Elections on Sunday in Bavaria are changing the German political landscape, right and left of the political spectrum.
The evening’s clear winners were the Greens that surged by 10% compared to the 2013 results.
From 8,5% in the state elections of 2013, exit polls gave them 19%; later on Sunday, it appeared they were just under 18% (17,8%). That means the Greens rather than the Social Democrats (SPD) are the bigger party of the left in Bavaria.
Embarrassingly, the SPD saw its share of the vote drop marginally into single digits (9,6%).
Of course, all eyes for weeks focused on the right of the political spectrum. Exit polls were disappointing for both the Free Voters regional protest party and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD). They both reached double-digits and they outperformed exit polls,
Free Voters secured 12% (25 seats) and the AfD 11,5% (24 seats).
That is impressive compared to the 4,3% AfD secured in 2013. It is slightly below their electoral influence in the federal elections of October 2017, when they got 12,4%.
Theoretically, that would mean the conservative anti-immigration group could pursue a place as a junior coalition partner in a conservative government. However, an alliance between CSU and AfD is a political taboo that could bring down the Federal government. And the CSU membership would be divided on the matter.
The incumbent Christian Social Union (CSU) has seen its electoral influence tumble from just under 48% in 2013 to 37,5% in 2018. At the start of the evening, exit polls gave them 34%. That means they will control between 74 and 83 seats in the 200-seat regional parliament.
Politically, the sister party to the Cristian Democrat Union (CDU) has little option but to try forming a government with the Greens.
This is not a challenge for the faint at heart. The Greens have a distinctly pro-immigration policy agenda, as opposed to the leader of the CSU and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
Since 2015, Seehofer has been among Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fiercest critics on immigration policy. This is only the third time since the end of the Second World War that the CSU fails to gain an electoral majority. His leadership is already being openly contested.
The result will also test Mrs Merkel’s leadership. Opinion polling suggests the Christian Democrats have seen their electoral influence erode to below 30%. They are facing continuous defeats and their federal narrative is weakening.