Two German states held elections on Sunday at the halfway mark of Olaf Scholz’s unpopular national government, with polls showing the centre-right opposition well ahead and Germany’s interior minister facing an uphill struggle in her campaign to become governor of her home region.
About 9.4 million people were eligible to vote for the new state legislature in Bavaria and about 4.3 million in neighbouring Hesse, a region that includes Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt. Both states are led by the country’s main opposition Union bloc, made up of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union (CSU).
The outcome could increase tensions in Chancellor Scholz’s three-party coalition, which has become notorious for infighting, and offer pointers to who could challenge him in the 2025 national election.
Polls point to the CSU, which has led Bavaria since 1957, extending that run, albeit with lacklustre support – by its historical standards – of less than 40%. In Hesse, polls give the CDU a double-digit lead in a three-way contest for the governor’s office between the German Conservative party, Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens.
The far-right Alternative for Germany, which has risen to second place in national polls behind the Union, will not be a factor in determining the new governments of Bavaria or Hesse because other parties refuse to work with it. They will, however, be watching whether it improves significantly on its double-digit showings five years ago.
The three national governing parties – the Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats – will not do well on Sunday because people “aren’t confident in their being able to solve the problems in the country”, the prominent political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
“That has to do with the variety of crises, but also with the communication,” he said. “The situation would be different if the [coalition] partners would explain better what they are doing and why, if they would act more closely together.”
Voters have been put off by repeated public squabbling, notably on a plan to replace fossil-fuel heating systems with greener alternatives. Polls suggest that the Free Democrats could struggle on Sunday to win the 5% support needed to keep their place in the two-state legislatures; previous election flops for the party have fuelled tensions in the national government.
Scholz’s government also faces intense pressure to reduce the number of people migrating to Germany, a big issue in the run-up to the elections.
Scholz would have to find someone new to lead his government’s response on that issue if the interior minister, Nancy Faeser, becomes governor of Hesse, but she appears unlikely to end the CDU’s 24-year hold on the job. Green challenger Tarek al-Wazir, the deputy governor to the CDU incumbent, Boris Rhein, also faces an uphill struggle.skip past newsletter promotion
The governor of Bavaria, Markus Söder, is calling for voters in his state to back “continuity and stability”.
He has bet on continuing his coalition with the Free Voters of Bavaria, a conservative party that is strong locally but is not represented in the national parliament. Söder decided last month to keep that party’s leader, Hubert Aiwanger, as his deputy governor despite a furore that started with allegations – denied by Aiwanger – that he was responsible for an antisemitic flyer when he was a high school student 35 years ago.
Söder is widely considered a potential candidate to challenge Scholz in 2025, although he has denied such ambitions. A respectable result on Sunday would underscore his standing.
Source : The Guardian