On Monday morning, CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told public broadcaster ARD: “Yes, we can” when asked whether her party could leave out a quarter of the voters – or those who cast their ballot for the far-right party.
The AfD is now the second strongest force in both east German states, which held elections on Sunday.
In Saxony, the party almost tripled its result to 27.5 percent – its strongest state result ever – and in Brandenburg to 23.5 percent.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the CDU takes responsibility for the losses in both states. It is partly true that “we – myself included – have not been as deft as we could have been about overcoming some hurdles.”
What exactly were the final results?
In Brandenburg, the SPD (Social Democrats) narrowly came in ahead of the AfD as the strongest force, receiving 26.2 percent of the votes.
The CDU, traditionally weak in Brandenburg, fell to its worst state result with 15.6 percent, and now ranks third behind the AfD.
Graph prepared for The Local by Statista
The Left Party, which had previously been a member of the government, also collapsed, reaching only 10.7 percent of the vote.
With 10.8 percent, the Greens not only achieved their best result in Brandenburg, but also in an eastern German state (up from 6.2 percent in 2014).
With 4.1 percent, the Free Democrats (FDP) did not make it into parliament. Free Voters (Freie Wähler) scored 5 percent (up from to 2.7 in 2014), narrowly making it into parliament.
In Saxony, the CDU, which has been in power since 1990, slipped to a new low; according to the preliminary official final result, it only reached 32.1 percent (down from 39.4 percent in 2014).
The AfD was not able to overtake the CDU – unlike in the recent European elections. But it clearly replaced the Left as the second strongest force.
The SPD fell to 7.7 percent (compared to 12.4 percent in 2014), the worst state election result in its history.
The Greens increased their share of the vote to 8.6 percent (up from 5.7 percent in 2014), and the Left scored 10.4 percent the vote, the worst result since 1990, and down from 18.9 percent in 2014.
With 4.5 percent, the FDP again missed the five-percent hurdle needed to make it into parliament.
Graph prepared for The Local by Statista.
Both states are now heading for a three-way party alliance. In Saxony, where the CDU most recently ruled with the SPD, an alliance with the two parties and the Greens is the most likely.
In Brandenburg it is no longer possible to continue with the SPD-Left party government of Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD).
He could, however, form a three-way coalition with the SPD, Left Party and the Greens with a narrow majority.
On Monday, the committees of the parties represented in the Bundestag will discuss the outcome of the elections in Berlin. Afterwards, top representatives will publicly evaluate the outcome of the votes.
AfD leader Alexander Gauland remained hopeful that the CDU will consider coalition talks with the AfD when it fails to find common ground with Greens, he said to public broadcaster ARD,
“Then the question will indeed arise: Isn't it better to talk to the AfD?” Gauland said. “We are now the bourgeois opposition party in Brandenburg. The CDU is practically marginalized.”
CDU vice-chairman Thomas Strobl emphasized, however, that the CDU must “say clearly and unambiguously that there is nothing with the people of the AfD – no coalition, no cooperation. This clarity is necessary,” he told Deutsche Welle.
The Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther (CDU), called for the party leadership in Berlin to send a greater “alarm signal” about the final results.
Too little confidence
The civil society nonprofit Amadeu Antonio Foundation said it was caught off guard by the massive gains in votes for the right-wing populists.
“A considerable part of the people in the East German states have too little confidence in the political system,” said Managing Director Timo Reinfrank. “The right-wing radicals are elected not despite – but because of – their anti-democratic positions.”
“What we need in East Germany…is that the federal government listens more closely to us,” said provisional SPD chairman Manuela Schwesig and Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
Green Party Chairwoman Annalena Baerbock insisted on a change of policy in both Brandenburg and Saxony after the state elections.
In the ARD “Morgenmagazin” she said that the CDU in Saxony and the SPD in Brandenburg had completely ruled for 30 years – and many people in these states are annoyed by the lack of change from both parties.
“We want to revive these federal states, in climate protection, and also in the strengthening of rural regions with bus and train, with medical care. Now is the time to deliver.”