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Bavaria State Elections Threaten Merkel’s Coalition

The results of the election in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria on Sunday, October 14 could mean trouble for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition. More than 600,000 first-time voters participated at polling stations, contributing to a total voter turnout of 72.5 percent.

Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) form Germany’s grand coalition, a deal in which the two largest parties in a multi-party parliamentary system form a governing alliance. The SPD and Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), both saw heavy losses in the state election.

Following the release of the election results, Merkel blamed election failures on a “loss of trust in politics,” and stated: “As chancellor, it’s my job to restore that trust.”

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads a weakening coalition. Photo:  Sean Gallup/ CNN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads a weakening coalition. Photo: Sean Gallup/ CNN

In Bavaria, the CSU lost the majority it had held for more than six decades, beginning soon after World War II. Party support dropped below 40 percent, ending a streak that had lasted since 1954. The SPD also suffered losses with support falling below ten percent, and members remain upset over party leaders’ decision to join Merkel’s coalition following a loss in the September 2017 general election. Prior to that election, SPD leaders had claimed they would stand in opposition to the conservative government if they lost.

Polls show that Merkel’s party could lose more support in the state election in Hesse on October 28. If Hesse CDU candidate Volker Bouffier suffers additional losses, Merkel would lose her primary ally and may therefore be forced to abandon the CDU chairmanship. The SPD could likely leave the Merkel coalition in the case of an additional decline in support.

 Merkel’s Bavarian Sister Party, CSU, and coalition partner SPD suffered heavy losses in state election. Photo:  BBC

Merkel’s Bavarian Sister Party, CSU, and coalition partner SPD suffered heavy losses in state election. Photo: BBC

While mainstream parties were hurt in Bavaria’s election, the smaller Green Party and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) performed well. The Green Party, which promotes liberal ideologies such as fighting against climate change and in favor of open borders, garnered 17.5 percent of the vote. AfD, a 5-year-old far-right party that gained support from backlash against Merkel’s 2015 open-door immigration policy, won 10.2 percent of the vote.

Bavarian election results demonstrate a shift in German voters’ values, with citizens on both the left and right of the political spectrum demonstrating their dissatisfaction with Merkel’s government.

“Society has changed,” explained political analyst Heinrich Oberreuter. “Bavaria has changed and Bavarian voters have changed — but the mainstream parties have slept through that change.”