AfD beat up main parties in State elections
Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have taken a hammering in three state elections at the hands of a far-right, anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The CDU were not the only ones to suffer, the other mainstream party, the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), also did badly.
The AfD has been doing increasingly well in local government elections as the rise of the far-right continues in Germany. Most commentators are putting the blame for the poor showing of the main two parties on the government’s pro-refugee policies which have seen a sharp influx in immigrants in recent months.
The AfD came second in Saxony-Anhalt, a poor East German state. In previous elections the AfD had done well in the eastern states, but yesterday they also came third in two prosperous south western states, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. Turnout was around 70% in all three states.
In municipal elections in the central German state of Hesse on Sunday 6th March the AfD scored extremely well, taking on average 13.2% of the vote. This made them the third largest party after the CDU on 28.2% and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on 28%. The AfD appears to have taken an equally big chunk of the vote from both national parties and in Hesse’s capital Wiesbaden they won 16.2% of the vote. Their best result prior to these elections was in the eastern state of Brandenburg in 2014 when they took 12.2% of the vote.
The AfD was founded as a purely Eurosceptic party at the height of the Greek crisis in 2013. But last July (2015) Frauke Petry took over the leadership. Her rise to the top and the defeat of Bernd Lucke, an MEP and co-founder of the AfD suggested a sharp swing to the right after months of infighting and unpleasantness.
Since Frauke Petry has taken over, the party has become less interested in its Eurosceptic roots and has occupied the anti-immigrant ground, describing Angela Merkel as a traitor.
The AfD has been accused of having close ties with PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), a far-right movement founded in Dresden which promotes anti-Islamic activity and which has also expressed opposition to NATO and the EU whilst seeking closer ties with Russia. Spokespeople for the AfD have not denied ties with PEGIDA and a straw poll by the Economist suggested that nine out of ten Pegida protesters would back the AfD.
In Baden-Württemberg the Greens led by the popular Winfried Kretschmann had a good election yesterday, taking 11 additional seats, but will have to look for additional partners to form a coalition beyond the SPD who did badly.
The centre-right and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) also had a good result, returning to Rhineland-Palatinate after disastrous elections in 2011and gaining seats in Baden-Württemberg.
The results of yesterday’s elections will complicate German politics because results of such elections alter the political balance in the upper house of parliament or Bundesrat (Federal Council). In the Bundesrat each state is reflected by the political makeup of the ruling majority or plurality of each state legislature.
The results are unlikely to harm Angela Merkel in the short term as she continues to ride high in the popularity polls, but they are a warning that the voters will only tolerate so much and are turning away from the traditional big two parties. A federal election is due to be held in the latter half of 2017.
Below are the results for the three state elections. The first two figures are the 2011 results and the last two figures are yesterday’s results:
Baden-Württemberg (139 seats in the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg)
CDU 39% and 60 seats down to 42 (-18) seats and 27%
Green 24.2% and 36 seats up to 47 seats (+11) and 30.3%
SPD 23.1% and 35 seats down to 19 seats (-16) and 12.7%
FDP 5.3% and 7 seats up to 12 seats (+12) and 8.3%
AfD Contesting for the first time in 2016 up 23 seats (+23) and 15.1%
Rhineland-Palatinate (101 seats of the Landtag of Rhineland-Palatinate)
SPD 35.7% and 42 seats down to 39 seats (-3) and 36.2%
CDU 35.2% and 41 seats down to 35 seats (-6) and 31.8%
Green 15.4% and 18 seats down to 6 seats (-12) and 5.3%
FDP 4.2% and 0 seats up to 7 seats (+7) and 6.2%
AfD Contesting for the first time up 14 seats and 12.6%
Saxony-Anhalt (105 seats in the Landtag of Saxony-Anhalt)
CDU 32.5% and 41 seats down to 30 seats (-12) and 29.8%
Linke 23.7% and 29 seats down to 17 seats (-12) and 17 seats
SPD 21.5% and 26 seats down to 11 seats (-15) and 10.6%
Green 7.1% and 9 seats down to 5 seats (-4) and 5.2%
AfD Contesting for the first time up to 24 seats (+24) and 24.2%