Greens win Bavarian seats as CSU pays for shift right
Bavaria’s voters have punished the conservative allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in yesterday’s regional election, mostly to the benefit of the left-wing, pro-refugee Greens.
The Christian Social Union (CSU), a key member of Merkel’s coalition in Berlin, remains the largest party but had its worst election performance for more than six decades.
Turnout was at 72.5 per cent, the highest level for almost 40 years, thanks in part to the clement weather, in part to the historic nature of the vote.
The right-of-centre party secured 37.2 per cent of the vote and lost the absolute majority which it has held almost without interruption since the 1960s.
Humiliatingly, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) lost its position as the second-biggest party, with its support halving to 9.7 per cent.
“The Bavarian result further destabilises Merkel and her government,” said observer Heinrich Oberreuter.
Anti-immigrant campaign slogans, calling for an end to “asylum tourism” and vowing to protect Germany’s borders, failed to give the far-right AfD or the conservative CSU the votes that had predicted a few months ago.
In an effort to tackle the backlash against Muslim refugees, the CSU introduced a law requiring classrooms and public buildings to display a crucifix and ban the full-face veils.
The Greens, campaigning for open borders, liberal values and environmental protection, appealed to an electorate that has diversified from when the southernmost state, long considered one of Germany’s most right-wing, was dominated by a socially conservative and rural electorate.
“Society has changed, Bavaria has changed and Bavarian voters have changed — but the mainstream parties have slept through that change,” said Oberreuter.
Around 40 per cent of new Green voters across Germany have migrated from the centre-right, according to the Forsa Institute.
The Free Voters, a regional protest party, is also likely to enter parliament, having secured 11.6 per cent of votes. The party’s leader, Hubert Aiwanger, said he had already called the CSU to start coalition talks.
The extremist Alternative for Germany was set to win 10.3 per cent of votes, allowing it to enter Bavaria’s parliament for the first time.
Meanwhile, the CDU’s support fell below 40 per cent for the first time since 1954.
At the previous election in 2013, the CSU secured 47.7 per cent of the vote, compared to 62 per cent at the peak of its popularity in 1974.
The Greens received around 17.2 per cent of votes. The party came first in some major Bavarian cities, including Munich where it was set to exceed 30-per-cent support.
Bavaria is culturally distinct from the rest of Germany. Picture credit: IHA