Elections in Saxony and Brandenburg. Tough Victory for CDU and SPD
After the elections in Brandenburg and Saxony, the SPD and CDU remain the strongest groups in Germany’s regional parliaments, winning with 26.2% and 32.1% of the votes, respectively. However, both parties noted an overall fall in support. Two groupings have reasons to be satisfied: Alternative for Germany (AfD) because it is now the second political force in both Landtags, and the Greens, for whom the vote was the best in its history of national elections in Brandenburg and Saxony. The vote will lead to the reconstruction of local government coalitions and is another signal of the weakening position of the two largest groupings in the German political scene at the federal level.

Which parties will form governments in Brandenburg and Saxony?

The previous government coalitions of SPD and Die Linke in Brandenburg and CDU and SPD in Saxony have no chance of continuation. In Brandenburg, the Greens joining the government seems most likely. Building a coalition will be more difficult in Saxony. Before the election, that state’s prime minister from the CDU, Michael Kretschmer, ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with AfD or Die Linke or a minority government. Therefore, the remaining scenario is constructing a government of the Christian Democrats along with SPD and the Greens, an option that was successfully tested in Saxony-Anhalt after the 2016 election when the victorious CDU also ruled out a coalition with the AfD.

What contributed to the increase in support for AfD?

Although AfD did not win, it recorded the largest increase among all the groups compared to previous federal elections: in Brandenburg, by 11.3 percentage points (p.p.), and in Saxony by 17.8 p.p. It achieved this result by creating an image for itself as a protest party against mainstream groups and framing a firm rejection of the government’s asylum and migration policy. The AfD also gained support thanks to criticism of the effects of unification and economic policy towards the eastern states (one of the main topics was the issue of the closure of mines and coal power plants in, among others, Brandenburg and Saxony). The election result clearly strengthened the extreme forces within the party, the so-called “Wing” directed, among others by Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz, party leaders in Thuringia and Brandenburg.

What will the results affect Germany’s political scene at the federal level?

The election results confirmed AfD’s strong position in the east of the country, currently the second force in four of the five states of the former GDR. The challenge for AfD will be to create an offer that repeats the success in Brandenburg and Saxony in the west of the country. The results also indicate that the Greens, so far the strongest in the west, have a chance to win over voters in the east of Germany and, therefore, gain more votes at the federal level. The results will not lead to a dissolution of the grand coalition—the number of votes gained by the SPD is unlikely to prompt the party to leave the government formed with the CDU/CSU. This is supported by the prospect of co-governance in both states and the forthcoming election of the party leadership. The CDU victory in Saxony also postpones the debate on the further leadership of Christian Democrats by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

How will the elections affect relations with Poland?

Considering the possible future coalitions and programmes of their parties, it can be expected that the electoral result will not negatively affect the development of regional cooperation. In the long run, however, the high popularity of AfD in the border areas is worrying as the party’s representatives have often relativized Germany’s responsibility for crimes committed during World War II and support rapprochement in relations with Russia. The dissemination of such stances creates new conflict areas and may hinder cooperation between local communities. In the election programme, the party also called for the introduction of border controls, which could negatively affect not only the development of the western voivodships but also impede exchange with Poland’s largest trading partner.