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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