The German state of Saxony-Anhalt is holding regional elections this Sunday in which a tough fight is expected between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party. The polls give a slight advantage to the Christian Democrat Reiner Haseloff, who announced that he will not agree with the extreme right. A defeat for the CDU would raise doubts about its chances in the September generals.
At 6:00 a.m. local time, the polling stations opened in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, in eastern Germany. This Sunday will be the last major electoral appointment in the Teutonic country before the general elections in September, the first without the conservative Angela Merkel as a candidate for more than 15 years.
Around 1.8 million citizens are called to the polls in elections that will determine whether the conservative Reiner Haseloff, candidate for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will be reelected for his third and, according to the election campaign, his last mandate at the head of the Land.
Haseloff has led the region since 2011 in a coalition that the German daily ‘Der Spiegel’ describes as a “necessity.” The so-called “Kenya” alliance (due to the coincidence of the colors of the parties that make it up with the flag of that country) was formed in 2016 by the CDU, the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and the Greens with the main objective of ending with the strength of the AFD (Alternative for Germany), a far-right party that obtained 24.3% of the votes.
However, according to data from the latest polls, the coalition had failed in its purpose. All polls give the CDU the winner. Some, such as the one broadcast by German public television ZDF, clearly place them ahead with 30% voting intention. However, another poll published by the weekly ‘Der Spiegel’ places the difference at a single percentage point.
Turning point for Armin Laschet
These elections will also play an important role within the CDU itself, which has lived through a turbulent few months after Angela Merkel’s announcement to leave the party leadership and not run for a new term.
In the internal elections Armin Laschet, of moderate profile and current Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected the new party president and candidate for the elections. However, he has been blamed for a lack of charisma and leadership, especially from the most conservative wing of the party, which even raises the right-wing of the Union to confront the AFD.
During this campaign, Laschet has made it clear that the CDU will not agree with the extreme right, a red line of German politics that some party members in the region were willing to cross. Laschet stated bluntly that, if any member raises it, “they can leave the CDU.” But a loss to AFD could give the right wing more power.
Both Laschet and Haseloff have made it clear that they will not agree with the party further to the left of the German political spectrum, Die Linke (The Left), so that the government options could go through a repetition of the current coalition. There is also the option of the SPD being left out, replaced by the Liberals.
The result that Los Verdes can get is also of great importance. Several polls give them as possible winners of the general elections, but for this they must achieve good results in the eastern states, those belonging to the former German Democratic Republic, which belonged to the communist bloc, where their influence is much less than in the United States. rest of the country.
The east-west divide is narrowing, but still present
A reality is still very present in Germany more than 30 years after its reunification: the eastern states of the country, those that made up the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) of the Soviet bloc, and of which Saxony-Anhalt is part, remain poorer than the rest of the federal states.
According to data from the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), the average salary in these states is 20.28 euros per hour compared to 26.6 in the rest of the states. In Saxony-Anhalt, moreover, there is a shortage of teachers and doctors, issues on which the campaigns of most of the parties have turned. AFD was able to work on the discontent that these issues have created.
Born in Berlin in 2013 with a Eurosceptic speech, she achieved her first successes in 2014 in the regions of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, all of them regions of eastern Germany. On the back of the so-called “refugee crisis”, the AFD was adding support with an Islamophobic and anti-immigration discourse.
Coincidentally, however, the eastern states have the least immigration in the entire country. According to data from Destatis, the average number of migrants in Germany stands at 13.7%. In Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, for example, only 5.5% of the population is foreign. The extreme right has known how to play with the discourse of fear.
At times the AFD has been accused of being close to neo-Nazi postulates for its ultra-nationalist discourse. They deny it, although many of their members have made openly racist and xenophobic statements. If they win in Saxony-Anhalt, they would cause an earthquake in German politics.
The CDU, the country’s main party in recent years, is weak. The SPD is far from its best moments and both Liberals and Die Linke remain in low numbers. The Greens are the game on the rise in Germany.
They could govern with anyone, except with the extreme right, but for this they also need a strong CDU and without doubts. September starts this Sunday in Germany.
With EFE and local media.