Michaela Wild from ROTH, Germany, thinks it’s time to make a change.
The 48-year-old coffee shop employee, standing at the counter of the café in a small town in northern Bavaria, expressed her exhaustion with the economic downturn affecting her community.
In recent times, many local stores have closed or relocated, and the reduction of operations at a nearby air force base has negatively impacted the local economy. Wild had a feeling that the area’s peak economic period had passed.
This was one reason, she said, she and many people had just about had enough of mainstream parties, including the Christian Social Union (CSU), the conservative party that has ruled Bavaria — but for a relatively short interruption — since the end of World War II.
This Sunday, Wild and fellow supporters will have the opportunity to express their discontent as Bavaria and Hesse hold elections for their parliaments. These elections have become an indicator of the country’s overall sentiment, during a tumultuous time in Germany’s history.
Wild stated that although some individuals in her inner circle may support the far-right Alternative for Germany, she personally does not. She expressed that the party’s extreme views are a cause for concern, even comparing them to those of Hitler.
She explained that she would probably vote for the lesser-known Free Voters, a right-wing party, as they are not well-known outside of Bavaria.
Bavaria can be seen as a representation of the entire country in terms of politics. Recently, a group of new politicians has been taking advantage of a general feeling of despondency to weaken the established parties that have traditionally dominated elections.
The economy of Germany is currently facing a long period of no growth, mainly due to the increase in energy expenses following Russia’s takeover of Ukraine. Additionally, there has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into the country, leading to increased dissatisfaction among citizens. According to a recent survey, 79 percent of Germans are unhappy with the current coalition government.
In this context, political organizations such as the AfD and the Free Voters have emerged, causing division in Germany’s political scene and complicating the process of creating coalition governments in the nation.
The CSU party in Bavaria, headed by Markus Söder, is predicted to achieve a significant victory on Sunday, as polls indicate they are currently at 36 percent. In comparison to current standards, this is a solid performance.
BAVARIA PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS
To access additional polling information from various countries in Europe, go to the POLITICO Poll of Polls.
However, it is also nearing the CSU’s lowest-ever outcome. This is primarily due to the fact that the AfD and the Free Voters will collectively receive 30 percent of the vote in the state.
The CSU represents a bygone era when dominating Volksparteien, or people’s parties, governed the country with ease.
As Söder and his CSU allies rejoice on Sunday evening, observers will truly be witnessing the continuation of a tale of gradual downfall.
The single-party system has come to an end.
The CSU, a sister party with more conservative views compared to the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), used to be highly favored to the point where some Bavarians joked about living in a single-party state similar to North Korea.
For many years, the CSU consistently achieved a majority of votes in state elections, allowing them to govern Bavaria without the need for any coalition partners.
Söder, a highly favored politician in the country, attempted to explain the CSU’s decreasing popularity in recent polls by attributing it to external factors beyond his control. In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel last week, he stated that Germany’s political climate is becoming increasingly divided and fragmented.
In 2018, Söder was compelled to form a governing coalition with the Free Voters following the election in Bavaria. This was due to his party, the CSU, receiving their lowest percentage of votes since 1950, at 37.2 percent.
The leader of the Free Voters is Hubert Aiwanger, who is a populist conservative and originally a farmer. He was recently involved in a scandal where he was accused of writing an antisemitic flyer during his high school years.
The scandal actually benefited Aiwanger and his party instead of causing harm. Numerous conservatives believed that the media unjustly singled out the politician, and Aiwanger presented himself as a victim of a malicious attack. As a result of the scandal, the Free Voters saw an increase in popularity in polls.
The party’s goal is to grow on a national level, and they may achieve some level of success.
The party’s popularity in Hesse has reached 4 percent in recent polls, falling just short of the required 5 percent for representation in the state parliament. (However, the party has already surpassed this threshold in the state parliament of Rhineland-Palatine.)
However, the Free Voters also have aspirations on a national level.
“Our objective is to enter the Bundestag by 2025,” stated Engin Eroglu, the lead candidate for the Free Voters in Hesse and the party’s deputy chairman. “We are moving forward and gaining momentum with each election.”
The CDU in Hesse is profiting from discontent with the current federal coalition government, led by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, the Greens, and the liberal Free Democrats. They are predicted to achieve a decisive victory.
HESSE PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS
To access additional polling information from various European countries, please visit the POLITICO Poll of Polls.
However, the more significant development in Hesse is the race for second place. The AfD, currently polling at 16 percent, is vying against the Greens and the SPD for this position.
In total, there are seven groups competing for seats in the Hesse parliament, highlighting the growing division in Germany’s political landscape.
As Söder struggles to preserve the remaining territory of the CSU’s Bavarian empire, he appears to be fully cognizant of this truth.
At a crowded beer hall in Nuremberg, Bavaria, on Wednesday night, Söder urged the audience to remain committed to the political center, despite the challenges facing the country.
He stated, “This is a grave matter. Now is not the appropriate time to allocate votes to alternate parties.”
He stated that the severity of a crisis requires a strong leader to guide the country through it.