Status: 22.09.2023, 06:35 a.m.
AfD federal spokeswoman Alice Weidel sees a "real chance" in eastern Germany to "co-create" a state government. © Carsten Koall/dpa
A year passes quickly: In September 2024, new state parliaments will be elected in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia. According to the current mood, the AfD could win all three elections. But what then?
Berlin – It was only a few weeks ago that Katrin Göring-Eckardt tried her hand at becoming a psychologist. Many East Germans were caught up in the "glorification of dictatorship," the vice president of the Bundestag said in an interview. Maybe "because someone else had to solve everything for them there." The 57-year-old herself comes from Thuringia. Some of the people there "just want a strong leader. It tells you where you're going, and what you can sort yourself behind."
AfD: Soon at the helm in the East?
Since Göring-Eckardt's interview, the AfD's poll numbers in the east have risen significantly. In a year's time, elections will be held in Brandenburg. Already on September 1, 2024 in Saxony and Thuringia. In all three countries, the AfD was recently ahead with more than 30 percent. But what happens if the party, which is classified by the domestic intelligence service as a right-wing extremist suspected case, really wins state elections for the first time?
There is a "real chance" of "forming a state government" in eastern Germany and "getting to the helm," says AfD leader Alice Weidel. The Mainz political scientist Jürgen Falter sees it differently. For a government majority, Weidel's party would need another partner as a partner. Falter rules this out: "As things stand today and for the foreseeable future, the AfD will not be included in any coalition in any of the three federal states. None of the other parties can or will afford that."
Falter also does not expect the AfD to get as many votes in the three state elections next year as the polls suggest today. Among the respondents, many probably did not go to the polls at all or only vented their current displeasure.
Political scientists: AfD government participation possible under "extreme conditions"
But there are other scenarios as well. "Under extreme conditions, the AfD may well participate in government," says Freiburg political scientist Uwe Wagschal. Should several parties such as the Greens, FDP and SPD fail at the five percent hurdle (in polls in Saxony they are currently at five to seven percent) and at the same time the CDU (most recently 29) and the Left (9) together win fewer seats than the AfD (35), then they could not prevent the election of an AfD prime minister in the state parliament.
Wagschal refers to the state constitutions: If a proposed candidate for the office does not achieve an absolute majority, the head of government can also be elected with a simple majority in subsequent ballots: Whoever gets the most votes is then prime minister. Theoretically, in such an "absolute extreme case," as Wagschal calls it, an AfD minority government would be possible. However, the latter would have to look for majorities again and again for laws.
The reverse version is also possible: If other parties together win more seats than the AfD and join forces, they too could form a minority government without an absolute majority. But it's getting harder and harder. Since the CDU excludes the Left Party as a coalition partner, a coalition can only be formed from the four parties CDU, SPD, Greens and FDP. At least as things stand today.
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The CDU and its red line
For a long time, however, debates have been underway as to whether the strategy must also be changed vis-à-vis the AfD. Andreas Rödder, chairman of the CDU's Basic Values Commission, is open to CDU minority governments in the east, even if they are occasionally supported by the AfD – which would then at least indirectly co-govern. Top CDU politicians immediately rejected the idea. The historian Rödder, on the other hand, told the "Stern": "It would only be problematic if the CDU were to be officially tolerated by the AfD and would enter into agreements for it. That would be a red line."
But maybe it will turn out quite differently. Sahra Wagenknecht could still shake things up. Should the prominent left-wing politician found a new party – the decision will be made by the end of the year – it is likely to cost the AfD many votes.
A year may pass quickly. But a lot can still happen.