VIENNA (AP) — The northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein is holding an election Sunday that offers a test at the ballot box for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government amid its handling of the war in Ukraine.
Polls before the election for the state legislature point to a solid lead for the center-right Christian Democratic Union, the party of former Chancellor Angela Merkel. The CDU — which is in opposition at the national level — has led Schleswig-Holstein since 2017, governing in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).
The vote comes after a turbulent few months for Scholz, who took office in December at the head of a three-party coalition government with the Greens and the FDP. In recent weeks, Scholz has faced criticism for his approach to the war in Ukraine.
Germany broke with tradition after Russia’s invasion to supply arms to Ukraine but has been criticized by Kyiv for perceived hesitancy and slowness in providing material.
Sunday’s election is the second of three state elections within two months that will help set the political tone for the coming year.
In late March, Scholz’s SPD secured a major victory in the small western state of Saarland, which the CDU had led since 1999. The most important vote, on May 15, is in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
Schleswig-Holstein is Germany’s northernmost state, home to approximately 2.9 million people. Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Daniel Günther, the incumbent governor from the CDU, held a clear lead over the SPD’s Thomas Losse-Müller and the Greens’ Monika Heinold.
The vote is expected to be a bright spot for the CDU, which has suffered losses at the state and national level in recent months. After last fall’s federal election, the party was relegated to the opposition on the national level for the first time in 16 years.
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