Germany’s next regional election in Schleswig Holstein on May 6 is like the weather on the northern German coasts: quick to change and unpredictable. There are multiple political equations possible to form the government of a state with less than three million people. But a good part of the focus of attention will be primarily on two parties: the Free Democrats (FDP) and the upstart Pirate Party. Should the FDP fail to make it into the State parliament, the winds would build further against it a week later in the much more significant election in Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Some argue that a loss there for the FDP could mean the end of the current governing coalition in Berlin between the FDP and the CDU\CSU led by Chancellor Merkel – and a move for new national elections a year earlier than scheduled. Merkel might see new elections as a way to free her up from not only an increasingly weak coalition partner, but also open the door to a coalition with the SPD again, in which she might feel more comfortable.
However, what is a more likely scenario is the FDP holding on to a presence in both state parliaments in these next elections, even if it is relegated to the opposition. The party would then have to take their chances next year.
Meanwhile, the Pirates seem to be stealing votes from several political camps, thus putting themselves in a position to shape coalition choices as well. Just as in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe, it is the season of volatile voters. The anthem of Schleswig Holstein warns “don’t falter, my fatherland.” That may be just the concern the FDP has right now amidst rough political winds with pirate sails gaining on them.