Germany: the change of the North Rhine-Westphalia government will impede the work of the federal coalition of CDU/CSU/FDP

On 9 May, parliamentary elections were held in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the most populous German federal state. As a result of the elections, the CDU and the FDP have lost a majority of seats and thus the possibility of continuing the coalition in this federal state. The local defeat of the CDU and the FDP means that the federal coalition of CDU/CSU/FDP will no longer have its small majority in the Bundesrat, the house of the German parliament in which representatives of the federal states sit. Consequently, the second house of the German parliament will be able to block government bills, which will significantly impede reforms planned by the government and may cause a loss of support for the coalition members, especially the FDP.
Following the elections, the CDU is still the strongest party (34.6% of the votes). However, due to the fact that the support for it has shrunk by 10.2 percentage points in comparison to the result in 2005, the party will be unable to continue its previous coalition with the FDP. The Christian Democrats are likely to form a grand coalition with the Social Democrats in NRW. This will significantly change the balance of power in the Bundesrat, which consists of 69 representatives of local governments. North Rhine-Westphalia has six votes in this house. The change in the makeup of the government of NRW will reduce the number of votes the federal coalition of CDU/CSU/FDP had in the Bundesrat from 37 to 31, which means that it will no longer have a majority in this house. According to the German constitution, this house’s consent is necessary to adopt any laws which impose financial obligations on the federal states. Thus, the opposition’s objection will reduce the chances for carrying out the promised reforms concerning the extension of the period of operation for nuclear power plants, reform of the healthcare system and the lowering of tax thresholds. These were the flagship projects of the federal coalition of the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. This situation will adversely affect support for the coalition parties, especially the increasingly less popular FDP, the main initiator of most of the planned reforms. The result of the elections in NRW may also provide a pretext for criticism of the overly tardy style of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government from the conservative faction in her party. <zawil>