The populist right-wing Alliance for Germany (AfD) had a chance to repeat the success it enjoyed in state elections in Saxony two weeks ago in two state elections last Sunday, which both also took place in the former East-Germany. But in both Brandenburg and Thüringen, it went one better and got double-digit percentages. The AfD got 12% of the vote in Brandenburg (sometimes nicknamed “the small GDR”) and 10% in Thüringen.
Just like in Saxony, the AfD took votes from across the political spectrum, pollster Infratest Dimap revealed. In Thüringen, just like in Saxony, the Christian-Democratic CDU, Social-Democratic SPD and (ex-communist) Left Party all saw 5-6% of their 2009 voters switch to the AfD, while the liberal FDP and extreme-right NPD lost significantly larger shares of their electorates to the party.
On the bright side, the SPD in Brandenburg easily maintained their position as the state’s top party, though the Left Party, which had been their junior government coalition partner, lost a lot and booked its worst state elections result there since 1990. Nevertheless, just like last time, Brandenburg’s SPD is free to choose to govern with them or with the CDU; either combination would have a majority.
In Thüringen, weirdly, the SPD has the same luxury of being able to pick its coalition partner, even though they lost heavily and were left with just 12% of the vote. Both the CDU and the Left Party did well, cementing their positions at the top of the state’s party system, and they both want to govern – but neither of them can do it without the Social-Democrats. So it will either be a renewed CDU/SPD government, with a parliamentary majority of 1, or a Left Party/SPD/Green government, also with a parliamentary majority of 1.
The latter would of course be more ground-breaking and exciting, but oddly enough the three parties actually pooled less of the state vote (46.3%) than five years ago (52.1%), and obviously back then the Social-Democrats chickened out, even though they were promised the Prime Ministerial post by the (larger) Left Party. However, their chickening out last time round, and their stubborn refusal to express a preference for one or the other coalition option in this year’s campaign, led to them losing a fair amount of votes to the Left Party in these elections. So maybe they won’t do it again.
I won’t do a fully-fledged blog post, but I tweeted some interesting data I’ll collate them here:
- The Left Party in Brandenburg lost 19 thousand voters to the AfD, which attracted some attention; in part because of the curiosity of a stridently left-wing party losing voters to a populist right-wing party, and that not being an isolated phenomenon either, with far-left losing votes to far-right parties elsewhere as well; and in part because the AfD seemed to go out of its way to fish for Left Party votes. But to keep this in perspective: the Left Party also lost a whopping 119 thousand voters – six times as many – to the non-voter camp.
- Vice versa, the CDU in Brandenburg had a good night, overtaking the Left as the state’s second-largest party for the first time since 1999, but nevertheless also lost 19 thousand votes to the AfD, meaning that the CDU lost a larger share of its 2009 voters to the AfD than the Left Party did.
- The this chart shows. (The “Andere” category here includes 10,000 votes the AfD pulled from the NPD.) AfD in Thuringen also pulled votes from across the political spectrum, as
- What these numbers mean is that the CDU lost 7% of its 2009 vote in Brandenburg, and 5% of its 2009 vote in Thüringen to the AfD; the Left Party lost 5% and 6%, respectively, of its 2009 vote in the two states to the AfD; and the FDP lost 14% and 12% of its vote, respectively, to the AfD. The SPD lost 6% of its 2009 vote in Thüringen to the AfD, but just 3% of its vote in Brandenburg.
- More data on who voted for whom: In both Thüringen and Brandenburg, the AfD’s best professional groups were workers and the self-employed. And in both states, the Left Party did best among the unemployed and pensioners.
- Here’s a worrying data point: for both the SPD and the Left Party, in both Brandenburg and Thüringen, the best age group was those over 60+. The fact that it’s true for both parties makes it all the more worrying about their long-term future in these East-German states. Meanwhile, the best age group for the AfD in both states was those between 25 and 34.
- A historical perspective: the Left Party booked its best ever result in Thüringen … and its worst result since 1990 in Brandenburg. The SPD booked its worst result in the postcommunist era in Thüringen, and ex aequo (with 2004) the worst in Brandenburg. The Greens got their best result in Brandenburg since 1990, and the FDP its worst result there ever. Surprisingly, the FDP in Thüringen has seen worse times still (1.1% in 1999). The Spiegel has a couple of interactive charts to explore some of those historical trajectories, and here are screenshots for two of them: