AS IT HAPPENED: Bavarian Elections 2018

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AS IT HAPPENED: Bavarian Elections 2018

This year's historic Bavarian elections shook up the southern state's politics. Our coverage spotlights the results - and reactions - before and after they were announced.


On Sunday polling stations for the Bavarian elections opened and around 9.5 million citizens, including 600,000 first-time voters, were called upon to elect a new state parliament for the next five years. Voter turnout was 72.5 percent, significantly higher than in 2013 (63.9 percent).

The first results came out around 6 p.m - and it was clear Merkel's allies, the CSU, suffered historic election losses, with around 37 percent, a more than 10-point drop from four years ago. As a result, it loses its absolute majority and must scramble for coalition allies - likely the conservative Free Voters, who have won about 11 percent.

Merkel's other national governing partner, the over 150-year-old Social Democrats (SPD), halved their support to 9.6 percent, ceding the position of Bavaria's second biggest political force to the Greens, who are likely to take around 17/18 percent. 

Meanwhile, the anti-immigration and anti-Merkel AfD, has won around 11 percent and will enter the Bavarian state parliament for the first time. 

The tide is changing. It's a historic night for Bavaria - and Germany - as the country debates what will happen to the Free State and what it means for Merkel and the Berlin grand coalition. 

Stay tuned as for more detailed coverage about the result, and the reaction, in the following days. Read our previous coverage about the election campaign - and its many surprises - here.

Last post at 9:45 p.m. The latest election result projections are in, according to survey specialist infratest dimap.


9:40 p.m. Watch this video filmed earlier today to find our what the most important issues are to one Munich-based voter. Do you think they will be met with Munich's new parliament? (Video by Christine Madden) 

9:36 p.m. The German media is continuing to analyze the historic election results. Berlin-based Tagesspiegel looks at the AfD and how the party fell short of its own expectations in Bavaria. Why? Because their target was '12 percent plus' and it looks like the party might not hit that number. Estimates predict the AfD will get 10/11 percent.

The AfD's election strategy of selling itself as the more genuine CSU did not work out as hoped, the newspaper says. "The AfD is falling short of its own expectations," reports Tagesspiegel.  "The party blames this on the strong performance of the Free Voters. They prevented the AfD from doing better, party leader Alexander Gauland said."
The Free Voters, who are likely to get 11/12 percent of the vote, consider themselves a grassroots party and were similar to the AfD on issues such as immigration and euro reform.

9:12 p.m. Spiegel Online tweets the latest polling estimates, from broadcasters ARD and ZDF. The largest voting drop-off since previous elections in 2013 is the SPD with 9.4 percent (11.2 percent less than 2013) and the CSU with 37.4 percent (or 10.3 percent less than 2013). 

9:05 p.m. Spiegel reports in an opinion piece that "the CSU's anti-AfD strategy has failed and Horst Seehofer will have to pay for this failure first and foremost".

"By making the migration issue a mega-topic, the CSU did the AfD the greatest possible favour. It gave the right-wing populists an unexpected home game."
Spiegel says the CSU will be a "highly nervous party in the future...It will no longer be able to draw its usual self-confidence from its special Bavarian role," reports the publication. 
"Who can claim to embody the Free State and its people in the future with around 35 percent of the electorate? Chancellor Angela Merkel and the CDU will enjoy their Bavarian sister even less than before. Many in the party do not only blame Seehofer, but also Angela Merkel in particular for the defeat."
It's clear that the Greens and right wing AfD, who will likely enter the state parliament for the first time with 11 percent, are the winners of this Bavarian election, says Spiegel. "Both could apparently profit from the CSU's abandonment of the centre," it says.
Spiegel goes onto say that this election is calling into question the idea of 'people's parties'.  "For decades, the CSU was regarded as the most successful people's party in Europe. 
When it comes to the SPD, Spiegel says "it only reflects the already far advanced, nationwide decline of this once large people's party".
9 p.m. What do Bavarian voters think of this year's historic elections? Before the results were announced, one voter in Munich called the campaign "intense and turbulent". Find out what are the most pressing issues to him in Germany right now. Video by Christine Madden for The Local.


8:35 p.m. Katharina Schulze, top candidate of the Bavarian Greens, said her party achieved a "historic result" and that "Bavaria has already changed," reports Taggesschau.

European Greens politician Reinhard Bütikofer calls it a "lederhosen revolution." 

