State Elections in Germany: Incumbents Dominate While CDU Suffers Heavy Losses

by Niklas Burg

On Sunday, March 14th, 2021 two state elections were held in Germany. In both states, Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz, the parties to which the incumbent prime ministers of the two states belong to, remained the strongest force. Another similar outcome is the significant loss of votes by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The share of mail-in ballots has been very high in both states.

Baden-Württemberg

The ruling Green Party held its leading position with record-setting results of 32.6% of the votes. This is an increase of 2.3% compared to the last state elections in 2016. The Christian Democrats faced their most challenging state election up to date with a historically low percentage of the votes in Baden-Württemberg at 24.1%. This represents a drop of 2.9% compared to the last state election. The Social Democrats (SPD) underachieved as well at 11%. The liberal FDP increased their votes compared to 2016 and came in at 10.5%, while the populist AfD lost votes, dropping to 9.7%.

The Greens have two coalition options going forward. They could stay in the current one with the CDU, or they could enter a three-party coalition with the SPD and the FDP. Prime Minister Kretschmann announced to talk to all democratic parties. However, it is expected that the current government of Greens and CDU will continue.

Rheinland-Pfalz

Similarly, the ruling SPD remained the state’s dominant party with 35.7%, results almost identical to those in 2016. The CDU dropped by 4.1%, receiving 27.7% of all the votes, resulting in the party’s worst performance in the state’s history. The populist AfD lost a significant amount of votes compared to 2016 and came in at 8.3%. The Greens, recording the highest increase by any party (4%), became the third strongest party at 9.3%. The FDP, as well as the conservative Freie Wähler, reached 5.5% and 5.4%, respectively.

Going forward, the SPD can continue the three-party coalition with the Greens and the FDP, or join a new coalition with the CDU. It is expected that the current government will remain in power.

It is interesting to see that both elections were dominated by strong “personality dimensions”: Both prime ministers are very popular in their respective states. In particular, regarding the Social-Democrats, the election served as a confirmation of Mrs. Dreyer’s unwavering popularity and acceptance in Rheinland-Pfalz, although the support for the SPD on national level continues to decrease. The results for the CDU have been historically low in both states, due to the corruption scandals in Berlin and increased the pressure for the party to nominate a top candidate for the parliamentary elections (Bundestag) in September.

If you want to know more about how to navigate the new political landscapes in these two regions, be in touch with the team at RPP Berlin.

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