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Sun Mar 13, 2016, 07:12 PM

Three regional elections have radically changed Germany’s political landscape

Source: The Economist

ON A day when three German states held elections that will allow their incumbent premiers to stay in office, it might seem that German politics is boringly stable. But that is deceptive. The elections of March 13th—the first state ballots since chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to refugees half a year ago—suggest that Germany's political landscape is changing dramatically. As the country heads towards a federal election in 2017, its politics will become more fragmented and polarised as a result.

The role of local personalities in these elections makes it tricky to find nationwide trends. In Baden-Württemberg, an industrial powerhouse in the south-west, Winfried Kretschmann, the governing premier of the Green party, had won (judging from early figures) a little over 30% of the vote, the first time ever the party came in first overall in the state. Since Mr Kretschmann backs Mrs Merkel’s refugee policy, this also suggests that the chancellor's "welcome culture" has widespread support.

In the neighbouring state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social-Democratic incumbent, Malu Dreyer, had also won decisively, with 36.8%. Here, too, a big factor was her personal charm. Like Mr Kretschmann, she stood by Mrs Merkel over the refugee crisis.


Angela Merkel has little to fear from these results. With more splintering and more complicated coalition mathematics, she remains secure in her office. But the trend suggests other problems. The Left and the Alternative draw support away from the centre parties, forcing them into coalitions between centre-right and centre-left. But this makes them ever harder to distinguish. Christian and Social Democrats had already been growing so similar to each other that many voters cannot tell the difference and tune out. The Alternative, in its assault on what it decries as the reigning political correctness, will then gleefully pull political debate to the right. The populist politics sweeping over America and much of Europe has, it seems, come to Germany.

Read more: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21694704-good-night-incumbents-and-xenophobes-three-regional-elections-have-radically-changed?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/three_regional_elections_have_radically_changed_germany_s_political_landscape

A different narrative to some of the other coverage of these elections.

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Reply Three regional elections have radically changed Germany’s political landscape (Original post)
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 OP
840high Mar 2016 #1
appalachiablue Mar 2016 #2
forest444 Mar 2016 #3
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 #4
forest444 Mar 2016 #5
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 #6
branford Mar 2016 #7
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 #8
coyote Mar 2016 #9
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 #10
coyote Mar 2016 #11
Denzil_DC Mar 2016 #12
Ghost Dog Mar 2016 #13

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 07:59 PM

1. kick


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Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 09:25 PM

2. Interesting, thanks.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 09:39 PM

3. Auf Widersehen, Frau Austerität (Goodbye, Ms. Austerity).

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Response to forest444 (Reply #3)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 09:50 PM

4. Did you actually read the article? n/t

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 10:06 PM

5. Enough to know the Economist is shamelessly trying to spin this setback in her favor.

Merkel's hold on power is tenuous as it is, predicated on being able to hold the grand CDU-SPD grand alliance together. While these regional elections (rather than those to the Bundestag), they spell trouble for her not only because her CDU lost ground in all three states that held elections; but because they lost it to a nationalist party (AFD) that increasingly looks capable of dividing the CDU vote in half.

Should that trend away from the CDU and toward the AFD continue, she will probably find herself out of government after the next elections a year from now.

Here's a more neutral report: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-election-idUSKCN0WE0ZQ

And a more insightful one: http://news.yahoo.com/afd-success-smashes-wing-populism-taboo-germany-212123923.html

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Response to forest444 (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 10:17 PM

6. Neutral report? LOL

It opens with the bullshit that Merkel's party was "punished" and given "a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy." If you read the article or look at any other breakdowns of the results, you'll see that parties that did not stand on an anti-immigrant platform did OK, whereas the CDU did badly where the party had tried to distance itself from Merkel's line.

The fact is that, for better or worse, these elections haven't been the disaster for Merkel that was widely predicted, despite Reuters et al. trying to spin it to cover their embarrassment, and it doesn't seem that the refugee issue was the clincher, to boot.

I'll offer you some insightful observations that don't fit your narrative:

State elections in Germany today.

