Bavarian Landtag (state parliament) elections 2018: “Wir haben es kaum geschafft” (we barely made it)

Last Sunday, Bavarians went to the polls for their regional/state parliament (the Landtag). These elections were seen by some as a referendum on federal chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy. The CSU (=Christian-social union), the sister party to the national CDU (=Christian-democratic union) felt the stridently anti-immigration AfD breathing down its neck and distanced itself from her. Did this tactic work?

Summarizing reporting at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Die Welt, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel online, and the national newscast “Tagesschau”, here are the results:

CSU: 37.2% (down 10.5) [christian social democrats]
SPD: 9.7% (down 10.9) [social democrats, center-left]
FDP: 5.1 (up 1.8%) [classical liberals, pro-market & business]
Greens: 17.5% (up 8.9%)
Freie Wähler: 11.6% (up 2.6%) “Free Voters”, centrist, non-aligned
AfD: 10.2% (from nowhere) right-wing, stridently anti-immigration

The “former” communists of Die Linke (3.2%, up 1.1%, hard left), and further small parties totaling 5.4%, did not clear the 5% electoral threshold, unlike the FDP which returns to parliament after falling short of the threshold last time around.

Landtag seats (out of 205, 103 needed for a majority):
CSU 85, Greens 38, Free Voters 27, AfD 22, SPD 22, FDP 11

Coalition negotiations have already started with the Free Voters, which would create a somewhat comfortable majority of 112. The FDP announced it will remain in the opposition: the Greens are in Germany traditionally split between a pragmatic “Realo” and hardcore “Fundi” wing, while the AfD, especially in Bavaria, is split between a national-liberal wing akin to Belgium’s N-VA, and a far-rightist faction with some unsavory elements.

The Biggest Losers

The CSU actually put in its worst performance in 60 years. Some (e.g. veteran psephologist Heinrich Oberreuter, himself a CSU member, quoted here) claim that this means the strategy of trying to position itself as AfD-lite on immigration backfired, while others claim it prevented an even bigger drubbing. The actual numbers (screenshots from the Tagesschau) seem to tell a mixed tale:

CSU voter movement

So the party actually drew 270,000 voters who did not vote in the previous election (voter participation, at 72.5%, was nearly 9% higher than in 2013), plus 100,000 SPD voters, while losing almost half a million voters split roughly equally between Greens, Free Voters, and AfD. One common complaint (70%) of those who changed their vote was that the CSU overstressed immigration to the exclusion of all other subjects.

But if the CSU saw a historical nadir, the SPD — the other major national party besides the CDU, and the country’s largest under Willi Brandt and Gerhard Schröder — is even deeper in the doldrums, having fallen to single digits! Where did they lose votes to?

SPD voter migration

Aside from the 100,000 who switched to the CDU, they lost big time to the Greens (200,000) and appreciably to the Free Voters (70,000) — but 30,000 even flipped to AfD!

When defectors were queried about their motives, three answers were gotten most frequently:

• 86%: time to “take the opposition cure”, as the priceless Dutch expression goes

• 85%: party lacks a central theme that can get people fired up

• 67%: nobody knows what the party really stands for

The latter is, of course, the most damning indictment of all.

In two weeks, there is another Landtag election coming up in the state of Hessen (the most important city of which is Frankfurt, though Wiesbaden is the state capital).

Angela Merkel’s words, “Wir schaffen das” (we can do this), have come to haunt her. Here in Bavaria, where the CSU went out of its way to show it wasn’t in Merkel’s pocket, the result was “sie haben es kaum geschafft” (they barely made it).

German Elections II: Up is down, down is up

Browsing through German election updates in Die Welt over lunch, I got a feeling it isn’t just the US that has entered Robert Heinlein’s “Crazy Years”. (see my previous post)

