The clear winner in Hesse's state elections this weekend was the AfD. Unlike the Greens and the FDP, the AfD now sits in all 16 state parliaments - five and a half years after its founding in Hesse's Oberursel.
This is therefore a historic victory, since after 1949, no upcoming party has ever succeeded in taking part in all state parliaments, rising through the ranks from nowhere. “The AfD is now firmly established in the German electorate,” tweeted AfD leader, Alice Weidel. “Here to stay!”
This gives the AfD added responsibility. And it is time for the AfD’s numerous political opponents to treat and understand the AfD as a normal party trying to save Germany from Merkel’s invitation of millions of “skilled workers”.
It has won a 12 percent share, a little below the 16 percent it has polled nationally. It is one of six parties representated in the legislature, meaning the shape of the next government could depend on majorities of one or two seats.
Angela Merkel can enjoy a sigh of relief, because her confidant Volker Bouffier remains in charge of the Wiesbaden State Chancellery, and the CDU may be able to continue ruling with a black and green coalition without the FDP. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) nevertheless slumped to 28 percent, the party’s worst showing in the state since 1966, projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting showed.
It is a drop of 10 percentage points since Hesse last voted in 2013. CDU general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, described the losses as “painful”.
Repeating an outcome seen two weeks ago in the southern state of Bavaria, voters in Hesse abandoned the center for hardline positions. While many voters moved to the right, others voted to the far-left. The Greens’ share rose to around 20 percent, from 8 percent previously.
Merkel’s national coalition partner, the SPD vied with the Greens for second place. And in their former home country – one in which the Social Democrats once self-confidently formulated the battle cry as the “Hesse front” – they saw their worst election result since 1946 this weekend.
The vague hope that its top candidate Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel could become the new prime minister with the help of a red-red-green coalition, was dashed. With a drop of about ten percent, the crisis continues for the SPD.
The Greens continue their rise with their empty feel-good policies. Its leading candidate Tarek Al-Wazir, the Hessian Minister of Economic Affairs and Transport, clearly appealed to the establishment with his hollow rhetoric following a debate on sex education lessons in a Baden-Württemberg elementary school syllabus.
Much simpler put, says pundit Birgit Kelle, “those who do not like Merkel’s open borders have not elected the CSU but the Greens, against the AfD or the FDP.”
Kelle says the demands of the Greens have constantly been fulfilled by the CSU anyway. “If the Greens demand the nuclear phase-out, the CDU implements it. The German peace movement do not have to go out on Easter and certainly do not have to refuse military service, because the CDU has abolished conscription, and ‘peace without weapons’ has arrived thanks to Ursula von der Leyen’s strategy to secure a lack of operational readiness of the troops.”
The Chancellor does the lobby work of rainbow-colored, anti-imperialist enemies of the state which is subsidized by state money to move against the right, Kelle explains.
The seat of Germany’s financial centre, Frankfurt, is in the wealthy state of Hesse, suggesting that not only poor jobless voters are flocking to the AfD, as opponents have tried to suggest.
Merkel downplayed the significance of the regional vote in Hesse, claiming that “not every regional election can be stylised into a little national election”. But the BBC reported that many Germans are calling this a schicksalswahl, or vote of destiny.
The disastrous result for either or both establishment coalition partners could further destabilise the national government in Berlin.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, suggested as much when she told the Independent that the national government must act quickly to “show we are solving the problems that really move people”.