The weakness in Germany’s political establishment became more obvious after the Hesse state regional elections on October 28th.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the elections, according to the preliminary polls. However, it was with a large drop in support.
CDU received 27% of the votes, which is 11.3% lower than the vote it received in 2013. Pre-election polls predicted a worse result. The result allows incumbent state premier and Merkel ally Volker Bouffier a mandate to form the next government.
The Social Democrats (SPD) suffered a similar drop, claiming 19.8 percent of the vote — the party’s worst result in Hesse since 1946. This may lead to SPD quitting its grand coalition with conservatives at the national level.
There are two big winners from the Hesse election: The Greens and the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The Greens rose more than 8% to 19.8% in comparison to their results from five years ago. The result is enough to ensure the continual of the the current Bouffier-led, conservative-Green coalition in Hesse.
“It’s painful for the CDU that we lost so many votes,” CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told supporters in Berlin. “But it’s good that Volker Bouffier headed off a left-wing government and will get the chance to continue his work with the Greens in the regional government.”
However, AfD is probably the biggest winner. The party’s result confirms the tendency of right-wing populism receiving good election results across Europe. The 13.1% result of the vote means that the party is represented in all of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. The party’s parliamentary leader, Alice Weidel, took to Twitter to celebrate its success.” We are the People’s Party!” she wrote, noting that the AfD is now “firmly anchored” in the German parliament and is “here to stay.”
The Left party and the center-right Free Democrats (FDP) received 6.3% and 7.5% respectively, which is an increase from their result in 2013. This is also a trend of Germany’s smaller parties receiving a larger share of the vote at the expense of the country’s traditional political powers.
Both CDU and SPD admit that the losses are due to popular dissatisfaction with the national government. DW cited a survey which showed that more than 50% of respondents said that they had used their vote as a message to Berlin.
One of the reaons is the government over migrant policy, implicitly pointing the finger at Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU.
“We knew that this was a special sort of election, one that was overshadowed by the national coalition,” Bouffier told supporters. “The message for the government is that people want less fighting and more solutions.”
SPD chairwoman Andrea Nahles called for the government to change the way it worked. Nahles said that national politics had “contributed a lot” to the SPD’s poor showing in Hesse. She admitted that her party would “have to change,” however emphasized that the conservatives need to do so as well.
The Greens celebrated their best ever showing in the Hesse election. Co-leader Robert Habeck said that their result wouldn’t be enough to end the national coalition.
This result follows a disastrous outcome for the national coalition from the Bavaria elections on October 14th. Then, Angela Merkel’s conservative partners in Bavaria, the CSU, had their worst election performance for more than 60 years.
On October 29th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her decision to withdraw from her post as leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) after heading it for almost 18 years. She said that her stepping down will happen in the following days.
She will complete her posting as Chancellor which will expire in 2021. She said that she would not stand for re-election as an MP after her term expires. Merkel has been leader of the CDU since 2000 and chancellor since 2005.
This comes after the CDU suffered losses in the elections in Hesse on October 28th. Merkel’s party won the vote; however, its result was 11.3% lower than the result it received in 2013. The CDU coalition partner, the Social Democrats, SPD also received a lower percentage of the vote.
This was the lowest results by the CDU and SPD in Hesse since 1966 and 1946 respectively. There is also speculation that SPD leader Andrea Nahles might abandon the coalition with the CDU.
This also follows a very poor showing by CSU (CDU’s allied Bavarian party) and SPD in the Bavarian elections on October 14th.
Government figures Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Jens Spahn and Armin Laschet could be the next CDU party leaders, according to German media reports. CDU Secretary-General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer would be the next in line after Merkel withdraws in the following days, however no speculation as to the new leader has been confirmed.
The tendency in anti-establishment populism in Europe is apparent. Currently, Italy is led by a populist government that, if the EU establishment’s predictions come true, will send the country in a long-term crisis. However, the Italian government says that in fact the country is moving to the restoration of its social and economic life.
The Swedish elections also sent the country in a political crisis after the results on September 9th left no clear winner, but a right-wing populist party with a large share of the vote. Neither of the two top political powers wish to coalition with the Sweden Democrats. Most recently, on October 29th, former Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that he had given up on forming a government. Nearly two months past the elections, there is no certainty for a Swedish government due to right-wing populism.
One of the most significant wins of right-wing populism happened in Hungary. The 2018 parliamentary election left the Fidesz–KDNP alliance, preserving its two-thirds majority, with Viktor Orbán remaining Prime Minister.
Thus, the migrant crisis and the apparent rise of crime, which is presumably due to migrants is a big part of the reasoning of populism gaining such popularity. Other reasons is most likely the EU establishment’s inability to deal with political pressure from its members.