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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