Notes From Berlin — A Polit­i­cal Earth­quake in Bavaria

Min­is­ter­präsi­dent Dr. Markus Söder mit Frau Karin Baumüller-Söder Tra­chten- und Schützen­zug zum Okto­ber­fest 2018, Foto: Bay­erische Staatskanzlei

A summary of the elec­tions in Bavaria, one of the major German states with more then 9 million voters.

The long-term ruling Chris­t­ian-Social-Union, a sister of Merkel’s CDU, lost its absolute major­ity and 10.4 percent of votes. The Social Democ­rats suf­fered an even more dev­as­tat­ing loss and ended with 9.7 percent at the fifth place.

Winners of the day were the Greens. They doubled their vote up to 17.5 percent and became the strongest party in the Bavar­ian capital Munich and other major cities. The right-wing pop­ulist “Alter­na­tive for Germany” (AfD) fin­ished with 10.2 percent. A Bavar­ian spe­cial­ity, the so called “Free Voters” (Freie Wähler), got 11.6 percent. They are a kind of buffer party between CSU and AfD, also advo­cat­ing a very restric­tive migra­tion policy.

The most prob­a­ble outcome will be a coali­tion between the CSU and the “Free Voters”. That would allow the current Min­is­ter Pres­i­dent to stay in power without sig­nif­i­cantly chang­ing his poli­cies. And it would avoid a “black-green” coali­tion that many people would find an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment, but would chal­lenge the tra­di­tional mind set of both parties.

Beyond the shake up of the regional polit­i­cal land­scape, the outcome of the Bavar­ian elec­tion will weaken the coali­tion between the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (center-right) and Social Democ­rats (center left) in Berlin even further. The SPD is in a des­per­ate mood, and the inter­nal fight­ing between the CDU and CSU will go on. As poll results of the CDU are going down, too, Angela Merkel is increas­ingly being ques­tioned from within.

Until the next major regional elec­tions in the state of Hessia in two weeks from now, no major deci­sions will be taken. But prospects are increas­ing that the current “Grand Coali­tion” will break apart before half time.

These are bleak prospects for Germany’s capac­ity to act in the inter­na­tional and domes­tic arena in the near future: stag­na­tion instead of lead­er­ship. Hence, don’t expect any major ini­tia­tives par­tic­u­larely with regard to the reform of the Euro zone, Euro­pean refugee policy or con­tain­ing Putin. For the time being, we are playing defense.

To end with a more pos­i­tive note: last Sat­ur­day a huge march for an open society took place in Berlin – more then 150.000 (some esti­mates say more then 200.000) par­tic­i­pants calling for an inclu­sive, fair society and Euro­pean solidarity.

Ralf Fücks is man­ag­ing partner of the Center for Liberal Democ­racy, a new think tank and policy network in Berlin


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