Five take aways from the recent Bavarian state election

by Jonas Wolframm
On Saturday the Free State of Bavaria went to the polls

1. What happened? 

On Saturday the 9.5 million citizens of the Free State of Bavaria went to the polls to elect the 180 members of the 18th Landtag. Against the backdrop of rising tensions within the so-called ‘grand coalition’, the state election in Bavaria was also seen by many as a vote on the work of the federal government. With 72,5 percent, the voter turnout was notably higher than in 2014.

2. Who won?

Everybody except the Christian Socialist Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Among the other parties, the Greens performed exceptionally well, gaining 17,5 percent of the votes and thus confirming a recent upward trend that can also be observed on the federal level. The Free Voters gained 11,6 percent of the votes, finishing third behind the Greens. Following the strong result, Hubert Aiwanger, Chairman of the Free Voters, has already put his ducks in a row for possible upcoming coalition talks demanding three minister positions for his party. Coming in third, the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) snatched away 10,2 percent. The Liberals (FDP) managed to enter the state parliament with a result of 5,1 percent, barely crossing the five percent threshold. 

3. Who lost?

Both parties of the ‘grand coalition’ experienced a humiliating loss during the election night. 
On the one hand, the Christian Socialist Union (CSU) suffered a 10-point drop from the result four years ago, gaining only 37,2 percent of the votes. Keeping in mind that before Sunday, the CSU won the absolute majority in 12 out of 13 elections, this result is nothing short of a political landslide.  
On the other hand, the Social Democrats (SPD) have lost half of their support, gaining only 9,7 percent of the votes – by far the worst result for the party in Bavaria ever. The crushing defeat of the Bavarian chapter of the party is also puts the chair of the national party, Andrea Nahles, in a difficult position.  

4. What happens next?

The CSU will now open negotiations for a coalition government. According to media reports, the CSU prefers a coalition with the Free Voters. However, there is also the possibility of exploratory talks with the Green Party. Top candidate, Markus Söder (CSU), has been unanimously nominated for the Bavarian Prime Minister post by his own parliamentary group. The future of ex-chairman and current Federal Minister for the Interior, Horst Seehofer, is currently anyone´s guess.

5. What does the result mean for the federal level? 

The reign of the so-called “Volksparteien” seems, effectively, to be over now. The loss of power for the CSU in Bavaria can be interpreted as the next stage of the evolution of German party politics. Gone are the times when SPD and CDU/CSU were the sole actors. German politics are becoming more diverse and so becomes finding majorities.