State elections in Bavaria: A debacle for CSU and SPD, Green Party wins big

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The CSU crashes and needs coaltion partners to govern in the future. The SPD falls to a new low. The winners of the state elections in Bavaria are the Greens. Free Voters, AfD and FDP are also happy with their results.

The state elections in Bavaria have become a debacle for the CSU and SPD. The Christian Social Union, historically spoilt by success, achieved a result far away from the absolute majority. The projections put them at 37.2 percent. Bavaria has thus arrived at the political normality of the Federal Republic. 30 percent plus X is not a bad result in today’s party landscape – for the CSU it is a disaster. It is its worst result since 1950, but it clearly remains its strongest force.

“Not an easy day.”

“Of course, today is not an easy day”, said Prime Minister and CSU top candidate Markus Söder. “We accept the result with humility. It is now necessary to form a stable government – we accept this task”. But he added: “The CSU has not only become the strongest party, it has also been given a clear government mandate. But it must look for coalition partners in order to continue governing.”

This is a turning point for the Christian Social Union, who since 1957 has always provided the prime minister and was able to rule alone for a long time. The consequences of this bad result are likely to extend to the federal level, as the CSU plays a crucial role here as well.

Prime Minister Söder, who was only been in office since March after an internal power struggle with Horst Seehofer, could not profit quite obviously from the appeal of his position – his popularity values in the state are moderate. Also his apparent flip-flopping during the election campaign might have cost him credibility. However, Söder had already made it clear that he sees the blame for the expected election debacle in the Grand Coalition and especially in CSU leader and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. This debate should now gain momentum.

SPD in free fall

The SPD always has a hard time in Bavaria. But this defeat is a catastrophe. The Social Democrats are halving their result of 2013 and are – if at all – only in the double digits. According to the latest extrapolation, the figure is only 9.7 percent. “This will be a long, hard road to return to a better position,” predicted leading candidate Natascha Kohnen. She said that in the coming days everything would be discussed on the national executive board, “and I mean everything.”

Green result more than doubled

The new second strongest force in Bavaria is the Green Party – and significantly so. According to the projections, they reach 17.6 percent, compared to 8.6 percent in 2013. The results of the state elections Have already “changed” Bavaria, said top Green candidate Katharina Schulze. According to her, the Greens had set off because Bavaria needed a party that would solve people’s problems and not constantly produce new problems.

Schulze and her co-leading candidate Ludwig Hartmann put the Bavarian Greens more firmly in the centre of society. Radical demands were not to be heard from them. Thus they became the alternative for deterred CSU voters and disappointed SPD supporters. The Greens may also have profited from their opposition role in the federal government – polls confirm that the party is flying high nationwide.

The Free Voters (FW) are also improving their 2013 results and now stand at 11.8 percent. They appeal above all to the conservative rural milieu and thus offer an alternative to all those who no longer feel that the CSU is the right place for them. The face of the FW is Hubert Aiwanger – the 47-year-old is state leader, parliamentary group leader, federal leader and top candidate.

For the CSU, the Free Voters as coalition partners would probably be the most convenient solution, and Aiwanger can also imagine government participation. “I would be ready. If Söder says yes, then let’s go,” Aiwanger said on ZDF.

AfD makes leap into parliament

The FDP is at 5.0 percent and will likely make the state parliament. It is traditionally weak in Bavaria, and a return to parliament would also be a success for the young top candidate Martin Hagen.

The Left Party has recently been able to gain ground in the polls, but it is unlikely to be enough to make it over the five-percent hurdle. Currently, the party around the two top candidates Ates Gürpinar and Eva Bulling-Schröter is reaching 3.1 percent. The Left Party has never made it into the Maximilianeum.

The AfD entered for the first time in Bavaria and clearly makes it into the state parliament – with 10.3 percent it becomes the fourth strongest force in the Free State. During the election campaign, the party relied on aggressive and xenophobic rhetoric and attacks on the CSU, which it accused of breaking its word. Internally, the Bayern-AfD is at odds with one another, so it did not have any state-wide top candidates. Nationwide, the AfD is now represented in 15 state parliaments. Only not in Hesse, where elections will take place in two weeks.

According to these preliminary results, Bavaria will get a coalition government. There is not much time left for this. The Bavarian constitution sets a tight schedule – only 22 days are planned until the new state parliament has to be constituted, one week later the prime minister is to be elected.

The CSU would get 85 seats in the new Bavarian parliament according to the latest projection. The Greens have 38 seats, the Free Voters 25. The AfD gets 22 members, the SPD 22 and the FDP 12. In theory, the CSU could form a coalition with the Greens or the Free Voters. It would rather govern with the Free Voters, but this majority would be slim.

The turnout of 72 percent was significantly higher than the turnout of 63.9 percent in 2013.

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