8:30 p.m. SPD party leader Andrea Nahles said her party was unable to convince voters in Bavaria to support them "and that is bitter". 

She pointed to the Berlin government, where the SPD is part of a coalition with the CDU/CSU, as one of the reasons that the Social Democrats failed to capture votes. 

"Surely one of the reasons for the poor performance of the SPD is the poor performance of the grand coalition here in Berlin."

7:55 p.m. Hubert Aiwanger, federal chairman of the Free Voters (11.5 percent of the vote), tweeted: FREE VOTERS - we want a government that cares more about the everyday problems of the people! Midwives instead of space!

#FREIEWÄHLER - wir wollen eine Regierung die sich wieder mehr um die alltagsprobleme der Menschen kümmert! Hebammen statt Weltraum!

7:45 p.m. CSU leader and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to remain in office despite the severe losses of his party in the state elections in Bavaria, reports Welt. 

"Of course I will continue to fulfill my responsibility", he replied to a a question by a reporter, asking what the election result meant for him personally. Seehofer said: "This is not a good result, there is nothing to interpret. On the other hand, the CSU has a clear mandate to form the government."

Seehofer speaking at the CSU HQ in Munich after the vote. Photo: DPA
Seehofer also said the result needed to be analyzed. "Of course, in the next few weeks it will also be important to work through exactly where the result lies," said the Interior Minister. 
He said that consequences would then have to be drawn, without giving further details. 
Seehofer expressed special thanks to Minister President Markus Söder for his "splendid" commitment during the election campaign. During the election campaign, there had been differences between the two, but they were putting up a united front - for now.
7:30 p.m. Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder spoke to supporters after the polls closed. He said his party has a "clear government mandate" and that it was now necessary to establish a stable government.
"We will accept this assignment," said Söder on Sunday evening in Munich. 
Nevertheless, it's not been an easy day for his party because the CSU has clearly "not achieved a good result...We accept it with humility and will have to learn lessons from this," he added.
Meanwhile, Welt reports that  Söder has described forming an alliance as his priority for the upcoming coalition talks. "The Greens are far away from us in terms of political issues," Söder said on ARD television but he said he would talk to all parties about a possible coalition, with the exception of the AfD.
In the next two days, the CSU will intensively discuss how to proceed.
7 p.m. ZDF publishes the estimated results. Die Linke (The Left) are the only party not making it into the state parliament, as they did not meet the 5 percent threshold. 

6:50 p.m. The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which rails against Muslims and demands that "Merkel must go", won 11 percent and are now present in 15 of Germany's 16 state assemblies. "The 15th parliament is 'conquered'" the AfD of Bavaria tweeted after their win. AfD party leader in the Bundestag is Alice Weidel already congratulated them at an election party in lower Bavaria. 

?VIELEN DANK, wir sind im LANDTAG von #Bayern?

6:45 p.m. CSU politicians are already analyzing what's gone wrong. Deputy Minister President of Bavaria, Ilse Aigner, told ZDF that she blamed the Federal Government for the poor performance of the CSU in the state elections. 

She said there must be "careful analysis," according to Spiegel. With a view to a coalition, she said the CSU was prepared to talk to all parties except the AfD.
6:35 p.m.: A cameraman stands in the office of the CDU in Berlin next to a TV on which the first Bavarian state election projections can be seen. The mood will be undoubtedly tense in Berlin, especially among CDU politicians who are allies of the CSU. Photo: DPA

6:30 p.m. Broadcaster ARD predicts that the CSU will receive 79 out of 180 seats in Bavaria's state parliament, while the Greens will get 40. The SPD will have 21 seats, the AfD 24 and the Free Voters 25. The FDP, who received 5 percent of the vote according to the first forecasts, could have 11.

Now the CSU and other parties will be considering talks for future coalitions. The CSU has ruled out an alliance with the AfD.
According to ARD, voter turnout was 72.5 percent, significantly higher than in 2013 (63.9 percent).

6:15 p.m. German newspaper Welt has called the election "the most painful election defeat of the past 50 years for the CSU".

