The Bavaria Vote: an Earthquake for the Parties, but in Reality not much Change
October 15, 2018
By FTI Consulting
The people of Bavaria went to the ballot boxes, and it is a bit as if an earthquake has struck, and then the debris has pretty much fallen into the places where the bits and pieces were before.
Sure, the CSU party, long used to running the Bavarian state with an absolute majority, lost about 10 percentage points and is now down to about 37 per cent. Sure, the Greens practically doubled their results and ended up at about 17 per cent. Sure, the SPD, traditionally weak in Bavaria, halved their results and are now below 10 per cent, coming in fourth.
The broader picture of stability
But all of this, much as it concerns the parties themselves, is no big deal if you look at it from outside: The CSU remains the dominant party, and the Greens come in second at less than half the CSU’s share of the vote. The CSU’s likely coalition partners, the Free Voters, gaining around 12 per cent and with this in third position, are politically close to the CSU, and together, their majority is quite solid. So, in substance, nothing much will change once the new government is in place.
And if you count all of the centre-right parties who make it into parliament together, i.e. CSU, Free Voters, AfD and FDP, they add up to about two-thirds of the total vote. Granted, there were times in which the CSU alone took this big a chunk of the vote as their share alone, and now they will have to share with three others. But the “Free State of Bavaria”, as it’s officially called, will remain what it was for decades, predominantly conservative-“bürgerlich”. The parties of the left, Greens and SPD, do not even reach 30 per cent together.
Main voter message to politicians: Just do your job!
The main message voters sent to the parties is that they were fed up with internal party quarrels and in-fighting, and they want politicians to do their homework. Thus, Bavaria will likely not bring much change for the Merkel government in Berlin – if any, then probably for the better, as the voters gave their political leaders a stern lesson about the need for discipline and professionalism.
The populist-rights AfD got less than the polls indicated, barely north of 10 per cent, and the FDP made it barely into parliament, just north of 5 per cent.
Inside the CSU, the fight is now on between Minister President Söder of Bavaria and Federal Interior Minister Seehofer, the party chief, about who is to blame for the meagre results of the once-proud CSU, and it’s fair to say that Seehofer is in the weaker position. But if he were to be replaced in due time, his successor would be another CSU guy, however likely more responsible and rational in behaviour.
An earthquake which will stabilize Chancellor Merkel
Paradoxically, the Bavarian earthquake will help to stabilize the Merkel government. Now, all eyes are on the next state election, in two weeks’ time in Hesse[, where Germany’s financial centre Frankfurt is located].
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members or employees.
With over 25 years’ experience in journalism, political communications, and consulting, Mr. Kothé advises companies seeking relevant impact with politics and politicians. He founded FTI Consulting’s public affairs practice in Berlin in 2010. Previously, he served as spokesperson for German Federal President Horst Köhler. He also headed the communications and media team of the German liberal party, FDP. Starting his career in journalism at the BBC’s World Service in London, Mr. Kothé has also worked as a senior parliamentary correspondent for Germany’s news channel n-tv.