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19th Aug 2022

Far-right AfD scores big in east German elections

  • In the regional state elections in Saxony and Brandenburg both coalitions lose their majority, as AfD wins respectively 27.8 and 23.5 percent of the votes (Photo: strassenstriche.net)

The conservative CDU and socialist SPD reacted with relief when the results of the regional elections in Saxony and Brandenburg came in on Sunday night (1 September).

In both states in former East Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) did not succeed in becoming the biggest party, contrary to earlier opinion polls.

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In Brandenburg, the SPD remained the biggest party with 26 percent of the vote. In Saxony, the CDU is still the leading party with 32.5 percent.

However, in both states the AfD surged dramatically and became the second-biggest party.

In Brandenburg, AfD gained 11.3 percent ending up with 23.5 percent of the votes. In Saxony, the party increased its votes by 18.1 percent, getting a result of 27.8 percent.

Far-right is there to stay

Exactly two years ago, Germany was in shock when the AfD made its entry in the Bundestag at the national elections, with no less then 90 seats.

It was the first time since 1953 that a far-right party succeeded in winning seats in the national parliament.

The fact that AfD won almost 22 percent of the votes in eastern Germany led to consternation.

Back then the party gained 27 percent in Saxony and 20 percent in Brandenburg.

On Sunday, the AfD not only confirmed its place in both states, it increased its score.

Compared to the regional state elections of five years ago, the result is even more impressive. Back then, AfD reached less then 10 percent in Saxony and 12 in Brandenburg.

Eastern discontent

The campaign of the AfD mainly focussed on the remaining frustrations in eastern Germany after the reunification of the country in 1990.

Today, thirty years later, the salaries and pensions in the east are still significantly lower than in western Germany.

In total some three million people left the east for the west, leaving many villages and cities underpopulated. As more women left the area than men, it is hard for young men to find a female partner.

Exit polls showed yesterday that AfD was by far the largest party in demographically-shrinking areas, and with the young and male electorate.

A poll from the German broadcaster ARD showed that 66 percent of the people of Saxony and no less than 78 percent of the AfD voters there described themselves as "second-class citizens".

Saxony is the most populated state of former East Germany, being home to cities like Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig.

Challenges ahead

In both states the ruling coalition lost its majority. In Brandenburg, the SPD ruled with the post-communist Left (Linke) during the last ten years.

As both parties lost heavily, the SPD has to look for a new coalition with three parties. Possibly the Greens will be that third party, having gained 10.7 percent of the votes.

In Saxony, the formation of the coalition might prove to be more difficult. The CDU ruled with the support of the SPD, but this combination lost its majority.

The conservative CDU of Saxony is not eager to take the Greens or the Left as a third partner. However, the party has announced that it will not cooperate with AfD.

Meanwhile, the AfD said it might push for a rerun of the elections in Saxony as they have not enough elected people to fill the seats.

The AfD won 38 seats but the state constitutional court found formal mistakes in the list and reduced the number of AfD candidates from 61 to 30.

"We said before the election that we would in any case take the matter to court, as far as the cutting of the list is concerned," Jörg Urban, the AfD's leader in Saxony, told the regional public broadcaster MDR.

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