Key take aways
- Both the CDU and SPD suffered historical lows in Saxony (SN) and Brandenburg (BB) but will very likely continue to govern in each of the states.
- CDU and SPD continue their unprecedented decline and are losing their status as ‘Volksparteien’, while the AfD on the right, and the Green Party on the left are becoming increasingly popular.
- The immediate impact on Angela Merkel’s government will be limited as both governing parties (CDU and SPD) fared better than predicted in the polls. However, the “Grand Coalition” will likely enjoy only some weeks of “breathing space” before the next state election in Thuringia on 27 October 2019, in which the AfD will likely gain significant votes again.
- In the East German context, the AfD scored historical heights and is the strongest party over both states but falls short of becoming the strongest party in either state. They are now the main challenger to a unified front of established government parties, who will likely just include the Green Party in their respective coalition.
- Despite their relatively weak showing, the Green Party will be needed for any stable government formation in both states now. Thus, they will further increase their political relevance at the federal level, making a federal level coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Green Party more likely, or even a left-wing coalition among the SPD, the Green Party, and DIE LINKE.
- To the same extent that the Green Party is extending its pivotal role for any future government in Germany at the federal and state level, the AfD is extending its role as “anti-establishment” opposition against a united block of established parties. This development, which perfectly caters to the AfD’s populist claims, is unsettling for Germany: almost all post-electoral statements suggest that CDU, SPD, and the Green Party (and DIE LINKE) intend to continue with business as usual. which will most likely help the AfD in future elections.
- The September 1st ballots underline the existing deep, and further deepening divisions within Germany: while political competition between the center-right and the center-left is mostly stagnant (and respective parties continue to lose), the main divergence now runs between the Green Party and the AfD. On top of this comes a divide between East-and West (the strength of a considerably more right-wing AfD in the east, and by considerably more left-wing Greens in the west), between post-materialist urban and traditionalist rural dwellers, between internationalist and nationalist policy priorities. In sum, German politics will very likely become less stable, less centrist, and more populist in the future.
- Another worrying trend-confirming aspect in the mid-term perspective is the failure of the FDP, the most pro-market, pro-business and welfare-state-critical political party, to enter either parliament. In terms of welfare, economic, and financial policy, the AfD must be considered a national-social pro-welfare state and pro-regulation and anti-big-business party, particularly in their more radical eastern German chapters. Thus, parliaments in Brandenburg and in Saxony are now dominated by more or less pronounced welfare-state, pro-regulation, and re-distributive political parties.
- Those who are concerned about the aforementioned developments, and in particular with the rise of the right-wing populist to radical AfD, should be aware that this election took place at the end of a long era of unprecedented economic boom, prosperity, and employment in Germany. On Sunday, 83% Saxony (SN) resp. 85% Brandenburg (BB) of voters considered themselves to be in a good or very good economic situation. With Europe’s main economic powerhouse now probably heading towards recession, and towards rapidly shrinking room for fiscal re-distribution aimed at appeasing voters, one should be concerned about election results in times of economic crisis and high unemployment.
- The recent popularity of the Green Party will likely suffer a setback with increasing government participation, and in particular with the end of the economic boom: when basic materialistic concerns re-surface for millions of voters, the room for post-materialist desires will shrink considerably. It would be mostly the AfD who would profit from an economic crisis, drawing voters from the CDU/CSU, SPD and the Green Party who do not go to DIE LINKE
Andreas has a combined 30 years of work experience. He served for two years as an officer cadet in the German Army, and worked more than 14 years in the academic field as research and teaching assistant in the area of applied political science. Moreover, Andreas has a record of active engagement in German party politics, including several years in party and (local level) public offices.