The CDU was actually pretty sure of its cause on Thursday morning.

And not just them: The experienced Left Party politician Wulf Gallert, who has been in the Magdeburg state parliament since 1994 and knows about its shallows, also assumed that Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff would be a clear success.

In an internal chat before the election, Gallert had given the tip that there would be three dissenters among the 56 members of the CDU, SPD and FDP.

With a coalition majority of seven votes, that wouldn't have mattered much.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

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The result of the first ballot astonished Gallert: Haseloff was eight votes short. Even the coalition's full seven-vote majority was no longer enough; the prime minister had failed. For Haseloff it was a déjà vu. When he was elected in 2016, Haseloff initially failed to obtain the required majority. Only 41 parliamentarians voted for him in the first ballot, five fewer than the "Kenya" coalition of CDU, SPD and Greens had mandates in the state parliament. At the time, there was also a heated mood in Saxony-Anhalt. The refugee crisis was at its peak. The AfD had triumphed in the state elections. And Haseloff, out of necessity and in a great hurry, had to form an unprecedented three-way alliance with the SPD and the Greens.

In the meantime, the political situation in the country has calmed down noticeably. The CDU was able to gain a strong 37.1 percent in the state elections, and the political center was additionally strengthened by the return of the FDP to parliament. The CDU was able to choose its coalition partner, pushed the unloved Greens aside and negotiated a “Germany” coalition with the SPD and FDP. The talks were largely silent, and the members and delegates also voted for this alliance with a solid majority.

The disappointed Greens like to refer to this alliance as the “spare wheel coalition”. Because arithmetically, the CDU and SPD would have a majority without the FDP - but only with a single vote. Haseloff's failure in the first ballot can therefore also be read as confirmation of the fear that led the CDU leadership to insist on the FDP participating in the government. This third partner cost Union and SPD some items. However, the CDU leadership felt it was imperative to minimize the risk involved in the votes in the state parliament.

This also happened with a view to its own people, because the CDU parliamentary group has proven to be difficult to calculate and undisciplined in the past legislative period. The party leadership ensured that some of the suspected troublemakers did not make it back to the state parliament. Prime Minister Haseloff also ensured that Ulrich Thomas and Lars-Jörn Zimmer lost their posts as deputy parliamentary group leaders after the election because they had repeatedly shot across the board and made advances to the AfD in recent years. However, the two politicians still belong to the group. Haseloff's former Crown Prince Holger Stahlknecht, who the Prime Minister dismissed as Minister of the Interior in a dispute last December, is also said to have a desire for revenge.Stahlknecht also has a mandate in the state parliament. The previous education minister and CDU district chairman Marco Tullner, who was not considered in the new cabinet, could also be included on the list of disappointed.

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