Germany’s shaky ruling coalition faces yet another bloody nose in a regional election in Hesse on Sunday (28 October) as the latest polls suggest a replay of the Bavarian scenario, with the Greens registering strong gains and the far-right AfD entering the regional parliament.
According to the new figures released by polling institute Civey on Thursday, the conservatives from the CDU would reach 27%, followed by the Social Democrats (22%), the Greens (18.5%), AfD (13%), the Left (8%), and the liberals from the FDP (7.5%).
Compared to the results of the last regional elections in September 2013, that represents major losses for both the CDU and the SPD, while the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) would enter the last regional parliament where it so far has not gained a seat.
The new figures suggest a possible end of the state’s current CDU-Green coalition under the leadership of CDU state premier Volker Bouffier.
Five years ago, the CDU won 38,3%, the SPD 30,7%, the Greens 11,1%, the Left 5,2%, the FDP 5% and the AfD 4,1%.
A prosperous region, Hesse is home to the European Central Bank and the banking hub in Frankfurt am Main.
A Bavarian replay in Hesse
If the CDU-Green ruling alliance is ousted from power in Hesse, several new coalitions are possible and this could impact the federal government in Berlin as the German regions, else known as Länder, are represented in the Bundesrat, the legislative body that forms the second chamber of the German Parliament.
The poll shows that the Green leader in Hesse, Tarek Al-Wazir, son of a German and Yemenite, could theoretically become the next state premier and therefore build a political line with Winfried Kretschmann, the Green state premier of the region of Baden-Württemberg (south-west) since 2011.
A former SPD heartland, the Hesse region was also home to charismatic Green leaders Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
The latter, an icon of the Paris 1968 revolution, found refuge in Frankfurt after being expelled from France and continued to be politically active in Germany’s financial capital. Cohn-Bendit is now an open supporter of France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
Joschka Fischer was vice-chancellor and foreign minister in the cabinet of Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005), who made himself a name after, among other things, swearing under oath as Hesse’s first environmental minister wearing sneakers.
But the poll figures also make clear that the upcoming regional elections will have nationwide effects.
After the CSU debacle in Bavaria on 14 October, where Angela Merkel’s sister party lost its absolute majority for the first time in more than 50 years, controversial Interior minister and CSU-leader Horst Seehofer recently hinted at his resignation.
If Germany’s conservatives should effectively face another political debacle in Hesse, he could well step down. And at the same time, bring the unpopular grand coalition with the SPD, known as GroKo, to an end.
Berlin is taking this scenario seriously.
Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU leader in the Bundestag, has already warned the SPD against leaving the grand coalition should they do poorly in the Hesse election. “Fleeing one’s responsibility has never helped against the lack of popularity,” he told the German press.
Since it was officially appointed in March 2018, the ‘GroKo‘ has now become synonymous with permanent political disputes and political instability.
About 4.4 million voters are to vote on Sunday for the Hesse State Parliament. Most important political topics are school and education (30%), migration (26%) and affordable housing (23%).