While the UK press rushes towards headlines along the theme of 'Controversial refugee policy: Merkel suffers dramatically in regional elections' or 'Crushing verdict on open-door migration', just this:

The only one of the three states in which Merkel's CDU party did indeed suffer a dramatic loss of minus 12 percent is the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in which the CDU candidate critiqued Merkel's refugee policy.

The winner in that state, Baden-Wuerttemberg's Prime Minister Kretschman and his Green party, did actively support Merkel's policy, to the point of Prime Minister Kretschman saying he was 'praying for Ms. Merkel's health and well-being'. This victory of an incumbent and supporter of Merkel's refugees policy can hardly be interpreted as a rejection of that very same policy.

A similar situation in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz where the Christian-Democratic challenger Julia Kloeckner also tried to garner votes by distancing herself from Merkel and lost to the Social-Democratic incumbent.

In the state of Sachsen-Anhalt, where the xenophobic AfD won a dramatic 24%, Chancellor Merkel's CDU only lost 2.5 percent. It is the Social Democrats there who lost more than 11%, as well as Die Linke at minus 7 percent.

The - alarming - rise of the right-wing anti-immigrant party AfD is, of course, to be seen in the context of the refugee crisis.

The dramatic loser of this election, though, is probably not Angela Merkel, but rather the Christian-Democratic candidates who distanced themselves from her, as well as the Social Democrats and Die Linke.

Roughly two-thirds of voters backed parties today that support Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy. There is no reason whatsoever to belittle the rise of AfD, but there is also no plausible narrative for declaring Merkel's refugee policy as having been defeated today.

And before the UK press compares AfD with Ukip or Le Pen, assuming AfD were EU haters like these other two parties, take a look at AfD's party manifesto: AfD passionately endorses David Cameron and his proposal for what he considers a reformed EU: https://www.alternativefuer.de/programm-hintergrund/programmatik/

Noteworthy also how The Daily Telegraph writes 'The Christian Democrats lost two out of three regional states in the elections' today, falsely implying that Merkel's Christian Democrats were the incumbents, not the unsuccessful challengers.

What remains is that Germany is now politically more polarised than it has been for many decades. Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy has been challenged, but it certainly has not been rejected by a majority.


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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 10:38 PM

7. Are you seriously suggesting that Merkel's liberal immigration policy


was not a significant factor in the CDU's losses and the incredible AfD's gains?

There is a national election in Germany next year. If the migrant crisis is not satisfactorily resolved, and soon, Merkel individually and the CDU generally will like be punished by a very angry and energized electorate.

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Response to branford (Reply #7)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 10:51 PM

8. Yes, of course. The comparative figures are in the two pieces I've linked and reproduced.

You seem to be willing the outcome you describe, for whatever reason. You're making much the same predictions now that I've seen you make repeatedly in the past about the election that has just occurred. I can't help it if this electoral outcome doesn't support your view, so go complain to the electorate if you don't like it.

The outcome and outlook are more nuanced than pretty much any of the debates I've read here would suggest.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 11:43 PM

9. then there is always this




Updated | BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives lost out in two out of three regional state elections on Sunday as Germans gave a thumbs-down to her accommodating refugee policy with a big vote for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The poor showing in both Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate represented a worst-case scenario for Merkel, who has staked her legacy on her decision last year to open Germany's doors to over 1 million migrants.

The backlash was also visible in Saxony-Anhalt in former East Germany, where Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) remained the largest party but the AfD grabbed 21.5 percent.

"We have fundamental problems in Germany that led to this election result," said AfD chief Frauke Petry, whose party entered all three regional parliaments

As someone who lives in Germany and has been affected by the refugee crisis first hand, their will be huge blowback in the coming elections here in Bavaria. Watch and learn Denzil.

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Response to coyote (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 13, 2016, 11:59 PM

10. Another Nostradamus

A lot of the coverage I've managed to find is a rehash of the Reuters report with some additions. That's the way we do journalism nowadays, especially international journalism.

If you read down into the body of some of the more thoughtful articles, the "drubbing" and "humiliation for Merkel" headlines are given a little more context.

