The winners and losers - 7 things you need to know about the Bavaria election

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
The winners and losers -  7 things you need to know about the Bavaria election
Hubert Aiwanger, chairman of the Bavarian Free Voters in Munich on Monday. Photo: DPA

The historic Bavarian election is causing ripples throughout German politics. From explaining who the Free Voters are to finding out if the AfD actually did well, we breakdown the important points.


What's happening now?

Now that the results are in, the parties are taking stock of how Bavarians voted and politicians are pointing fingers at each other while considering who they’ll talk to, with a view to building a coalition in the southern German state that's famous for Oktoberfest, wheat beer and Alpine scenery. 

All parties will also be figuring out what lessons they can learn ahead of another vote in the central German state of Hesse, home to financial hub Frankfurt, in just under two weeks.

Who actually won?

No one really. According to the preliminary results, the CSU won 37.2 percent,  dropping more than ten percentage points compared to 2013 and losing its absolute majority. However, it still got the biggest proportion and is now searching for a coalition partner. The Greens, who scored 17.5 percent of the vote - more than twice as much as in 2013 -  have become the second strongest force.

With losses of around eleven points, the SPD halved its result from 2013, landing at 9.7 percent. Next are the Free Voters with 11.6 percent and the AfD with 10.2 percent. The Free Democrats (FDP) won 5.1 percent and the Left (Die Linke) took 3.2 percent - and failed to reach the 5 percent mark needed to get into parliament.

This results point to the following distribution of seats in the Maximilianeum, the building of the Bavarian state parliament: CSU: 85, SPD: 22, Greens: 38, Free Voters: 27, AfD: 22 and FDP: 11. The turnout is 72.4 percent, compared to 63.6 percent in 2013.

SEE ALSO: AS IT HAPPENED - The Bavarian elections 2018

Okay. Who are the Free Voters (Freie Wähler)?

Good question! They’re not well known outside of southern Germany. However, with 11.6 percent they could govern in a coalition with the CSU - and it's looking likely that they will due to the two parties' common interests. 

The FW has an estimated 4,500 members and exists in Bavaria and neighbouring Baden-Württemberg, although it is only represented in Bavaria's state parliament. They were founded as a regional association in 1978 and became a political party in 1998.

The party entered the Bavarian state parliament in 2008 with 10.2 percent of the vote, becoming the third strongest party after the CSU and SPD. In 2013 they won 9 percent, defending third place. 

Led by Hubert Aiwanger, 47, the party's considered to be a bit conservative like the CSU but not as radical as the populist AfD.

The party probably attracts lots of  voters who've become fed up of the CSU but don't like the look of the AfD.

The Free Voters are a grassroots party with a local focus. They oppose the Eurozone bailout policies, for example, but also want to promote dialects and would like more of a focus on local history classes in schools. They are also very much into customs and traditions, and want to keep the culture of Bavaria alive. 

When it comes to refugee and migrant policy the Free Voters are similar to the CSU and campaign for strict border controls and more deportations.

But they also place a high regard on social policies, such as more help and benefits for social housing and higher child benefits for families.

Hubert Aiwanger thanks voters in a Twitter post and promises to do the best for the country.

And it seems they’re ambitious with their eye on the prize.

On Monday morning, Aiwanger of the Free Voters announced that his party wanted to lead three of the 11 ministries in Bavaria's government. "Three ministries will probably be realistic," Aiwanger told the radio station Bayern 2 after the state elections, reports DPA.

He also said he was confident that the CSU would form a coalition with the Free Voters instead of with the Greens.

Walking into the state government would be a huge step for a small local party and is arguably one of the biggest success stories of the historic elections.

Who will govern Bavaria then?

It’s not quite clear yet. 

Horst Seehofer in Munich on Monday. Photo: DPA

There could be a so-called black-green coalition with the CSU and Greens. The top Green candidate, Katharina Schulze, said she was willing to talk: "Of course we are prepared to take responsibility for this beautiful country,” she said.

