In two weeks, Bavarians will go to the polls, in a closely watched election expected to show a never-before-seen downfall of the CSU and a never-before-seen rise of the Bavarian Greens. Will the unthinkable become reality: a coalition between the two?
Katharina Schulze (33) and Ludwig Hartmann (40) are the co-leaders of the Bavarian Green Party and the engine behind a fairly unexpected political reshuffle, with strong disruptive potential at national level.
According to the latest polls, the Greens are up to 18%, doubling their scores from five years ago. And this makes them the second largest party behind the CSU. This has never been seen before in deeply conservative, Christian Bavaria.
On the other hand, the CSU – usually described as the ‘sister party’ of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats – is expected to reach between 34 and 36%. That is a real political sensation for a party that has dominated Germany’s largest region like no other since the end of World War Two.
With a stable 14-15%, far-right AfD has risen to the position of the third most influential party in Bavaria, while the Social Democrats from the SPD lag far behind with an embarrassing 11 to 13%.
Why is that? For one thing, the public knows what the Greens stand for: they are deeply pro-European, open to migration, in favour of gender-equality, LGBT, and, of course, the protection of the environment and climate.
Their position is clear, and the words from the two co-leaders are even clearer.
“We are saying: dying in the Mediterranean sea must stop. And we are also saying: The criminalisation of rescuers must stop. They are heroes, not criminals.”
“The fact that we are doing so well economically and culturally is because we have always put a united Europe at the forefront and we Greens will defend that.”
“We denounce what the AfD stands for and when it gets too far on issues such as sexism, racism and discrimination, we show a sharp edge.”
In numerous interviews Schulze and Hartmann have already given, they explained that these ‘sharp edges’ are the reason they are getting more and more popular.
They have seen Christians put off by the CSU’s position on migration, Social Democrats disappointed by the political fogginess of the SPD in the governing coalition, people in rural areas concerned about preserving their environment or families worried about affordable housings.
In short, the Bavarian Greens’ position embraces a new political paradigm that is emerging ahead of the upcoming European election, which could be described in terms of “open and European” versus “national, populist, protectionist.”
The two Bavarian Greens co-leaders are making perfectly clear to anyone they belong to the first. Up to the competitors to agree or disagree.
The polls indicate that the CSU will lose its majority and will have to look for a partner to form a coalition. With the Greens? When so much sets them apart?
In a recent televised debate between Markus Söder, Bavaria’s state premier and CSU candidate for the top post, and Hartmann, both politicians were careful not to shut the door to this possibility.
But the two Greens co-leaders also stressed there were considerable differences with the CSU on a large number of issues, such as environmental protection, agriculture, or social policies.
They say they are ready to take on the responsibility but only if Söder and his CSU make clear that they too will adopt an open and pro-European course.
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