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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Merkel's coalition shaken by drubbing in Bavaria 

The disatrous result leaves coalition partners with doubts

German Interior Minister and conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party leader, Horst Seehofer, the CSU from  Angela Merkel's conservative camp took a 10-point dive to lose its absolute majority in the Alpine state it has ruled since the 1960s. / AFP / Christof STACHE
German Interior Minister and conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party leader, Horst Seehofer, the CSU from  Angela Merkel's conservative camp took a 10-point dive to lose its absolute majority in the Alpine state it has ruled since the 1960s. / AFP / Christof STACHE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has conceded that “a lot trust has been lost” a day after her ruling coalition partners suffered a drubbing in state elections in Bavaria.

Speaking on Monday, the Chancellor vowed to “win back” disaffected voters, whilst insisting that her coalition could still be banked on “to act in a united way”.

The Christian Social Union’s (CSU) vote fell by more than 10%, to just 37% in yesterday’s state election in the south east, leaving the party set to lose its absolute majority in the state legislature, which it has dominated since 1957.

Mrs Merkel’s other coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) slumped to fifth in the state, polling just 9.6%.

The result has shaken an already embattled coalition in Berlin. The SPD regards itself as the alternative party of government but has suffered as steady decline as it has propped up Mrs Merkel in three of her four governments since coming to power in 2005. Jumping ship, however, would represent a leap into the unknown.

Leopold Traugott, a Policy Analyst at Open Europe, affirmed that the results will only add to doubts held by Mrs Merkel’s junior coalition partners.

“Whilst the results will not lead to a massive destabilisation of the German government, it will see the mood between the coalition partners deteriorate even further. Within the SPD doubts about whether being part of this coalition still makes sense for them are likely to grow.”

Despite falling short of predictions, the far-right AfD maintained its run of electoral breakthroughs, seizing fourth place, and 10.6% of the vote - meaning it would enter the Bavarian parliament for the first time.

The big winner from the vote was the Green party, which vaulted to second place, capturing almost 17.5% of the vote. Its leadership has set its sights on emerging as the leading force on the left nationwide.

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The CSU leader and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer refuted calls by some to withdraw from Mrs Merkel’s coalition in the Bundestag.

“We will do our bit to ensure that the coalition can continue to do its work in a stable manner despite some of the comments that were made yesterday”.

He added that it was not the time to discuss his leadership though that was not a view shared by all his colleagues on the right.

Daniel Günthe, the CDU premier of Schleswig-Holstein, called for Mr Seehofer’s departure. “It probably can’t work without personnel consequences”, he told Die Welt newspaper.

Mr Seehofer waged a very public battle during the campaigning run-up with Mrs Merkel as he tried to outflank the Chancellor, and position the CSU as the country’s main anti-immigration party. The Seehofer migrant masterplan published by the Berlin government included measures to force the return of new asylum seekers. Critics slammed the strategy as appeasing the hardliners of the AfD.

Despite the collapse in support, the CSU are likely to cling to power in Bavaria, with the newly formed Free Voters party, which finished third taking 11.6% of the vote.

CSU leadership have already ruled out a coalition with the AfD, who now hold seats in 15 of Germany’s 16 state legislatures, and were less than enthusiastic about the possibility of governing with the Greens.

Mr Traugott noted that the Green party’s fortunes, both in Bavaria, and across the country lay in the decline of the established centrist parties. “The Greens profited heavily from the decline of its traditional Centre-left competitor - the SPD. But they also draw on the centrist voters estranged by the CSU’s recent shift to the right,” he said.

“We can observe the same development play out at the national level, where the Greens are surging in the polls, while poaching voters from both the Social Democrats and the centre-right CSU and CDU”.