As predicted in the polls, the CSU experienced a "historic debacle" in the Bavarian state elections, according to Welt. 
In the first ARD forecast at 6 p.m., the party received just 35.5 percent of the vote. The CSU's defeat is also a victory for the Greens, who, with a forecast of 18.5 percent (broadcaster ZDF cast it at 19), were able to clearly take second place.
Ilse Aigner, Deputy Minister President of Bavaria: "Of course we can't be satisfied with these results."
"For the first time since the Bundestag elections, the Greens managed to convert their party's upswing into an election result," comments Welt. 
"They were able to more than double their last election result. The young top candidates Katharina Schulze and Ludwig Hartmann also benefited from the continuing weakness of the Social Democrats."
6:05 p.m. The Christian Social Union (CSU) has lost the absolute majority in the state elections in Bavaria, securing 35.5 percent of the vote and, "losing their absolute majority in the wealthy Alpine state they have ruled almost single-handedly since the 1960s," reports AFP. 
Despite heavy losses, Prime Minister Markus Söder's party still remains the strongest. The SPD also suffered heavy losses.

There are also surprises at both ends of the political spectrum: The Greens come in second with a historically strong result (18.5 percent), while the AfD clearly makes the leap into the state parliament with 11 percent.

How did other parties perform? The Free Voters (FW) snagged 11.5 percent, SPD 10 percent, Free Democrats (FDP) 5 percent, and The Left (Die Linke) has 3.5 percent, according to the 6pm exit polls.

5:24 p.m. The AfD are expecting to enter Bavaria's parliament for the first time ever, and as such are setting up for their post-election party. Party leader Alice Weidel already is having the first beer in the small community of Mamming (just under 3,000 residents) in Lower Bavaria.

5:15 p.m. The latest survey by public broadcaster ZDF put the CSU at 34 percent, down from 47.7 percent four years ago. While the AfD polled at 10 percent, the surprise stars have been the Greens with 19 percent support.

How does this compare to public opinion throughout Germany? In the latest Emnid poll this afternoon for Bild am Sonntag, support for the CDU-CSU conservative union dropped to an all-time low of 26 percent. In second place were the SPD and Greens, now neck-and-neck at 17 percent each, followed by the AfD at 15 percent.

4:45 p.m. The Greens and AfD likely won't be the only ones causing a stir tonight with their unexpectedly high results. Freien Wähler (Free Voters) party leader Hubert Aiwanger hopes not only for a double-digit result, but also for an alliance with the CSU, or a triple alliance with CSU and FDP.

"For a sensible and stable government in Bavaria". The Free Voter's last minute push on FB. 

The party first entered parliament in 2008 with 10.2 percent of the vote, and have centrist views ranging from more security services to equality in educational opportunities. Read more here about why some Bavarians are casting their votes for them.

4 p.m. "'Being modern and staying Bavarian is not an expression, but rather our agenda." CSU leading candidate Markus Söder makes a last minute push on Facebook to win voters. 

3:45 p.m. Results remain uncertain but the Green Party is already preparing for an election party in Munich after results are announced.

Photo: DPA

3:45 p.m. An election outlook: "The Christian Social Union (CSU), who have almost single-handedly ruled the wealthy beer-and-lederhosen state since the 1960s, are expected to lose their absolute majority, polls say. 

The other partner in Merkel's fragile 'grand coalition', the Social Democrats, are also set to do poorly while the far-right and anti-immigration AfD look certain to enter the state assembly.

The biggest winners, however, may be the left-leaning Greens." Read more here.

3 p.m. Our Munich-based reporter just spoke to a voter after casting her vote. After being asked if this year's elections are historic, the voter replied. "For forty years, there has been only one party here..." Find out how and why she thinks that's changing today.

2:15 p.m. As of 2 p.m. in Munich, 54.6 percent of voters (including postal voters) had cast their vote, in contrast to the the 49.7 percent who had by the same time in 2013. 

2 p.m. Before results are announced, follow our previous coverage of the elections, including this video by Christine Madden in Munich's Marienplatz.

She explores how the party is now polling as the second most popular, while the traditional favourite party, the CSU, is waning in popularity, polling at 34 percent as of Saturday.

12 p.m. There is already a high voter turnout. In Munich, the turnout was 41.1 percent by noon, 3.3 percentage points more than in the last state election five years ago. In Nuremberg, too, more voters cast their votes by noon than in 2013: according to the local electoral office, the figure was 26.1 percent, five years ago 21.2 percent, reported Die Welt.

In Regensburg, voter turnout reached 33.11 percent by 10 a.m. according to the electoral office, including those who cast their vote by mail. Voter turnout in Augsburg was 24.4 percent until 12.00 noon, in Ingolstadt 18 percent until 11 a.m. - but this did not include the postal voters.


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