February 22, 2017 By FTI Consulting
Geographically, one could say that Vorpommern hits the jackpot. It lies in the far north east of Germany in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania right at the Baltic Sea. Imagine long sandy beaches, sky-high chalk cliffs, yellow blooming rape fields – so picturesque that they served as inspiration for Caspar David Friedrich, famous painter of the 19th Century who was born in the Pomeranian town of Greifswald. Naturally, in Germany Vorpommern is known as a splendid vacation destination hosting its two biggest islands Usedom and Rügen, the latter with the most hours of sun (2,000 out of 8,760) in Germany in 2016.
On a not so positive note, the district Vorpommern-Rügen has the second to last lowest average gross monthly salary in Germany (2,057 Euro), the way to the next hospital can take more than an hour and the population is among the oldest in the country.
Vorpommern has two electorates for the 2017 federal election. One of them has been marked as “probably the most boring ever” as the same politician has been running for it since 1990: Angela Merkel. She was not born there and it was coincidence that she became candidate for this electorate. Merkel has always won the direct mandate and will probably do it again – even if her votes will not reach 56% as in the last national election in 2013. In the unlikely event that Angela Merkel loses her electorate, a top front party list position will let her enter the Bundestag.
The problem is, people in Vorpommern are disappointed by Merkel’s immigration policy. They cannot understand how Germany can take up one million refugees when there is for example no money to keep open the only pediatric and women’s ward in the region of Usedom. Or why companies choose to close down their operations there, adding to the already high unemployment rate.
In an economically underdeveloped area this adds fuel to the fire leading to higher dissatisfaction among the population, giving momentum to right-wing populist parties. So it’s no surprise that at the latest state election in September 2016 the populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) won direct mandates in the Vorpommern electorate. This was a huge success for a party that was unknown five years earlier.
The second electorate has traditionally been won by the Christian Democrats in federal elections. For 2017, they are putting up a new candidate: a 24-year old law student. But the AfD’s strong results in the state elections could make this electorate a neck-to-neck race, and AfD is sending a popular state MP into the race.
So it remains to be seen if Vorpommern can prosper after the federal election in September. As Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats warned the people of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania at the state elections: “Don’t mess it up, I want to come back for holidays.”