Bavarian Elections 2018 at a Glance
Come Sunday evening, Bavaria will finally know who will govern the state for the next five years. In the past, the question has had a relatively simple answer, the CSU (Christlich-Soziale Union). The sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union) has occupied the the position of Bayerischer Ministerpräsident (Bavarian Minister President) since 1957. It is likely their leader, Markus Söder, will continue to sit at the top of the table come next Monday morning, but it is also increasingly likely that Söder will be doing so as part of a coalition government. As recent polling over the last months has shown, it could well be the case that the CSU drop below 40%, something unheard of in modern Bavarian politics. Currently, polling suggests the governing party of Bavaria will do well to reach 35% of the vote, a steep decline from their 2013 result of 47%.
Well, we may have to wait until the actual election to know exactly who has benefited most from the haemorrhaging of votes from the CSU. As during the general election last year, I fully expect the English speaking media to focus on the rise of the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), Germany’s right-wing and racist party of choice. The AfD will certainly make gains in Bavaria, with polling between 10%-14%. However, the real surprise package of this election cycle has been Die Grünen (The Green Party) who have risen spectacularly from their 2013 result of 8.6% to polling numbers between 16% -18%.
Again, this is tricky to say without a full election result, but it is clear that both Die Grünen and AfD have taken votes from Söder’s CSU, but for markedly different reasons. The dog whistle politics of the AfD, with its intense focus on Islam and migration, will certainly appeal to the average Bavarian racist. The campaign of anti-Islamic propaganda waged by the party is impossible to deny, with posters declaring that Islam has no place in Germany or that Bikinis are better than Burkas. The AfDs ability to be full throated in its anti-Islamic and xenophobic message and yet simultaneously misogynistic would be impressive if it wasn’t so disgusting.
As for Die Grünen, they have become an attractive alternative to some of the liberal minded CSU voters who have been shocked by the rightward lurch that the CSU has taken during the election. The CSU strategy of trying to beat the AfD at their own game, by presenting an anti-migration message from within the national and regional governments, has not had the desired effect. Bavarian voters have also deserted the centre left party, SPD (Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands), seeing Die Grünen as more organised and coherent. The SPD has continued its downward spiral since their terrible showing at the general election last October.
Who will come out on top?
Anyone who claims to have a definitive answer is either a liar or a fool. Yet, if the polls are to be believed, Bavaria will awake on Monday morning to discussions over which parties will form a coalition government in Munich. A likely outcome could be CSU/Die Grünen. The question of a coalition between CSU and AfD would seem unlikely, given recent comments and it would almost certainly be a strategic error to allow the AfD in, given their penchant for playing the victim.