The Austrian view of the Bavarian election

Sebastian Kurz and Horst Seehofer at a conference in Berlin in July. [Alexander Becher/ epa]

Bavaria has voted. In neighbouring Austria, the result of this regional election is seen as a confirmation of the political course taken in Austria after its own national elections last year. EURACTIV Germany reports.

All the comments about the election in Bavaria agree on one thing: the period of “quasi-monarchy” is now also over in the Free State of Bavaria and political normality, in other words, pluralism, has returned.

The causes of the CSU’s hefty election defeat can be described with a simple saying: If two people are arguing, then it is the third who is pleased. However, in this instance, there were more than just three parties involved.

Voters penalised the CSU’s political style of the past months because they had had enough of its quarrels, initially within the Bavarian party itself and then with Angela Merkel’s CDU.

On this occasion, the Greens were clearly the third person who was laughing. Their young leading double act signaled exactly what many Bavarians expect: change. The ÖVP (the Austrian People’s Party) under Sebastian Kurz in Austria also achieved its success carrying the same message a year ago.

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However, political commentators in Austria see the collapse of the CSU’s omnipotence not only as a purely Bavarian matter but also one which extends far beyond Germany and Angela Merkel, stating that social democracy is on the floor.

But the rug is also being pulled from under the feet of so-called Volksparteien (“mass parties”) if they are unable to see the writing on the wall in time.

Governing parties are losing, even when things are going well. Bavaria has the best economic data and growth, virtually full employment and thriving businesses – and voters are still telling those who have set the political course to leave. This is especially true when politicians and politics have lost touch.

Meanwhile, the result is seen as ambivalent for Chancellor Merkel, since a trimmed CSU will continue to drain the CDU-CSU union and the ruling coalition. The latter seems to be in freefall, which leads to a government on standby, exposed to strong centrifugal forces.

Voters have almost turned the SPD into a protected species and there is panic in their camp. The thrust of the newspapers is that there could be a quick end to the unloved and lame coalition in Berlin.

In two weeks at the latest, after the regional election in Hesse, where the CDU rules with the Greens, things could really get rolling.

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