Preliminary polls showed that the three parties in German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition suffered a severe loss, Sunday, in the elections in the states of Bavaria and Hesse.
These two states, where the extreme right is making significant progress, are considered a stronghold for conservatives, which portends that voters will choose to punish the Scholz government at the ballot box in the middle of its term.
This comes in light of voters’ concern about the industrial crisis in Europe’s first economic power, and the return of the immigration issue.
In detail, the coalition parties, namely the center-left Social Democratic Party led by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Greens, and the liberal Free Democratic Party, retreated in the states of Bavaria, located in the south, which is the largest in the country in terms of area, and Hesse, located in the west of the country, which includes the city of Frankfurt, where the headquarters of the European Central Bank are located.
In Bavaria, the Free Democratic Party failed to reach the 5% threshold necessary to remain in the local parliament.
According to unofficial estimates, there is a possibility that the Alternative for Germany party will come in second place.
“We’re on the right track,” AfD party leader Alice Weidel said, considering the results to be punishment for the government and a vote for change.
The far right AfD party, who’s anti-immigration, denounces climate protection measures, which it links to the high cost of living and restrictions, has confirmed its lead in nationwide polls, receiving between 20 and 22% of voting intentions.
The AfD party benefited from the campaign’s focus largely on criticism directed at the ruling coalition since December 2021.
In Hesse, the Social Democrats, led by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, paid the price, as her party came fourth with 15.2%, behind the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which recorded 16.8%, and the Greens, 15.5%.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came in the lead with 34.7% of the votes, a significant advance compared to the results of 2018, which recorded 27% at the time, according to the first estimates.
The Interior Minister, who is seeking to retain her portfolio, said, “We didn’t succeed in imposing ourselves,” considering the results to be very disappointing.
The unprecedented coalition had enjoyed a period of consensus and unity following the start of the Russian military attack on Ukraine, but differences then re-emerged, from cutting spending to combating climate change.
The current center-right mayor of Bitterfeld-Wolfen (town in eastern Germany) won re-election in Sunday’s runoff, defeating his rival, the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
Henning Dornack of the Alternative for Germany party led in the first round of the election, but the incumbent mayor, Armin Schenk of the Christian Democratic Union, won about 54% of the vote in the runoff, beating Dornack by eight percentage points.
The town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen is relatively small, with a population of about 37,000 people, but the strong support that the AfD received in the first round of voting sparked great interest in the local elections.
The prime minister of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Bitterfeld-Wolfen is located, recently described it as a decisive election.
Rainer Hasloff, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, called on the population to clearly disavow the Alternative for Germany party, and urged “all democratic forces” to take a “clear stance” against the far-right party.
Schenck told the German News Agency on Sunday that his victory was “a very important indicator for the state and for all of Germany”.
He said he was relieved, particularly because he feared that the AfD’s leadership of the city would have jeopardized economic development efforts.
Dornack hoped to be the first member of the far-right party to be elected mayor of a larger town in Germany.