News September 2, 2019

East German state elections - a 'success in failure' for the GroKo parties

Kevin Körner, senior economist at Deutsche Bank Research, on the state elections in Brandenburg and Saxony:

In Sunday's state elections, the AfD did not manage to become the strongest party in either Brandenburg or Saxony, despite better performance than in recent polls. In Brandenburg, the far-right party almost doubled its share of the vote to well over 20 percent compared to 2014, and almost tripled in Saxony. In both federal states, it thus moved from fourth to second place.

Both CDU and SPD suffered significant losses in both states, but altogether got away with a black eye. While the CDU managed to defend its pole position in Saxony, SPD remains the strongest force in Brandenburg, contrary to fears in the run-up to the election. Both parties could therefore lead again the respective governments in Saxony and Brandenburg.

However, the formation of the two state governments in the coming weeks is likely to prove difficult and possibly lengthy. In Brandenburg, there is no majority for a continuation of the SPD-led coalition with the Left (which suffered painful losses in both federal states). The same applies to the CDU-led governing coalition with the SPD in Saxony. The CDU there has repeatedly ruled out cooperation with the AfD. In both states, the Greens, who emerged stronger from the elections, could thus become ‘kingmaker’ of a three party coalition.

For the GroKo in Berlin, the result of the two state elections probably means a breather. It is not as bad as previously feared. In the CDU, this should take some pressure off chancellor Angela Merkel and party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. It is doubtful to what extent the SPD's ‘face-saving’ in Brandenburg will directly have a significant impact on the SPD’s vote on the midterm review of the GroKo at its party congress in December. Indirectly, however, the party’s 'success in failure' could play a role, namely if it helps a GroKo-affine candidate duo such as Olaf Scholz and Klara Geywitz to succeed in the upcoming election for the new SPD party leadership. This would significantly reduce the risk of a premature end of the GroKo.

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