The CSU is stable in Bavaria, the Greens are weakening. The ÖDP wants to take advantage of this – with pressure on old pain points.
Munich - Sometimes polls are deceiving. In Bavaria, this seems unlikely: If no political landslide happens, then Markus Söder, Hubert Aiwanger and their Spezi coalition will govern the Free State for another five years from autumn – and the Greens, who shot far up in voter favor in 2018, will at least receive a small damper.
What pleases the presumed majority of voters in the country is, of course, a suffering for many politicians. However, a small party that is quite prominent in the Free State is probably particularly driven: The ÖDP has already beaten the CSU several times with referendums. In the Bavarian election, she wants to achieve a respectable success – especially since leading heads of the party are shaking their heads about the CSU's handling of the "bee desire".
The ÖDP also has dissatisfied Greens in its sights. With a very daring strategy of frank words: The small party touches on Bavarian sacrilege. The imperative of economic growth. Or the desire for cheap schnitzel.
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"We are the ones who say something like that," explains Tobias Ruff, parliamentary group leader of the ÖDP/Munich list in the city council of the state capital, at the beginning of May on an editorial visit to Merkur.de: "Even if it goes completely uncomfortably against the grain." MEP Manuela Ripa adds a clarification: "Green growth is also growth," she stresses. This means that it is not a magic formula for climate, nature and species protection. "We have to move away from the old way of thinking and instead think in cycles," she demands.
This goes against the new, pragmatic Greens in the traffic light coalition. And this is no coincidence: "Something is now crumbling away from the Greens," says Ruff. "It's about people who switch from the green side to the bourgeois camp and back. We are in the middle. And it would be stupid if we didn't make an effort to attract these voters."
The ÖDP and its allies still see some catching up to do in Markus Söder's implementation of the bee request. © Editing: Imago/Michael Eichhammer/Wolfgang Maria Weber/fn
Beyond the Union and the Greens, the ÖDP positions itself, for example, on the subject of nutrition: Ripa advocates a ban on candy advertising for children. The fact that Söder is railing against the proposal of Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) raises questions: "Is he the father of the country for the children, or for the industry?" After all, it's not about a chocolate ban, but about an advertising end for foods that are too sugary.
But the ÖDP is also calling for more: a husbandry label in the supermarket that is not based on discounter suggestions – and a realistic price for meat. Another question from the ÖDP: "Why is unhealthy food", with its negative consequences for animals and the environment, for example in mass farming, "cheap and healthy expensive?", Ripa wonders. For example, VAT on fruit and vegetables could be reduced. Or start with agricultural subsidies. The money for this comes from the taxpayers – "and whoever pays, creates".
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But can electoral success be achieved with fundamental criticism at a time when many people fear for prosperity in the face of the Ukraine war and global economic shifts? Ruff cites an example from the lives of the people of Munich: the living environment there has become cramped and expensive. The Free State and the city are attracting more and more trade, industry and lighthouse projects, Ruff complains - and refers to the new research center in Martinsried and branches of large tech companies.
Every new large district also contains new jobs on a large scale, but Munich already has a mismatch between jobs and housing, he warns. This makes the city a destination for 400,000 commuters a day, while Bavaria's medium-sized cities or even entire European regions in the periphery are left out in the cold. Ruff is also worried about the drinking water reservoir of Munich's gravel plain.
Söder's reaction to "Save the bees": ÖDP wants to have results evaluated - also from its own fund
Most recently, the party was already thinking of a Bavaria-wide referendum "Save our groundwater". Which would address what is probably the most prominent field of action of the ÖDP: referendums at the Bavarian level. The abolition of the former second chamber of the Bavarian parliament – the Senate – the smoking ban and the nature conservation petition "Save the bees" are completely or at least partly on the account of the party. No one except the ÖDP has succeeded in enforcing a law against the CSU in Bavaria, says Ruff. Not even the SPD and the Greens.
Manuela Ripa and Tobias Ruff during an interview in the Merkur.de editorial office. © Florian naumann
In their greater success of recent times, the successful referendum "Save the bees", Ruff sees the Bavarian state government around Söder as still indebted. The ÖDP and the former Bee Alliance see many points not yet redeemed. The targeted organic quota of 30 percent in Bavarian agriculture, for example, is "not at all" on the way. Also because the Free State does not deliver on the state arable land. At the same time, the topic of orchards had been "tricked" and the targeted biotope network was still far behind expectations.
In view of successes in watercourse margins and in the management of forests by the state forests, Ruff draws a "mixed balance". The ÖDP and its allies now want to exert pressure with an expert opinion, an evaluation of what has been achieved so far, by the University of Hohenheim. This is paid for from the party's own coffers, Ruff emphasizes: "Even if it hurts us financially very much."
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But what is the goal in the Bavarian election? The party had reached 1.6 percent in 2018 – a good value compared to the performance in other federal states. But also 0.4 percentage points less than in 2013. And this time, too, even larger parties are worried about moving into the Maximilianeum. Polls recently saw the FDP on a knife's edge.
"We want to move into an area where we are interesting," Ruff explains. "We also want to grow," he adds. Regardless of the five percent mark, a good result is important: "This is also a financial question," says the Munich native. Each vote brings a reimbursement of campaign expenses. And the ÖDP voluntarily renounces donations from industry, as the two politicians emphasize. An attitude they share with the Free Voters, for example.
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But there are not only concerns in Bavaria: In the European Parliament, where the ÖDP is currently represented with one percent of the vote and Ripa's mandate, there is a threat of a percentage hurdle. The only question is actually the timing – before or after the 2024 European elections. On 3 May, the EU Parliament voted in favour of a new electoral reform with a threshold clause. "The major parties really want that," Ripa had warned Merkur.de shortly before. In fact, the Bundestag is still working on an EU requirement from 2018. Among other things, it provides for the introduction of a hurdle of at least two percent. The traffic light factions, but also the Union, now want to get down to business.
Ripa has another proposal for the right to vote: a substitute vote. Every voter can use it to distribute a second cross if his or her first election does not come to parliament. "This would allow people to decide freely," she emphasizes, without worrying about throwing away the vote with a cross for a small party. Of course, this could also benefit the ÖDP. But the proposal may not be completely unrealistic. In the struggle for the reduction of the size of the Bundestag and the future of the first votes, the traffic light coalition had in the meantime finally brought the "substitute vote" into the field.