Today’s elections in Brandenburg & Saxony are sending a new set of shock waves through German politics. Here are some quick thoughts.
- The AfD polled about 28 per cent in Saxony, their best result yet. Saxony is truly the AfD’s heartland.
- The AfD did also well in Brandenburg. In both states, they are led and dominated by members of the “Flügel”, the most radical faction within an increasingly radical party. When the eastern states voted five years ago, it was not even clear that they were radical populists. Now, the links to right-wing extremist organisations and policies are becoming clearer and clearer
- Recall-question based models of voter flows are the work of the devil. But the estimates published by the big pollsters suggest that like in 2016, the AfD managed to mobilise a very large number of former no-voters ans hence benefitted from the massive increase in turnout. So that’s democracy at work, I guess.
- Even in their heartland, the AfD topped out below 30 per cent. I have zero hard evidence / strong theory for that, empirically, that seems to be about the maximum that these parties can achieve in Western Europe.
- Accordingly, they should not get more than a quarter of the total attention. So here is the other, totally underreported story of this election: for the Greens, the German East used to be a wasteland. But now they are in double digit territory and might well end up in government in both states.
- The SPD, on the other hand, made it barely beyond the threshold in Saxony. For once, I’m lost for words.
- The Left, formerly the eastern party, has also lost big in both states. And yet, if one counts the left parties as a bloc, there seems to be a left majority in Brandenburg that may form a coalition.
- In terms of electoral behaviour, the overall story is one of fragmentation and volatility. And for once, the East is the avant-garde: this is where Germany as a whole is headed.
- And yet in both states, the parties that have dominated them for the last three decades, the SPD in Brandenburg and the CDU in Saxony, came out top. Their support is much reduced and this might be their respective last hurrah, but still.