The Guardian:

Anti-refugee AfD party makes big gains in German state elections


If the AfD’s strong showing reflected deep hostility to Merkel’s plan, however, other results last night told a different story. The CDU’s poor showings will not necessarily be seen as a substantial blow to the chancellor’s leadership partly because, during the campaign, CDU candidates in all three states had distanced themselves to varying degrees from their leader’s strategy for the refugee crisis. The politician who won in Baden-Württemberg’s, Green state premier Winfried Kretschmann, had passionately defended the German chancellor’s open-borders stance, stating in one day that he was “praying every day” for her wellbeing.

With a centrist, pro-business party programme that defied orthodox ideas of what an environmental party should stand for, the Green party in Germany’s northwest managed to come top with 30.5% in a state. Remarkably, 30% of voters who had switched from Christian Democrat to Green in the state said they had done so because of the refugee debate.


In Rhineland-Palatinate, the incumbent Social Democrat state premier defeated Christian Democrat, Julia Klöckner, who had until today been seen as a potential successor to Merkel. Klockner had seemingly been cruising towards a victory in the state but appeared to fall out of favour after calling for an alternative plan to her party leader’s management of the refugee crisis.

According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper, the chances of the German chancellor’s authority being called into question by bad results for her party were “unlikely, but not out of the question”. While Merkel will now face a renewed debate inside her party over the electoral cost of her refugee policy, she is also now able to show that questioning her course comes at a political cost. “Things won’t get really dangerous for Merkel”, Spiegel wrote.

Merkel’s personality ratings have risen again after hitting a low at the start of the year. In a Forsa poll published last week, the chancellor enjoyed an approval rate of 50%, her highest this year.

The Wall Street Journal:

German Voters Punish Angela Merkel Over Migrant Policy in State Elections

But the results laid bare the extent to which the migration crisis has polarized German society. Left-of-center proponents of a welcoming refugee policy also recorded wins Sunday, even as Ms. Merkel’s conservatives suffered. Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union lost two close races, falling to the center-left Greens in Baden-Württemberg and the center-left Social Democrats in Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the traditionally conservative state of Baden-Württemberg, one of Germany’s economic powerhouses, the refugee-friendly Greens surged to first place behind their popular incumbent premier, Winfried Kretschmann. Ms. Merkel’s CDU failed to win first place in the southwestern state for the first time since World War II. The AfD, meanwhile, won 15%—the best postwar result for a populist or far-right party in the state.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, the other western state, incumbent state Premier Malu Dreyer of the Social Democrats beat a rising star in the CDU, Julia Klöckner. In the campaign, Ms. Klöckner took a tougher line on migrants than Ms. Dreyer did.

In Saxony-Anhalt, which suffers from one of Germany’s highest unemployment rates, the AfD’s capture of 24% of the vote was poised to upend typical political alliances. While Ms. Merkel’s CDU came in first, the results suggested that the party would need to ally with both the center-left Social Democrats and the Greens to form a government.


Despite Sunday’s setbacks, Ms. Merkel remains in a relatively strong position at home. Her approval rating stands at 54%, according to pollster Infratest Dimap—a decline from 67% last summer but still high compared with the leaders of many other European democracies. Nationwide, the CDU is the most popular party, polling at 36%, compared with 23% for the left-of-center Social Democrats, the junior partner in Ms. Merkel’s governing coalition. In Sunday’s exit polls, a majority of voters in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate said Ms. Merkel was doing a good job handling migration.

I'm not a great fan of Merkel for other reasons, and think her immigration moves were too much too soon, though I'm broadly sympathetic. But the widespread hype around these results has been unbelievable.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #10)

Mon Mar 14, 2016, 12:41 AM

11. Nothing to do with Nostradamus mate,


Just 1st hand experience on the ground. The results are not being hyped at all. There are going to be some strong discussions regarding the refugee crisis in the coming weeks due to this election.

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Response to coyote (Reply #11)

Mon Mar 14, 2016, 07:17 AM

12. "The results are not being hyped at all"

Really? Despite the doomy headlines being consistently contradicted once you drill down into the numbers? Alrighty, then, if you say so.

I've no doubt there are going to be some strong discussions. I hope they're not even more fired up and confused by a media apparently intent on exacerbating existing tensions.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #6)

Mon Mar 14, 2016, 07:55 AM

13. Thanks for the info, Denzil_DC

The issue should not be immigration, of course. Europe will need young immigrants. The issue should be integration into a sane economy and society.

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