The recent state elections in Germany are seen as an indicator of the overall sentiment in the country. The far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), experienced a surge in support while the three parties that form the federal coalition government faced notable declines.
The conservative party achieved decisive wins in the regions of Bavaria and Hesse. The Christian Social Union (CSU), affiliated with the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is predicted to secure 37% of the vote in Bavaria. In Hesse, the CDU is expected to win 34.6% of the vote.
One could argue that the AfD, a political party that has become more radical since its establishment in 2013, was the most successful during the night. According to initial results, the AfD achieved second place in Hesse and third place in Bavaria, marking significant advancements for the party.
The AfD’s recent success in regions outside of its usual stronghold in the former East German states indicates that the party has effectively broadened its support base. This has prompted leaders of mainstream parties to once again reflect on their strategies and direction.
Ricarda Lang, co-leader of the Greens, expressed concern about the AfD’s improved performance, stating that it should worry all democrats in the country. She called for a shift away from blame and encouraged all democratic parties to work towards changing future election results.
In the states of Bavaria and Hesse, the three political parties composing German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing coalition – the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) – experienced a decline in support. This reflects a general sense of discontent with the federal government, amidst increasing economic and social uncertainty.
The economy of Germany has been experiencing a prolonged period of stagnation, due in part to the increase in energy costs following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. The influx of asylum seekers and a lack of affordable housing have also contributed to discontent among voters.
The AfD successfully leveraged this dissatisfaction, as seen by Robert Lambrou, the party’s leader in Hesse, where they were expected to receive 18.4% of the vote. Lambrou described their performance in the state as “remarkable.” He also noted that many individuals believe that a shift in policy is necessary, citing issues such as inflation, energy costs, and immigration as areas in need of attention.
The AfD was expected to receive 14.6% of the vote in Bavaria, placing them slightly behind the Free Voters, a new right-wing party that currently shares power with the CSU in the state.
The coalition government in Germany has frequently experienced internal conflicts, mainly between the Green and FDP parties, which hold opposing ideologies. The disappointing results for the coalition parties may exacerbate the discord as each party tries to solidify its support base.
In the state of Hesse, which was once a strong base for the SPD, the Social Democrats experienced a humiliating loss with only 15.1 percent of the vote, according to projections. This defeat is particularly painful for the party as their candidate for the state, Nancy Faeser, is also the federal interior minister under Scholz’s leadership. In her speech, Faeser expressed her disappointment with the result.
There is much speculation about Faeser’s ability to maintain her position as interior minister due to the disappointing outcome. Chancellor Scholz may face demands for significant changes in order to improve the state of his party and coalition.
The result of the election was extremely negative for the FDP, a smaller party in Scholz’s coalition. According to projections, the party only received three percent of the vote in Bavaria and five percent in Hesse. If they do not reach the necessary five-percent threshold, the party is at risk of losing representation in both state parliaments.
The results of the election have caused concern among the leaders of Germany’s federal coalition government. The main concern is whether the coalition will be able to come together and make a change.
“Undoubtedly, we are not oblivious,” stated Kevin Kühnert, Secretary-General of the SPD, during a televised interview in Germany following the release of the preliminary election results. “As a coalition, we must acknowledge and respond to these signs.”