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Major Test For Scholz's SPD In May 15 NRW State Election


Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, goes to the polls to decide the make-up of its regional Landtag (Parliament) on Sunday 15 May in the largest test faced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) since the September 2021 federal election.

  • The regional gov't is currently a two-party coalition formed by the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business liberal Free Democrats (FDP), led by Minister-President Hendrik Wust.
  • Polling in the run-up to the election shows the CDU with a narrow lead over the SPD and looking on course to win a plurality. However, mirroring gains at the federal level, the environmentalist Greens look set to rise from a distant fifth place in 2017 to third place this time around.
Chart 1. North Rhine-Westphalia Opinion Polling, % and Trendline

Source: Civey, Yougov, FGW, INSA, Infratest dimap, Forsa, Wahlkreiprognose, MNI.

  • There are a number of potential post-election coalition options based on potential results should the vote mirror current polling. The CDU and Greens could form a two-party coalition (already exists in Baden-Wurttemberg with the Greens as the senior partner), the CDU and SPD could form a 'grand coalition' (unlikely), or a 'traffic light' coalition of the SPD, Greens, and FDP could be formed, mirroring the federal coalition.
Chart 2. Potential Governing Coalitions Based on Polling

Source: Possible coalitions on top row, coalitions short of majority at bottom.

  • Scholz has become personally involved in the race, campaigning for the Social Democrats across the state. As such, the contest is being viewed as something of a referndum on his first six months in office rather than a purely state-level matter.
  • If the SPD can pull off a shock win over the CDU it would bolster the chancellor's standing following a very poor performance for the SPD in last week's Schelswig-Holstein state election, when the party fell to third place behind the CDU and Greens.

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