Germans will vote a lot this year: A dozen regional elections have been scheduled and all citizens can participate in the EU parliamentary elections in June. Germany’s new head of state will also be chosen.
Will the chancellor still smile when the year is over?
German national elections won’t take place until 2006, but many view the 2004 voting marathon as a barometer of public opinion on Berlin’s governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, which has lost much ground in opinion polls and surveys.
Christian Democrats likely to win EU elections
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s best bet to gauge his standing with voters will likely be the elections for the European Union parliament on June 13. Germany’s conservative opposition seems set to repeat its victory in the 1999 EU elections, however.
Flags outside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France
The EU’s legislature in Strasbourg currently has 53 members belonging to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) while the Social Democrats (SPD) only hold 35 seats.
State elections from Hamburg to Saxony
The SPD has better chances in Hamburg, where voters will choose a new parliament for the city state on Feb. 29. After decades of Social Democratic rule, current Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU) was elected in 2001, but called for early elections in December after the collapse of his center-right coalition government.
Beust is hoping to secure an absolute majority as polls show his former coalition partners are below the 5 percent hurdle they need to clear to enter parliament. Should Beust fail to get enough support, the SPD is likely to return to power with the support of the Greens.
Thuringia's Premier Dieter Althaus (CDU).
Voters in the Eastern German state of Thuringia will choose a new parliament on June 13. The Christian Democrats hold an absolute majority, which former Premier Bernhard Vogel won four years ago. Victory is also likely for his successor, Dieter Althaus (photo), who will have been in office for just over a year by election day.
Three more state elections will take place in September: The people of the western German state of Saarland will go to the polls on Sept. 5, followed by voters in the eastern German states of Brandenburg and Saxony on Sept. 19. Christian Democrats hold an absolute majority in Saarland and Saxony and are likely to stay in power.
In Brandenburg, the SPD has been governing since reunification, but could end up becoming the junior partner in the current coalition with the CDU: In last year’s municipal elections, Social Democrats only received 23.5 percent of votes.
Municipal elections in seven states
Germany’s Super Sunday will take place on June 13: Apart from the EU and Thuringia state elections, voters in Baden-Württemberg, Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony will choose new mayors, city and regional governments. Two weeks later, Thuringians will head to the polls again for municipal elections, followed on Sept. 26 by voters in North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.
The latter elections are seen as a crucial test for the 2005 state polls that will take place there. Should the Christian Democrats win the state after decades of SPD rule, they would hold a two-thirds majority in Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat, and could block legislation proposed by the government.
Choosing a new head of state
One election most Germans won’t have a direct say in, is the vote for a new president on May 23. The country’s figurehead gets elected by the so-called Federal Assembly, which convenes every five years for this purpose and is made up of members of Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, and an equal number of delegates from the 16 federal states.
President Johannes Rau, who was nominated by SPD and Greens in 1999, won’t be seeking reelection. The Christian Democrats will send the most delegates and are therefore likely to secure victory for their candidate with the support of the neoliberal Free Democrats.
Favorites so far are Wolfgang Schäuble (photo), a former government minister and CDU party leader who sits in a wheel chair after a 1990 assassination attempt and UN Under-Secretary-Gerneral Klaus Töpfer, who heads the organization’s environment program. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on the other hand has said his party might support a female CDU nominee for Germany’s highest office.