How five votes put Germany’s Free Democrats in Thuringia state parliament

Exactly five voters saved the FDP (Free Democrats) from a new electoral flap, and made Thuringia the only east German state where the liberal party has parliamentary representation.

How five votes put Germany's Free Democrats in Thuringia state parliament
Christian Lindner, FDP party leader, and Thomas L. Kemmerich, top candidate of the FDP in Thuringia, at a Berlin press conference on Monday. Photo: DPA

In Sunday's state elections, the FDP received a total of 55,422 votes, according to the state election commissioner, and reported in Spiegel Online.

That means they were exactly five votes above the five percent hurdle needed to make it into the state parliament. There were a total of 1,108,338 votes cast in the elections. 

Expressed as a percentage, the FDP result is 5.0005 percent, or almost five ten thousandths of a percent above the threshold. For the Liberals, as they are also known, almost every vote mattered.

The federal FDP tweeted their thanks for the remarkable result.

For the FDP it was a long tremor until shortly before midnight when all the votes were counted. 

The result can nevertheless be seen as a success: Thuringia is now the only east German state in which the Liberals sit in parliament. 

Thuringia's top candidate Thomas Kemmerich tweeted that “Democracy is when every vote counts” following the result.

Overall voter turnout rose significantly to around 66 percent, up from 52.7 percent in the last elections in 2014.

Only in 1990 and 2009 did the FDP receive enough votes to be in Thuringia's government. Graph translated for The Local by Statista. 

Could the FDP be part of a coalition government?

However, the Free Democrats, led in federal parliament by Christian Lindner, do not have a realistic chance of forming a coalition government.

In purely mathematical terms, it could be enough with the Left, Greens and SPD for a four-party coalition – but this was ruled out by Kemmerich. 

At best, Kemmerich has said that he wants to cooperate with the so-called red-red-green coalition on individual issues. 

However, other FDP state politicians expressed hope for forming a minority government.

“Stable minority models are possible, as can already be seen in other European countries such as Sweden and Denmark,” said Robert-Martin Montag, Secretary General of the Thuringian FDP, at the Liberals' election party.

Founded in 1948, the FDP failed to receive enough votes to make it into parliament in 2013 for the first time in its history. In the 2017 federal elections, it regained its representation, receiving 10.6 percent of the vote. 

The party currently only forms coalition governments in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia (CDU-FDP), Rhineland-Palatinate (Social Democrats-FDP-Greens) and Schleswig-Holstein (CDU-Greens-FDP). 


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Merkel’s conservatives suffer heavy losses in two German state elections

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party suffered heavy losses in two key regional elections Sunday, early estimates showed, as voters vented anger over pandemic setbacks and a face-mask procurement scandal.

Merkel's conservatives suffer heavy losses in two German state elections
Baden-Württemberg state leader Winfried Kretschmann of the Greens voting on Sunday. Photo: DPA

The votes in the southwestern states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate were being closely watched as a barometer of the national mood ahead of a general election on September 26th – when Merkel’s successor will be chosen.

In wealthy Baden-Württemberg, Merkel’s centre-right CDU was set for its worst-ever result at 23 percent, according to exit polls by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

READ ALSO: How elections in one state could show what’s to come in post-Merkel Germany

As in the 2016 vote, the Green party took first place again, garnering more than 31 percent.

Baden-Württemberg is Germany’s only state run by a Green premier, Winfried Kretschmann, who has been in office since 2011.

He could now choose to maintain his current coalition government with the CDU, or build a new one with the centre-left SPD and the pro-business FDP, which each took around 10 percent of votes.

What happened in Rhineland-Palatinate election?

In neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate, the CDU placed second with 25-26 percent of votes, down from almost 32 percent in the previous regional election.

The centre-left SPD shed some support but held onto first place, at 33-34 percent, according to the estimates.

Malu Dreyer, Social Democrat state leader of Rhineland Palatinate. Photo: DPA

The result paves the way for popular SPD state premier Malu Dreyer to continue governing with the pro-business FDP and the Greens, who more than doubled their score.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s party braced for slap in the face as polls take place in two German states

Because of the pandemic, a higher than usual number of votes were cast by mail, and observers cautioned that the final results could still change as ballots continued to be counted.

If confirmed, the results mark a worrying start for the CDU/CSU to what has been dubbed Germany’s “super election year”.

Merkel’s federal government, which includes the SPD as junior partner, initially won praise at home and abroad for suppressing the first coronavirus wave last spring.

But it has increasingly come under fire over Germany’s sluggish vaccination campaign, a delayed start to free rapid testing, and a resurgence in cases despite months of shutdown.

The CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister party have also been roiled by damaging claims about MPs apparently benefitting financially from face mask deals early on in the pandemic, forcing three lawmakers to step down in recent days.

The mask scandal “weighed heavily on the election fight”, said CDU secretary general Paul Ziemiak.