Centre-right parties win in key German state elections

Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD) and its governing coalition partners, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), recorded losses, with the SPD seeing its worst result yet in Hesse, according to projections from broadcasters ZDF and ARD


Germany’s centre-right sister parties CDU and CSU have won two state elections in the southern German states of Bavaria and Hesse, while parties from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing performed poorly, according to initial results, writes German news agency DPA.

Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) and its governing coalition partners, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), recorded losses, with the SPD seeing its worst result yet in Hesse, according to projections from broadcasters ZDF and ARD.

Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made gains – surging to second place in Hesse and third in Bavaria.

Hesse, home of the financial centre Frankfurt, and Bavaria, the country’s biggest state and home of blue-chip firms like Siemens and BMW, are among Germany’s wealthiest states.

The elections in the two states, which together account for about a quarter of Germany’s total population, were seen as an important test of sentiment towards Germany’s coalition government.

In Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU) led by state premier Markus Söder came in at 37%, a one percentage point drop. This is the worst result for the party since 1950.

The co-ruling Free Voters – a regional conservative-libertarian party – improved to 15.9% from 11.6% in 2018.

The Greens, previously the largest opposition party in Bavaria, dropped 3.2% to 14.4%, while the AfD improved significantly to 14.8% compared to 10.2% in 2018.

Scholz’s SPD party again only managed a single-digit result in Bavaria with 8.3%, while the FDP failed to clear the 5% hurdle to re-enter the state parliament with 3%, a 2.1 percentage point drop.

In Hesse, state premier Boris Rhein’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) made significant gains, reaching 34.9% according to forecasts, compared to 27% in 2018.

The Greens, the previous coalition partner, slipped to 15.2% from 19.8%. The SPD, with federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as its top candidate, dropped to 15.6%, below its historical 2018 low of 19.8%, despite Hesse being a former stronghold for the party.

The AfD also made gains in Hesse, coming in at 17.2% compared to 13.1% in 2018.

According to forecasts, The Left, the hard-left party previously represented in the Hessian state parliament, failed to meet the threshold with 3.3%, while the FDP is set to re-enter with 5%.

The state election results reflect Scholz’s governing coalition’s crash in the polls – from 52% in the national parliamentary elections in 2021 to less than 38% now. The SPD was hit particularly hard.

Faeser expressed her deep disappointment at her party’s losses.

“We had a lot of headwind, we saw it in the polls. That’s why it’s not all that surprising, but still very disappointing,” the interior minister said on Sunday evening, referring to her party’s weak results.

SPD Secretary General Kevin Kühnert admitted that the results were also a signal to Berlin. One is not “deaf and blind,” he said.

“There is also a message for us in this election result.”

Missing results from two constituencies in Hesse delayed the announcement of the official provisional results of the state’s elections. It was initially unclear what caused the delay of up to 2,000 votes being tallied.

In both states, the AfD came in second, a clear sign of the rise of the far right across the country – not just in the east.

Such gains in relatively prosperous parts of former West Germany give the AfD renewed momentum. The party has long drawn outsized support from the former communist East Germany, but the latest results confirm that the AfD’s rising strength is a nationwide phenomenon.

All other parties have vowed to keep the AfD out of government in either state, maintaining a nationwide “firewall” against the far-right party, widely viewed as beyond the mainstream.

Meanwhile, CDU leader Friedrich Merz congratulated state premiers Söder and Rhein on their election results in Bavaria and Hesse, while calling on his party to remain united.

In a post on the X platform on Sunday evening, Merz wrote to Rhein of a “sensational result. This shows one thing above all: Unity and clear positions pay off.”

Merz said if this continues, then the federal government’s ruling coalition “chaos will be over by the 2025 federal election at the latest.”

He dropped the reference to the Berlin government in congratulating Bavaria’s Söder.

“The voters in Bavaria have once again given the CSU a very clear mandate to govern, and the successful conservative coalition can be continued.”

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