For a long time, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer looked like the clear winner of the Saar state election. But in recent weeks, the SPD has caught up around Anke Rehlinger. This Sunday's election evening promises to be exciting.
"A drumbeat in the Saarland" was the headline in a newspaper on Wednesday. An online portal said, "Saarland bans election campaign appearances by foreign politicians". Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) made headlines across Germany with her announcement that she would "exhaust all possibilities" to ban election campaign appearances by Turkish government members in the state. The fact that no minister from the Bosporus had planned a detour to the Saar – forget it. What counts in the days leading up to the state election on 26. March, is attention.
Popular mother of the state
Kramp-Karrenbauer, 54, also known as "AKK," married, three sons, has been head of government of the smallest Flachenland since 2011. The woman, who was previously a minister for eleven years under the jovial father of the state, Peter Muller, has become the state's popular mother in the polls over the past six years. For a long time, observers therefore amed an uncontested victory for her CDU at the polls. But in recent weeks, the SPD has left its polling trough, coming to 33 percent in recent polls – dangerously close to the CDU at 34 to 36 percent.
Kramp-Karrenbauer's challenger is Anke Rehlinger, 40, married, one son. Still without a nickname, but just as the prime minister with government experience. The former successful shot-putter has been in the state parliament since 2004. The year 2012 really kick-started her career. At the time, Kramp-Karrenbauer quit the stalled Jamaica coalition with the Greens and Liberals that her predecessor had taken over. She opted for new elections and formed a coalition with the SPD, in which Rehlinger became minister of justice and the environment.
When Heiko Maas moved to Berlin in 2014, Rehlinger followed him as economics and labor minister. She also became deputy prime minister. Unlike Kramp-Karrenbauer, who also has a strong presence within her federal party, Rehlinger's name was only familiar to insiders in Berlin until a few weeks ago. The election campaign – and above all the "Schulz effect" attested to by many media, also in the Saar – have changed this. The SPD frontrunner is now also getting more attention.
Over the past five years, the grand coalition has worked together comparatively quietly, which is why the hot phase of the election is not marked by trench warfare. If one trusts the demoscopes, according to which the Greens and FDP are fighting for entry into the state parliament, several options are possible after the election. The continuation of the grand coalition under the leadership of the CDU or the SPD, but also a red-red alliance, seems particularly tangible.
Oskar Lafontaine is running for "Die Linke" (The Left)
That depends on the performance of the left, which is usually weak in western states but benefits from the popularity of Oskar Lafontaine, who was once prime minister when he was still in the SPD and still lives in Saarland. According to the latest forecasts, the AFD is at seven percent. The state association there made national headlines for its involvement with the far-right and is still struggling to survive.
Whoever remains or becomes prime minister of the Saar in the end – it will be a Catholic in any case. Both Rehlinger and Kramp-Karrenbauer maintain contacts with Catholic associations and get involved in church debates. Thus, Rehlinger engaged only a few months ago in a joint statement with churches and unions for the protection of Sundays and stood up for women deacons at the anniversary of a Catholic women's community. "This would be an overdue contribution to equality in the Catholic Church," she wrote on Facebook.
Kramp-Karrenbauer is a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). She advocates promoting Christian traditions and values to refugees and opposes opening marriage to same-sex couples. When the Saarbrucken district court ordered the crosses removed from the courtrooms, she criticized the decision. After all, the symbol is "an admonition to humility" and reminds us "that people are not the last word in wisdom.".