In a harsh blow to the leftist coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Sunday elections in the German states of Bavaria and Hesse brought victories for center-right opposition parties, along with gains for a right-wing populist party.
Scholz is a member of the Social Democrat Party (SDP), and leads a coalition that also includes the Greens and the Free Democrats Party (FDP). As final tallies were still underway, the FDP was in peril of not making the 5% cutoff required for seats in both states, which represent close to 25% of Germany’s population.
Growing unease about migration and the economy factored heavily in the outcome, with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) grabbing 34.6% in Hesse, while its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) scored 36.4% in Bavaria.
Perhaps the biggest story, however, is the performance of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Its strength has hitherto been observed in post-industrial, eastern cities. On Sunday, it managed to finish second in both Bavaria and Hesse, where Munich and Frankfort are respectively found.
“Rarely has it been so clear: whether on migration, the economy or climate policy, people want a different politics,” Jens Spahn of the conservative Christian Democrats told Reuters.
Founded in 2013, AfD saw its tallies surge from 2018. In Hesse, it had about 18.6% of the votes compared to 13.1% five years ago. In Bavaria, support climbed from 11.6% to 16%. Polls find even stronger support nationally, with the party placing second among all Germans.
Germany’s anti-immigrant AfD party has stormed above the Greens and the SPD and is on pace to become the country’s largest political party. pic.twitter.com/7jpyPOv0yx
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 1, 2023
The larger AfD grows, the more difficult it will be to form ruling coalitions, as other parties have refused to partner with a party they condemn as “anti-immigrant” and “nationalist.” Omid Nouripour, co-leader of the Greens, told AP that “AfD’s results are alarming.”
AfD’s unpopularity isn’t confined to the left: Recently, many politicians of the center-right CDU have called for AfD to be banned altogether. In Orwellian fashion, one CDU legislator said banning the party is necessary to save democracy.
Scholz’s national interior minister, Nancy Faeser, who’s responsible for managing immigration, lost badly as she vied to become governor of Hesse — only earning 15% of votes in a three-way race. Voters are also increasingly weary of government-forced transition away from fossil fuels, which has been accompanied by infighting within the ruling coalition about how to accomplish it.