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Local Elections - March 2016

In the 2005 general election, the CDU/CSU gained 226 seats, and the SPD gained 222 seats. Neither could govern alone, and so there was formed the Grand Coalition in which they governed together [the rather more vouptuous French refer to such an arrangement as cohabitation]. The 2009 election produced a similar arrangment. The CDU-SPD coalition prompted SPD left-wingers, already bitter about labor reforms launched by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, to leave in droves. The Grand Coalition moved the CDU towards the center of the political spectrum, creating a political space that had thitherto been occupied by the right wing of the party. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Three important votes for state parliament positions in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt were held for 13 March 2016. the AfD could take roughly 10 percent of votes in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt in the spring. That would mean not only the first major gains in western Germany states, but also representatives from the xenophobic party in half of the country's state parliaments.

On 22 February 2016 a survey, conducted for the popular "Bild" newspaper, had the SPD at 16 percent in Saxony-Anhalt, with the CDU clearly out in front at 30 percent. Leftists in the state did not need to totally despair, however, as the more socialist Left party was still much stronger than the AfD with 17 percent support from voters. The western states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate were also set for regional elections that may prove to have surprising results. The newspaper poll showed that in Baden-Württemberg, the birthplace of the CDU, Chancellor Merkel's party had only a percentage point above the Green party at 30 and 30.5 percent respectively. Rhineland-Palatinate was a close call between the two traditional parties, with the CDU at 35 points and the SPD at 33.

The votes in three German regions in parliamentary elections were widely seen as a test for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ruling coalition ahead of the 2017 general election. A total of 13 million voters were elligible to cast ballots in the western states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as in Saxony-Anhalt in the east, on "Super Sunday".

The right-leaning AfD managed to enter all three state parliaments, winning double-digit percentage results in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt. According to exit polls the AfD won 24 percent in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, making it the second largest party after the ruling CDU, which managed to win just under 30 percent. The SPD meanwhile seems to have been dwarfed to around eleven percent, behind the Left Party which is estimated to have won around 17 percent.

In the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate the ruling SPD looks set to remain in power, with exit polls putting them at 36.5 percent. The conservative CDU, led by Julia Klöckner, has lost around three percent, and was reported to stand at 31.8 per cent. The Greens reportedly barely managed to cross the five percent threshhold needed for representation in parliament. Meanwhile, the AfD managed to win around eleven percent.

According to early figures in Baden-Württemberg the ruling Green Party gained a substantial 30.3 percent, while the CDU, which ruled the state for almost six decades until 2011, lost a dramatic 11 percent bringing it out to 27 percent. The AfD also managed to win 15.1 percent in this state, putting in third place before the SPD, currently the junior coalition partner in government, which fell to under 13 percent (from 23) in 2011.

The AfD still leader Frauke Petry told German public radio that her party is not expecting to enter government in any of the three states. "We have been set to work from the opposition since long before this election," she said, adding that this position was quite normal for a young party. "This election shows that numerous voters are turning their backs on well-established parties," she said.

The results meant that the mainstream parties - especially Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), and the Greens - would need to seek new and possibly uncomfortable alliances to establish coalition governments in the three states. None of these, however, would include the AfD, as all the mainstream parties made clear ahead that they would not join a coalition with the party.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2016 11:08:50 ZULU