Die Linke and AfD win state elections in Thuringia

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In the state elections in Thuringia, the far-right AfD under its controversial regional leader Björn Höcke is the second strongest party behind Die Linke, and ahead of the CDU, according to the preliminary results. The formation of a government will likely be difficult given the relatively even distribution of votes and the limited coalition options.

Die Linke under Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow has won the state parliamentary elections in Thuringia – and for the first time is the strongest force in a federal state. The CDU, which had always had the highest number of votes since 1990 and provided the head of government in Erfurt until 2014, has fallen deep to its historically worst result. According to the preliminary results, the Christian Democrats are in third place behind the AfD. The SPD achieved a devastating single-digit result. The FDP and the Greens barely make it into the state parliament – the FDP, with 5.0005 per cent at the end, manages to take the five per cent hurdle with the slimmest of margins.

Percentage of votes per party and comparison with 2014 election results (below)

Die Linke wins one seat in the new state parliament, the AfD eleven. The CDU loses 13 seats. The current coalition of Left Party, SPD and Greens is likely to lose its majority.

The absolute majority in the state parliament would be possible only through a coalition of four with the FDP. A coalition with the AfD, whose far-right nationalist wing around Thuringia’s top candidate Björn Höcke is classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as a “suspect” for right-wing extremism, was ruled out by all parties before the election.

The CDU’s top candidate, Mike Mohring, has also announced that he will not form a coalition with Die Linke. CDU representatives have repeated this announcement on election night. FDP top candidate Thomas Kemmerich also ruled out a coalition with the Left Party after the election results were announced. Thus a coalition with a majority, a four-party alliance of the Left Party, SPD, Greens, and FDP, is off the table.

If forming a coalition with the AfD remains off limits for all other parties, as it likely will, no party will get the 45 seats they need without the Left Party – not even a so-called “Zimbabwe” coalition of CDU, SPD, Greens, and FDP. This leaves only one option: a minority government type red-red-green (Linke/SPD/Greens).

Seat distribution in the new state parliament: no easy majorities

In four of the 44 constituencies, it was not the Left Party but the CDU that received the highest number of “Zweitstimmen” (votes for the party list as opposed to the direct candidate of the constituency). In two constituencies, the AfD’s national list received the most second votes.

However, the direct candidates elected in the constituencies are by no means predominantly left-wing candidates. In fact, most constituencies send AfD or CDU candidates to Erfurt. The few left-wing direct candidates come from Erfurt, Jena, Gera, Nordhausen and Suhl/Schmalkalden-Meiningen. In the constituency of Gotha II, a Social Democrat received the direct mandate.

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