Far-right surge boosts German state elections – Politico

In two German state elections seen as a bellwether for the national mood, the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, saw gains while the three parties that make up the country’s federal coalition government suffered significant losses. .

Conservative forces won clear victories in both the states of Bavaria and Hesse. In Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), a sister party of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is expected to win 36.6 percent of the vote, slightly lower than the party’s results in the 2018 state election. In Hesse, the CDU is set to win 34.6 percent of the vote.

But the biggest winner of the night was arguably the AfD, a party that has grown increasingly radical since its founding in 2013. The AfD is likely to come in second in both Bavaria and Hesse, a landmark win for the party.

The AfD’s strong performance outside its traditional stronghold in the former East German states shows that the party has successfully expanded its support base. This development has already sparked a new wave of soul-searching among leaders of mainstream parties.

“The growing performance of the AfD can only worry every democrat in this country,” Greens co-leader Richarda Lange said on public television. “I want us to move away from finger-pointing and every democratic party should now consider what we can do about it. [the election results] The future will look different again.”

In both Bavaria and Hesse, the three parties that make up German Chancellor Olaf Schulz’s ruling coalition—the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP)—all saw their support decline. The result reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the federal government at a time of growing economic and social insecurity.

Germany’s economy has been stuck for a long time due to rising energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers entering Germany this year and a growing shortage of affordable housing have also fueled voter discontent.

The AfD was clearly able to capitalize on this discontent. AfD parliamentary group leader Robert Lambro in Hesse, where the party was projected to win 18.5 percent of the vote, described the party’s performance in the state as “shocking.” He added that many people feel that the policy needs to change. We have high inflation, high energy costs, high rents. We have completely unchecked mass immigration. There’s a lot to do here.”

In Bavaria, the AfD was estimated to have won 15.7 percent of the vote, just ahead of the right-wing upstart party Free Voters, which governs the state in coalition with the CSU.

Germany’s federal ruling coalition government has already been plagued by frequent infighting, particularly between the Greens and the FDP — parties that are in many ways ideological opposites. Bad outcomes for coalition parties can exacerbate disunity, as each party seeks to strengthen its support base.

In the SPD’s former stronghold of Hesse, the Social Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat, with just 15.1 percent of the vote, according to estimates. The loss is all the more sensational for the party because its candidate in the state is Schulz’s Federal Interior Minister Nancy Fesser, who called the result “extremely disappointing” in a speech.

With such poor results, many are now speculating whether Feser will be able to retain his job as interior minister. Chancellor Scholes is likely to face pressure to make major changes to turn around the fortunes of his party and the coalition.

The election result was particularly devastating for the FDP, a junior partner in Scholz’s coalition. According to estimates, the party won only 2.9 percent of the vote in Bavaria and 5 percent in Hesse. The party risks being kicked out of both state parliaments if it fails to meet the required 5 percent hurdle.

The election results have already raised alarm bells for the leaders of Germany’s federal coalition government. The only question is whether there is enough unity within the coalition to turn the tide.

“Of course, we are not deaf and blind,” SPD Secretary General Kevin Kühnert said on German public television after preliminary election results came in. “We must all recognize the signs together in this alliance.”

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