  • Various virtue-signalers are of course hand-wringing about the “extreme right” AfD. The actual NS-nostalgists of the NPD, however, polled less than 0.5%, worse than the satirical Die Partei. (As explained by the article in Die Welt: under German law,  a party must poll at least 0.5% nationally to be eligible for certain subsidies.)
  • It is, however, clearly true that the AfD is riven by a power struggle between two camps: a “right-liberal” one around Frauke Petry that is pro-free-market, Euroskeptic, and populist, and a “national-conservative” camp currently led by former CDU politician Alexander Gauland. The latter camp appears to include some truly unsavory elements, presumably “entryists” from the extreme right.
  • Now Frauke Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell [sic] are leaving AfD, citing its “radicalization”, and just bought a new internet domain Die Blauen (the blue ones – in Europe blue has traditionally been the color of classical liberalism). She herself was elected to the Bundestag directly (about half the seats are constituency seats) so she doesn’t have to vacate her seat.
  • This leaves Alice Weidel as the co-chair representing the party’s “right-liberal” wing.  Weidel, a Ph.D. economist who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, works as a management consultant to startup companies and… is an overt lesbian who lives in a domestic partnership with a Swiss filmmaker of Sri Lankan origins. The couple have a second residence in Biel, Switzerland and raise her partner’s two biological children together. [How many leftie heads have exploded yet?] Weidel is opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption, as well as what she calls “pushing gender idiocy on prepubescent children”, but says she “supports lifestyles other than the traditional family” as well as, naturally, domestic partnerships.
  • Lest you think that the AfD (which may well implode) is the only party riven by internal contradictions: the Greens have pretty much for all their existence been divided between a “Fundi” (fundamentalist Green) extremist wing and a pragmatic “Realo” wing. Coalition negotiators for the Greens are having to placate both camps.
  • And as if this weren’t enough headaches for Merkel (at this point I feel almost sorry for her): her Bavarian sister party the CSU is now signaling that their presence in her coalition is not to be taken for granted. They are quite nervous about regional elections next year, and are in particular demanding an upper limit on refugee admissions. The Greens, for their part, have indicated that this is a nonstarter for them.

As the SPD had earlier announced it was taking the opposition cure following its historical nadir this election, Merkel’s options are basically reduced to a “Jamaica Coalition” of CDU/CSU (black), FDP (yellow), and Greens. But the latter is increasingly looking like an exercise in squaring the circle.

And I would not rule out an internal coup against Merkel by the right wing of the CDU.

 

German elections: One more such “victory” and Merkel is undone

The national elections in Germany took place. As expected, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are still the largest party and she is looking at a fourth term in office. However, as King Pyrrhus is supposed to have said, “one more such victory and I am undone”.

 

german elections 2017
[Screencap from the Frankfurter Allgemeine website. Black=Christian Democrats; Red=Social Democrats; Blue=Alternative for Germany (populist right); Yellow=Free Democrats (classical liberals); Purple=The Left (former East German communists); Green=The Greens; Sonstiges=remaining/others.]

Both the major parties, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, are at their nadir since WW II. The third largest party is now the populist right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-establishment Alternative for Germany, which in the former East Germany placed second [h/t: masgramondou] and in the state of Sachsen (Saxony) actually became the #1 party! The other major winner are the classical liberal Free Democrats — the junior partners in many postwar federal governments — who have made a great comeback since the last election when they did not make the 5% electoral threshold. Barney the purple communist dinosaur and its green belly both maintained their strength.

 

Bundestag 2017
Preliminary seat distribution in the Bundestag (709 total seats). Voter turnout: 76.1%

 

The logical coalition partner for Merkel might seem the SPD (continuing the present coalition), perhaps with support from the FPD in a “national flag coalition” (black-yellow-red). However, the SPD decided to go lick its wounds and take the opposition cure. This leaves the so-called “Jamaica coalition” (after the colors of the Jamaican flag) of CDU, FDP, and Greens. “Two years at most for Jamaica,” says a headline at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, as such a government is prey to many obvious internal contradictions.

The AfD itself seems to be riven by an internal power struggle between populist-right and far-right wings. Party leader Frauke Petry has even announced she does not wish to be part of the AfD faction in parliament, leading to calls for her to step aside.

[At this latter link is also an interesting interactive graph showing voter flow between 213 and 2017 elections. For instance, about one-third of all FDP voters this time are defectors from the CDU/CSU, while one-quarter of all AfD voters did not vote in the previous election.]

“Interesting times,” in the ancient Chinese sense of the word…

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

UPDATE 2: AfD-chairwoman Frauke Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell, regional AfD chair in North Rhine-Westphalia, intend to quit the party.

And Horst Seehofer, chairman of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU (Christian Social Union), is calling on Angela Merkel to “draw personal consequences” from the historically poor showing of the CDU and step aside. National Review speaks of “Merkel’s Nightmare Victory” [h/t: Jason B.]

UPDATE 3: see my next update here