Status: 27.09.2023, 12:25 p.m.
Election posters of the top candidates Boris Rhein (CDU), Nancy Faeser (SPD) and Tarek Al-Wazir (Alliance 90/The Greens): Who will win the race in Hesse? © Arne Dedert/dpa
Whether the frustration with government policy will also be reflected in election results will become clear on October 8 in Hesse and Bavaria. In terms of federal policy, however, there is much more at stake.
What does the Bavarian election mean for the CDU/CSU's candidacy for chancellor? Does Chancellor Olaf Scholz have to reshuffle his cabinet after the Hesse election? And will the traffic light be punished at the halfway point of the election period - in favor of the AfD?
The two state elections in two of Germany's most populous states on October 8 have great potential to shake up federal politics.
Mid-term elections: Is it rattling again in the traffic lights?
It's been two years since the 2021 federal election, and the situation of the traffic light government in the polls at the halfway point of the legislative period could hardly be worse. In 2021, the SPD, Greens and FDP together still had a whopping majority of 52 percent of the votes.
In the meantime, they have plummeted to less than 38 percent on average among the major polling institutes. The state elections will now show whether the bad image of the coalition is also reflected in election results.
Should there be significant losses for the traffic light parties, the question arises: Will this once again cause the coalition in Berlin to stagger?
The federal FDP has already made itself air in the coalition after earlier election defeats in the states. In Hesse, it is now scratching the five percent hurdle, in Bavaria it is below it according to the latest polls. In both countries, the Liberals are in danger of being thrown out of the state parliaments.
But nervousness is also growing in the SPD. In Bavaria, a single-digit result is again threatened. And in Hesse, the party with its top candidate, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, is far behind the CDU.
Scholz's K-question: Will the cabinet remain, what is it like?
The result of Faeser and her SPD will also determine whether Scholz can continue with his cabinet in the same line-up as before. Should the 53-year-old become prime minister, Scholz will have to look for a new interior minister. If she loses the election, she will remain in Berlin.
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Faeser does not want to return to the opposition bench in the state parliament, where she sat for almost two decades between 2003 and 2021. Critics consider this to be inconsistent. She herself points out that almost 30 years ago there was a Federal Minister of the Interior of the CDU who handled it in the same way: Manfred Kanther made the CDU the strongest party in 1995, but nevertheless did not become Prime Minister and remained Minister of the Interior in Berlin.
Faeser would prefer to lead Hesse in a traffic light coalition with the Greens and FDP. The first prerequisite for this, however, would be that the Liberals make it back into parliament in Wiesbaden. And even if that happens, the chances are not particularly good for Faeser.
In the latest election poll, Prime Minister Boris Rhein's CDU is clearly ahead with 31 percent. In mid-September, the SPD ranked second in the "Hessentrend" by Infratest-dimap on behalf of Hessischer Rundfunk (hr) with 18 percent, ahead of the AfD and the Greens with 17 percent each.
K-Question of the Union: Who will be the candidate for chancellor?
In the CDU/CSU, many see the outcome of the Bavarian election as an important intermediate step in the selection of the next chancellor candidate for the 2025 Bundestag election. In the CDU and the CSU, however, many expect that the 56-year-old will still throw his hat into the ring again, at least if he can calculate a realistic chance of the office.
The choice of Chancellor Scholz's challenger is likely to take place in the Union in almost exactly one year, in the fall of 2024 - after the eastern elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, which are also important for this. Nominally, the leader of the opposition in the Bundestag, CDU leader Friedrich Merz, has the best chances.
However, if Söder gets a result in Bavaria that clearly stands out from the CDU election results in the other state elections, this could lead to calls for him, as was the case before the last federal election. In the current polls, however, Söder's CSU lags behind its own expectations with values of around 36 percent, as well as the disappointing result of 2018 for the CSU (37.2 percent).
In the end, however, it can also happen that neither Merz nor Söder get a chance in the chancellor candidacy. In the event that the two incumbent party leaders do not agree or lose support due to election failures, North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU), for example, is considered a potential candidate. There is only one thing the Union wants to prevent in any case, an open power struggle for the candidacy as before the last Bundestag election.
How strong will the AfD be?
Last but not least, from Berlin's point of view in Hesse and Bavaria, it will be a question of whether the AfD can convert its soaring popularity in the polls into significant gains in elections. In Bavaria, it was recently between 12 and 14 percent, in the latest survey in Hesse at 17 percent.
For weeks now, the strength of the right-wing party has determined the political debate to a large extent. The elections in Hesse and Bavaria could now give a foretaste of the coming year with the state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. In all three countries, the AfD is now far ahead in polls at more than 30 percent. And before that, there will be a super election day on June 9 with the European elections and local elections in nine countries. Dpa