Germany’s Social Democrats set for historic losses in Bremen state election

The centre-right Christian Democrats could be set to overtake the Social Democrats in Bremen for the first time in more than 70 years, according to state election exit polls.

Germany's Social Democrats set for historic losses in Bremen state election
There was likely a sombre mood at the SPD HQ in Bremen as mayor Carsten Sieling addressed the crowd. Photo: DPA

Initial projections show the centre-right CDU is just ahead of the centre-left SPD in Bremen, a state which the Social Democrats has governed for 73 years, reported Welt.

Exit polls for broadcasters ARD and ZDF put support for the SPD at around 24.5% and the centre-right Christian Democratic Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, up to about 25.5%.

READ ALSO: Why can't Germany's Social Democrats pull themselves together?

The historic losses could see the SPD finish second in the northwestern city-state, Germany's smallest, for the first time since WWII.

The polls put support for the Greens in Bremen up to about 18 percent. That party is currently the Social Democrats' junior coalition partner in Bremen, and could decide whether or not it keeps its hold on the state government.

The exit polls put The Left (Die Linke) at 12 percent, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) have 7 percent. The pro-business FDP scooped 6 percent, according to the initial projections.

The top candidate of the CDU, Carsten Meyer-Heder after the exit polls. Photo: DPA

The results mean that SPD politician Carsten Sieling, 60, could remain Bremen mayor if his party form a coalition with the Greens and The Left, which would be a first in Bremen. It would also mark the first time The Left was in power in a western German state.

But if that alliance isn't agreed then there's the possibility that CDU candidate Carsten Meyer-Heder, 58, who only joined the party a year ago, could be elected Bremen's first Christian Democratic mayor with the help of the Greens and the FDP in a coalition.

Bremen is the only federal state with a four-year legislative period; all other German states now vote every five years.

As The Local reported, the Bremen elections will likely send shockwaves to the government in Berlin where a shaky coalition between the SPD and the CDU/CSU stands.

Due to the relatively complex electoral system in Bremen, it takes longer for reliable figures to become available.

A preliminary official final result will therefore not be published until Wednesday, officials said.

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German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

Politicians will gather in the Bundestag on Thursday afternoon for an urgent question-and-answer session on Germany's planned changes to citizenship law.

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

According to information on the Bundestag website, the urgent discussion was scheduled on the request of the opposition CDU party, who have been fiercely critical of the planned reforms in recent days.

The debate, which is scheduled to start at 2:50pm and last an hour, will see Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) appear and take questions from MPs on the government’s planned changes to citizenship law.

Faeser is currently in the process of drafting a bill that will simplify and speed up the naturalisation process in Germany, which she said this week is “as good as done”.  

The law will end a ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens, meaning people from places like India, the USA and the UK can naturalise as Germans without losing their current citizenship – or citizenships. 

It also foresees a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it takes to become eligible for German citizenship.

In future, people would be able to naturalise after five years of residence in the country rather than the current eight, while people who speak good German or fulfil other integration criteria could naturalise after three years rather than six.

Additionally, the Interior Ministry wants to grant automatic German citizenship to the children of foreign parents – provided their parents have been in the country at least five years – and remove language requirements for members of the guest-worker generation who want to become German. 


‘We don’t need reform’

High-profile politicians from the CDU have slammed the government’s plans to ease citizenship rules, with parliamentary leader Thorsten Frei describing the move as an attempt to “sell-off” German passports as a “junk commodity”.

“We don’t need reform,” Frei told public broadcaster ZDF. “There would no majority whatsoever in any party’s supporters for this change.”

Earlier this week, CDU leader Friedrich Merz had argued that expediting the naturalisation process would damage integration and allow people to immigrate into the benefits system more easily. 

“The CDU will not close its mind to a further modernisation of immigration law and the citizenship law of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merz told a meeting of CDU and CSU MPs in Berlin on Tuesday.

“However, we also attach importance to the fact that the granting of citizenship takes place at the end of an integration process and not at the beginning of it.” 

The CDU and CSU have previously been vocal opponents of permitting dual nationality, arguing that holding more than one citizenship would prevent people from fully integrating into German life. 

Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the opposition will be able to block the legislation in any meaningful way.

If there aren’t any substantial changes to the core of the citizenship bill when the amendments are made, the Interior Ministry believes it won’t need to be put to a vote in the Bundesrat – the upper house where the CDU and CSU hold a majority.

Instead, the parties of the traffic-light coalition – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – would simply be able to vote it through in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?