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022. In the main election in Brandenburg's second largest city, SPD candidate Schick won 31.8 percent of the vote on Sept. 11, while AfD candidate Schieske received 26.4 percent. (Frank Hammerschmidt/dpa via AP)
            
              FILE --Stephan Weil, Social Democratic Party (SPD) top candidate in Lower Saxony attends a news conference at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. The opposition parties SPD and Green Party eked out a victory in a neck-and-neck state election in Lower Saxony, Germany, winning 69 seats in Lower Saxony, home to about one tenth of German voters, while the governing Christian Democrats and Free Democrats retained 68 seats. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber,file)
            
              Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony, arrives to cast his ballot for the state election in Lower Saxony in Hannover, Germany, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)
            
              Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony, arrives with his wife Rosemarie Kerkow-Weil to cast their votes for the state election in Lower Saxony in Hannover, Germany, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)
            
              Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony, talks to media after casting his ballot for the state election in Lower Saxony in Hannover, Germany, Sunday, Oct.9, 2022. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)

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Scholz’s Social Democrats seen winning state vote in Germany