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Lower Saxony

Stephan Weil takes reigns of center-left coalition in Lower Saxony

Stephan Weil, the outgoing mayor of Hanover, has been officially elected the premier of Lower Saxony by the state parliament. But his center-left coalition has a narrow majority of just one vote.

Photo of Stephan Weil on day he spoke to Lower Saxony parliament after election (19.02.2013). 
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Niedersachsens designierter Ministerpräsident Stephan Weil (SPD) spricht am 19.02.2013 im niedersächsischen Landtag in Hannover (Niedersachsen) mit der SPD-Abgeordneten Doris Schröder-Köpf. Der niedersächsische Landtag ist zur Wahl des neuen Ministerpräsidenten zusammengekommen. Foto: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Landtag Niedersachsen Schröder-Köpf Weil

The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and their Green Party coalition partners elected Stephan Weil state premier of Lower Saxony on Tuesday, successfully seating the former Hanover mayor by just a single vote over the conservative opposition.

Weil said that his coalition plans to engage “very actively” in federal politics, because that's where “the rules” were made for many policy areas that would determine the success or failure of Lower Saxony.

“I believe that the assignment we had in Hanover during the past years is – at its core – the exact same that this state now faces,” Weil said. The former mayor of the state capital has emphasized consolidating Lower Saxony's finances.

Weak parliamentary majority

Four weeks ago, the SPD and the Greens defeated the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their pro-business coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), in a hotly contested election that was billed as a mock up for the federal elections in September.

But the SPD and the Greens were only able to secure 69 seats in parliament, giving them just one vote more than the 68 mandates held by the CDU and FDP. Although former Premier David McAllister - a darling of Chancellor Angela Merkel - was ousted, his CDU remains the largest party with 36 percent support. That compares to 32.6 percent for the SPD, 13.7 percent for the Greens and 9.9 percent for the FDP.

“We'll see whether or not they'll be able to keep every hand on deck,” Ulf Thiele, the secretary-general of Lower Saxony's CDU, told the public broadcaster NDR in reference to Weil's weak majority. Thiele added that the CDU was “ready to resume governing responsibility in Lower Saxony at any time.”

View toward federal elections

But the SPD's national chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, said that the goals of the coalition in Lower Saxony reflected the policies that the SPD and Greens wanted to implement at the federal level. Gabriel named free education, a transition to renewable energy, and a society that values equality and integration as key components of the SPD-Green national agenda.

“Your coalition agreement sketches out the change in politics that we also want to fight for together at the federal level,” Gabriel said in a written statement sent to Lower Saxony's parliament.

slk/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)