SPD demands consequences for German "grand coalition" after disastrous Bavaria result

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-15 20:05:11|Editor: Lu Hui
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German Christian Social Union's candidate and Bavarian governor Markus Soeder (R, Front) delivers a speech after the initial forecast at the Maximilianeum in Munich, Germany, on Oct. 14, 2018. The Christian Social Union (CSU), one of the three ruling parties in Germany, suffered great loss Sunday in the state election in Bavaria, according to the initial forecast by the public broadcasters ARD and ZDF. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)

BERLIN, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- The German Social Democrats (SPD) have demanded consequences for Germany's ruling "grand coalition" on Monday after the parties participating in the federal government slumped to historical lows in Bavarian regional elections.

"I am certain that we must draw consequences from it", SPD secretary general Lars Klingbeil told the public broadcaster ARD. Klingbeil added that the first step in response to the electoral outcome was a "new style of governing in Berlin" to make up for lost trust among voters.

Kevin Kuehnert, the head of the SPD youth organization (Juso) similarly warned that it would be a "dangerous mistake" to return to business as usual after the closely-watched ballot in Bavaria. Speaking to the newspaper Rheinische Post, Kuehnert argued that his party now had two options left in chancellor Angela Merkel's (CDU) fourth governing cabinet: "Either we try to bring the coalition partners back to reason. Or we leave."

The comments were made in response to the election of a new state assembly in Bavaria on Sunday in which the Christian Social Union (CSU), the conservative sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as well as the SPD were severely punished by voters.

Having traditionally ruled the wealthy South Eastern state with an absolute majority, the CSU only secured 37.2 percent of the vote and must now form a coalition in order to remain in power in Munich. The SPD voter share collapsed to 9.7 percent (minus 10.9 percentage points). It was the worst ever Bavarian result for both "grand coalition" parties and the worst outcome for the SPD in its entire post-war history.

By contrast, the Green party (Gruene) celebrated an unprecedented level of electoral support for the left-environmental party with 17.5 percent (plus 9 percentage points). "We are clearly the election winners", Greens parliamentary faction leader Katrin Goering-Eckhardt told press.

The Greens more than doubled their votes compared to the last state elections and came second in the regional poll as the main beneficiary of the electoral earthquake in Bavaria. They were followed by the Free Voters, an independent group focusing on local policy issues, in third place with 11.6 percent (plus 2.6 percentage points) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) which entered the regional assembly for the first time in fourth place with 10.2 percent.

The CSU reportedly favors forming an alliance with the Free Voters for which there would be a sufficient legislative majority. Hubert Aiwanger, the leader of the Free Voters, has already began to make concrete demands. "Three ministries will probably be realistic", Aiwanger told the radio station Bayern 2.

In any case, the CSU is highly likely to nominate the governor of Bavaria once again - a position which it has occupied continuously since 1945. However, the party's relatively poor performance has also fueled media speculation that CSU leader and federal interior minister Horst Seehofer could be forced to step down.

Seehofer has clashed repeatedly with Merkel over asylum and migration during past months, and that is widely seen by Germans as a key source of cabinet infighting in the federal government according to several recent opinion polls.

In the latest "Deutschlandtrend" survey published shortly before the Bavarian vote, he was ranked the least popular member of the federal government with an approval rating of 28 percent.

Speaking to Xinhua on Monday, Michael Broening, a policy expert at the Berlin-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), said that the Bavarian outcome was a "warning sign" for Berlin that membership of the "grand coalition" currently comes at a high price.

"In the result, the middle was weakened to the extent to which the fringes were strengthened. The clear winners are the movements which are not implicated in the "grand coalition" and could offer a supposed alternative to the Status Quo", Broening explained.

For the FES expert, the election underscored "two mega trends" of societal polarization and fragmentation in Germany with a high voter turnout (72 percent) leading to a record number of political factions being represented in the Bavarian assembly. "As a result, Bavaria is as politically polarized and fragmented today as it has rarely been before. Just like the rest of the country."