• Germany's news in English

CSU suffers huge losses in Bavarian vote

AFP/The Local · 28 Sep 2008, 20:14

Published: 28 Sep 2008 20:14 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A year before Merkel stands for re-election, the CSU saw its score in Bavaria plunge almost 20 points from the last election in 2003 to just over 43 percent, exit polls showed.

“A result like this is a nasty surprise,” Bavarian state premier Günther Beckstein told public broadcaster ARD. “The people want a government led by the CSU but apparently don’t want the CSU to govern alone.”

The result is likely to prompt discord within the conservatives in the run-up to the September 2009 national vote and to exacerbate tensions within Merkel's three-year old "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Not that the SPD benefited particularly from the CSU's poor result, with exit polls suggesting its share of the vote slipped slightly from the last state election to just over 18 percent. This is despite the party selecting the popular Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to run against Merkel next year and recently ditching its unpopular party chairman Kurt Beck.

"The new leadership of the SPD and the naming of its chancellor candidate had no effect - to the contrary, the SPD had its worst result since there have been elections in Bavaria," the Christian Democrats' secretary general Ronald Pofalla claimed.

Instead former CSU supporters gave their vote to the smaller parties, with the ecologist Greens, the pro-business Free Democrats and the independent Free Voters all seeing major gains, the exit polls showed.

Still, the SPD's dreadful showing didn't stop the party's state leader Franz Maget from celebrating the CSU's plunge and even suggesting a highly unwieldy four-party coalition to shunt the conservatives into the opposition.

"The CSU has been voted out in Bavaria," said Maget, adding there was the opportunity to forge a "new beginning" in the state.

The election represents a major change in Bavarian politics. For decades the CSU has been synonymous with the state, as much a part of its proud identity as lederhosen, beer, BMW and football team Bayern Munich.

Germany's 16 states already run much of their own affairs but Bavaria is a case apart, with a proud history going back to the sixth century, rich in traditions and home to picture-postcard towns, castles and landscapes.

The same size as Ireland, but with an economic output much larger, a third of Germany's 30 blue chip Dax companies - as well as 48 percent of the country's breweries - call the "Free State of Bavaria" home, with full employment in many areas and a cosy standard of living.

The CSU has presided over this success story, holding an absolute majority in the state parliament ever since 1962 - a dominance that experts say is unique in postwar Western Europe.

Story continues below…

In the outgoing parliament, the CSU held two-thirds of the 180 seats but now it will be forced to form a coalition and take into account another party's point of view - a situation no-one in the current CSU leadership has experienced.

The reasons for this fall from grace are many and complex, analysts say. For one thing, recent policy debacles over issues such as education, a smoking ban and the scrapping of a multi-billion euro maglev train link have given the CSU a reputation of clumsiness and have given rise to a feeling that change is needed. Another is the unpopularity of the current CSU leadership, party chairman Erwin Huber and Bavarian premier Beckstein, but other factors go deeper.

As Bavaria has modernised, its society has changed, with environmental consciousness up and church attendance down - and the CSU has lost touch, experts say. It also fails to strike a chord with Bavaria's immigrant population of over one million.

"The CSU brought Bavaria into the modern age but now the modern age is hitting back," the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily said last week.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd