The Greens are celebrating, CSU supporters are licking their wounds while extending their gaze to the next regional vote. Social Democrats saw their vote halve, while the announced populist progress was ultimately more contained than expected. All considered the outcome of Bavaria’s elections reflects the forecasts ahead of the vote, and in this respect new questions arise on the future of the Grosse Koalition – CDU/CSU plus SPD – that backs Angela Merkel’s Federal Government. Germany’s newspapers described the day-after in catastrophic terms: “shock”, “earthquake”, “debacle for the GroKo”. But the gaze is already extended to the next, important electoral test, the regional elections in the federal state of Hesse on October 28.
The figures. The Christian Social Union (CSU) of Horst Seehofer, incumbent minister in Merkel’s government, dropped from 47.7% in 2013 to 37.2%, the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), government ally of the German Chancellor, the Party of the President of the German Republic Frank-Walter Steinmeier, fell by over 10 percent, from 20.6% in 2013 to 9.7%.
The Greens gained a part of the votes lost by the left, with 17.5% – +8.9% compared to 2013.
The “free voters ” (Freie Wähler), that could be compared to territorial civic lists with a conservative stand, gained 11.6% of the vote; AfD nationalists (Alternative für Deutschland), that had not yet been formed in the 2013 election, scored 10.2%. The liberals of FdP barely crossed the 5 per cent threshold. Far-left “Die Linke” did not make it. Voter turnout was 72.4%, hence 8.8% more compared to 2013.
Real or alleged winners. Young Greens leader Katharina Schulze spoke of a “historic result. We had never registered double-digit figures.” The progressive, environmentalist formation is now Bavaria’s second-largest party, having doubled the votes of SPD and aiming at the government of the Federal State. But Grünen headquarters also look ahead to Berlin; the message is clear: the coalition headed by the Chancellor is ever more fragile and it has to face up to the European elections of 2019, when AfD could further increase its share of the vote.
On their part, far-right AfD nationalists are celebrating. “With this result we have the most significant growth of all parties”,
said Joerg Meuthen. Moreover, his party, that is gaining votes nationwide, is supported by less than one in ten voters. Perhaps not enough to set one’s sights on a major political role. In fact AfD promptly dismissed future commitments for regional governance, claiming that it would be unrealistic to negotiate a coalition with CSU. The populists are well aware that government responsibilities cause loss of support and consensus…
“Government mandate.” CSU, at the helm of the most populated and richest Federal state in Germany, registered a severe blow. While not mentioning a defeat – notwithstanding the bitterness for the huge electoral losses – Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder insisted: “we have a clear government mandate.”
“This is not an easy day for the CSU. We did not achieve a good result. We accept the result with humility. One thing is certain: the CSU has not only become the strongest party again, it has also received the clear government mandate,”
and “we need to form a stable government in Bavaria.” CSU “is open to form a coalition government with all parties except Afd.” SPD General Secretary Lars Kingbeil admitted a “bitter defeat”, and added that “it’s a clear signal to the government in Berlin.”