Little by little, election after election the political map of Germany is redrawing. For many years now, the country has abandoned the CDU-SPD bipartisanship that characterized the first decades of the Bundesrepublik. But, in spite of this, both Christian Democrats and Social Democrats had managed to maintain control of the system. With a few exceptions, Die Grünen, the liberals and communists of Die Linke were nothing more than condiments of a stew that cooked and served the two great historical formations.
That is what is gradually being diluted in Germany. The results in Bavaria last month are one more nail in the coffin of the old bipartisan system. Only 15 years ago, in times of the incombustible Edmund Stoiber, the CSU obtained in Bavaria 60% of the votes. At that time eight out of ten Bavarians voted one of the two major parties and only the Greens managed to sneak into the Landtag, but with a handful of insignificant deputies.
Today there are six parties in this regional parliament and the CSU has to settle for 37%. And thanking it could have been much worse had AfD presented a candidate with a hook. Although the truth is that the candidates were not very well armed. The Christian Democrats presented the current minister-president of the region, a guy named Markus Söder, who arrived there in pure carom when the previous president, Horst Seehofer, was taken by Merkel to Berlin last March as interior minister.
It could be said that Seehofer, who is an old dog (who has been in the Bundestag since 1980), smelled the toast a long way and put dirt in the middle. He didn’t have to be a lynx to see it. Of the great German discontent the Bavarians are the champions of that discontent.
Bavaria is an extraordinarily prosperous “Land”. So that we can get an idea, its GDP is four times Hungary’s and resembles the Netherlands’. If it were an independent country it would be among the main economies of Europe. The Bavarian industry is very sophisticated and of high added value, an authentic machine to innovate and export.
With a GDP per capita that doubles that of regions such as Mecklenburg or neighboring Thuringia, what happens to all the rich regions of Europe is what happens to Bavaria: there is a widespread feeling of spoliation by other parts of the country. A feeling that has increased in recent years.
It is no coincidence that the electoral slogan of the rightwing AfD in these elections was “Our money for our people”. With such a direct message they have gotten 22 deputies in the Landtag and have taken 10% of the votes. It is a polyvalent motto. The same goes for the Bavarians who are fed up with sending funds to the dilapidated states of the former GDR, than for those who cry out against immigration.
Immigration has been the star theme of the elections. The wave of Syrian refugees in the summer of 2015 entered Bavaria, so it is still a very sensitive issue. But even so, the AfD has managed to be placed on the top of the charts, which would prove that the Bavarians are angry, but not desperate. What the CSU has lost has largely gone to the FDP and to a regional formation called Freie Wähler (Free Voters), both liberal.
Then the strategy of making immigration the only problem in Bavaria has not worked. Or at least it has not entirely worked. What this strategy has done is putting the German left on the ropes once again. The Greens and the SPD add up to a measly 28.4% of the votes, not even a third has taken a region that was always right-wing, but never before as right as now.
Because if the CSU has received a setback it has not been lesser than the one from the SPD, which has gone from second to fifth place and has seen with bitterness how it lost half of its seats. The Social Democrats are at a crossroads. Either they continue to support Merkel in the government and contemplate how their party dissolves, or break with the chancellor, causing a political crisis of great magnitude followed by an early electoral call.
It is not an easy call. On the 28th there will be regional elections in Hesse. Maybe we have to wait for that moment for them to make up their minds. With great difficulty they will be able to hold another punch like the one of Bavaria. Neither them nor their Berlin partners. They both carry it raw. And everything indicates that the nightmare has only begun.
- En español: El puñetazo bávaro
* Traducción: Rainer Hernández Tió