The far-left Die Linke won over far-right (AfD) on Sunday’s election in Germany, leaving the mainstream Christian Democrats (CDU), Greens, Liberals, and Social Democrats (SPD) behind. This is a landmark election result, which drew to the polls over 66% of the electorate, compared to just under 53% in 2014.
Securing 30%, Die Linke’s popular local leader Bodo Ramelow is likely to renew his hold to power, if only he can find a coalition partner. For the first time since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. His coalition with the Social Democrats and the Greens will not longer amount to a majority.
The landmark event of the Thuringian elections is the victory of far-right AfD, which secured a double-digit electoral score before but now leads the opposition. Securing a double-digit 23% is no longer a unique one-off event for the far-right. The AfD electoral influence climbed in both Saxony-Anhalt (23,5%) and Brandenburg (27,5%) has turned the far-right into a formidable power in East Germany. In one more state, the AfD leads the opposition while Germany’s traditional mainstream parties continue to slide in the polls.
Locally, the AfD more than doubled its electoral influence compared to 2014, which vindicates their campaign strategy. The party went from a protest movement against Eurozone bailouts to embrace an increasingly Eurosceptic, anti-Islam, anti-refugee, and recently anti-Green tone. There is also evidence of a resurgent anti-Semitic vein in the German far-right.
The AfD’s electoral success comes despite the recent neo-Nazi attack against a synagogue in Halle, for which the anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein blamed anti-Jewish sentiment trafficked by the AfD. The local Christian Democratic candidate, Mike Mohring, likened the local leader of the AfD Björn Höcke to a Nazi. This name-calling is not typical. However, the 47-year old Höcke is a history teacher considered far-right even among the ranks of his own party.
Höcke called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame” and called for a paradigm shift in Germany’s culture of remembrance of Nazi crimes. On Sunday evening, he told the crowd that this electoral triumph was “transition 2.0,” that is, a bold claim in this part of formerly Communist Germany. Speaking to the local Phoenix TV, AfD leader Alexander Gauland hailed Höcke as “the centre of the party” rather than its far-right.
The SPD was reduced to a single-digit 8%, down from 12,4% in 2014, which poses an existential question for the centre-left in Thuringia and a broader strategic question nationally. The Green secured just 5,5%, largely holding their ground, as did the liberal FDP (5%). All three would be required to form a government, but the latter are unlikely partners of the far-left. With just under 22% share of the vote, the CDU will not work with Die Linke and will not work with the AfD.
On Monday, the 1,7 million regions appears ungovernable.