Brandenburg and Saxony elections: What can AfD achieve?

If voters deliver the far-right AfD significant state election gains in Brandenburg and Saxony on September 1. what could it mean for AfD and what repercussions in may have for the grand coalition? Read few comments.

Kai ArzheimerProfessor of Political Science, University of Mainz

In all likelihood, both the SPD and the CDU will suffer significant losses. I don’t think that this will lead trigger an immediate collapse of the federal government. But both parties have agreed on a kind of mid-term review of their coalition agreement, due later this year. More leftist groups within the SPD that never wanted a new Grand Coalition will argue that the poor results in the east prove them right, and that the SPD should jump ship.

The AfD will milk the results for what their worth and more, but the basic facts will remain the same: the AfD is much stronger in the east than in the west, but even in the east, they are politically isolated (and on a trajectory that makes them more isolated).

Martin Gross, Assistant Professor, Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich

It’s not so much about significant gains for the AfD (they definitely will win more votes than in the last state elections in Brandenburg and Saxony), but rather about if the AfD will be the party with the most votes and seats in state parliaments. Should that happen, which seems more likely in Brandenburg than in Saxony, then Andreas Kalbitz, leader of the AfD in Brandenburg, will be in an even stronger intra-party position than before and he already is described as the ‘mastermind’ behind the electoral success of the AfD and their programmatic course. Regarding government formation, the other parties will manage to build coalitions without the AfD. The probability of a minority government is directly linked to the electoral success of the AfD, but I still think that there will be a viable three-party coalition option in both states.

I do not see immediate repercussions for the grand coalition in Berlin because SPD and CDU/CSU will, first, wait with a decision to terminate the coalition until after the elections in Thuringia in October, and, particularly, after the selection of new SPD party leaders. Yet, in my view, the outcome of the next state elections will not change the SPD’s position against or in favour of the grand coalition because the Social Democrats will definitively lose many votes in these elections, and even if they could manage to secure the prime minister office in Brandenburg, they will not attribute this to the work of the grand coalition in Berlin.

Eric Langenbacher, Teaching Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University, Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture and Politics Program, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies

The AfD is poised to do well in the Brandenburg and Saxony state elections on Sunday, but how well will matter. If it comes in first in Brandenburg, it will have the right to try to form a government and it will fail because all other parties will refuse to enter a coalition. This is likely exactly what AfD leaders will want. This will feed their narrative of victimization–how they are always unjustly treated by “the establishment.” This could increase their support nationally. In Saxony, it should be noted that they are polling at almost exactly their result in the European Parliament election and slightly below their result from the 2017 Bundestag election. I think it might be time to ask if we are past “peak populism.”

I do not think the AfD’s probable results will have that much impact on the national grand coalition. If the SPD does really dismally, that could have an impact. But, neither governing party wants early elections as they will likely lose quite a bit of support. And Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has stumbled a bit over the last months, is not yet a viable replacement for Merkel.

But, let’s see what happens if Germany really does slip into a recession and if/when/how Brexit happens.

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