However, Bavaria Minister President Markus Söder has been skeptical: "The Greens are miles away in terms of their agenda". He said, however, that he would talk to everyone about a possible coalition except the AfD.

As we've said, the Free Voters/CSU coalition is looking quite likely right now. 

What about the SPD?

Not surprisingly, they haven’t fared well. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), a coalition partner of the CDU/CSU in the federal government that sits in Berlin, suffered a drop of more than 10 percentage points compared to 2013, securing just 9.7 percent of the vote. It’s their worst ever result in any state poll.

Andrea Nahles and Lars Klingbeil of the SPD  in Berlin on Monday. Photo: DPA

Many in the party believe the problem lies in Berlin. SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil described the Berlin grand coalition as "very heavily burdened" and called for a different style going forward, DPA reports.

Klingbeil said on ARD television's "Morgenmagazin" that the coalition's style led people to turn their backs on the CDU/CSU and SPD. The SPD wants to emphasize social justice as the main topic - and that must be recognizable in the government, he said.

SEE ALSO: Merkel vows to 'win back trust' after Bavaria poll debacle

He said the election was a "signal" that things must change. 

SPD party leader Andrea Nahles on Sunday said her party was unable to convince voters in Bavaria and that it was "bitter" for them.

She also pointed to the Berlin government. "Surely one of the reasons for the poor performance of the SPD is the poor performance of the grand coalition here in Berlin,” she said.

Who else is being blamed?

As well as the coalition in Berlin, the CSU leadership is bearing the brunt of the blame so far, certainly among the Christian Socialists party itself.

On Monday leader Horst Seehofer said he wouldn’t be having “any personal discussions” in response to reporters asking if he’d be stepping down.

Spiegel reported 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," said Spiegel.

The prime minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther (CDU), suggested the leadership should evaluate its mistakes and look inwards, rather than blaming the coalition.

In response to the question of Christian Democratic Chancellor Merkel's co-responsibility and her migration policy being to blame for the poor results of the CSU in Bavaria he said: "This is a purely homemade CSU result.”

The former Bavarian state parliament president Alois Glück (CSU) said the party needed to change but advised against resignations. These "would only drag us down even deeper".

The election result, however, is "a deep rupture", said Glück to the Augsburger Allgemeine. "The people obviously did not make their election decision on the basis of our current performance (a nod to the fact that Bavaria is performing well economically) but they lost confidence in us.”

Spiegel went on to say that the election was calling into question the idea of 'people's parties'. "For decades, the CSU was regarded as the most successful people's party in Europe. 
"This Sunday's election is now calling this into question."

Did the right-wing AfD do well?

The AfD is a double-digit member of the Maximilianeum and is now represented in 15 of 16 German states (except Hessen).

Although on the face of it the result seems like a cause for celebration, the AfD in Bavaria is below the federal average and wanted to do better.

Alice Weidel of the AfD congratulates her colleagues in Bavaria on Twitter.

The Tagesspiegel reports that  the party’s target was '12 percent plus' and preliminary results show the party has scored 10.2 percent.

The AfD's election strategy of selling itself as the more genuine CSU did not work out as hoped, the newspaper said. "The AfD is falling short of its own expectations," reported 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."

During the election campaign, the party posted slogans such as 'The AfD keeps what the CSU promises'. They also claimed if CSU legend Franz Josef Strauß were still alive, he himself would even vote for the AfD  - something which Strauß supporters have vehemently resisted.

But Tagesspiegel said without top candidates and a national profile in Bavaria the party didn’t do as well as it hoped.

However, Spiegel said both the AfD and the Greens were the "winners of this Bavarian election".
"Both could apparently profit from the CSU's abandonment of the centre," the media organization said.

On Sunday the AfD's Alice Weidel congratulated the Bavarian and jubilantly declared that Merkel's government "is not a grand coalition but a mini coalition" and demanded she "clear the way for new elections".

But it’s likely the party will be taking stock of what happened. There’s also been reports of in-fighting in the Bavarian branch and it remains to be seen how the party progresses.



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