After the elections in Bavaria

by Karl Müller

The results of the elections to the Bavarian Landtag on 14 October and the way the results were discussed are shedding light on the state of political affairs in Germany. Also the interpretation of election results is used for political purposes.
Compared to the 2013 result the CSU, which during the past term had ruled in Bavaria with an absolute majority, lost 10.5%, now receiving 37.2% of the votes but remaining the strongest party in the Landtag by a large margin. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen [Green Party] who have won 17.5% (8.9% more than in 2013 but less than half the percentage of the CSU) is now the second strongest party. The AfD won the biggest increase in voters; for the first time they are represented in the Landtag with 10.2%. Also the Freie Wähler have won votes (11.6% which is 2.6% more than previously) and also the FDP (5.1% which is 1.8% more). The SPD has lost even more than the CSU. Its share got cut in half: from 20.6% to 9.7% of the votes. With 72% the voter turnout was the highest since 1982, demonstrating a high degree of mobilisation.

Focusing on Horst Seehofer

Many analyses and commentaries were following the elections. The dominating position was criticism of the CSU chairman and Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer. Weeks before the elections there had been a campaign against Seehofer, predicting his discharge from positions in party and government after the elections. Also the TV makers of the ARD stuck to this line – from the first projections to [the talk show] “Anne Will” in the evening: the goal was to focus the question regarding the loss of CSU votes towards Seehofer. Obviously there is an interest in dismantling Seehofer. His statements on German migration politics since summer 2015 (“illegitimate state”), on border controls (control state borders as long as there is no efficient control on EU’s external borders) and on the events in Chemnitz end of August 2018 as well as the statements of the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution regarding these events (in contrast to most of the media and the chancellor he stated that a “mad rush” against foreigners could not be proven) did not suit the German mainstream. The question if these statements were founded on facts is not relevant here.

A call for a different politics?

Political content was hardly discussed after the elections. It is interesting for example that infratest dimap polls have shown that the economic situation in Bavaria was considered good by 89% of the people – the highest percentage since 20 years. Some 75% of the people stated that Bavaria had benefitted from being ruled by the CSU for decades. So why the severe CSU losses – and why the strong gains of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen? The politicians of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen claimed that the election results were documenting the call for a change in politics. Spiegel online was setting the tone: “The CSU will have to change; in its political position it meanwhile has fallen far behind the social development in its core state. In nearly all fields of politics people in Bavaria are thinking more progressively than what the party programme is willing to accept. Nobody is representing this discrepancy more than the party chairman Horst Seehofer.” This should be challenged. The votes of the civic parties (CSU, Freie Wähler, AfD and FDP) sum up to 64.1%, almost two thirds. That is even 4% more than 5 years ago. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, SPD and Die Linke together won only 30.4% of the voters. While it is true that 180,000 former CSU voters have voted for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, some 180,000 former CSU voters have voted for the AfD and 170,000 for the Freie Wähler. What can we conclude from this?

“I am worried that our German culture is getting lost step by step”

Here we have to keep in mind that 52% of the interviewed stated “I am worried that our culture in Germany is getting lost step by step”. Even 100% of the interviewed AfD voters, 68% of the Freie Wähler voters and 61% of the CSU voters agreed with that statement. Among the voters of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen only 20% agreed with that statement, even less than among the SPD voters. It seems that this most clearly shows the differences in attitudes.

What does the educated middle class really know?

It is also interesting that almost half of the interviewed stated they were so far content with the politics of the state government but the trust of the voters in the top rank CSU politicians was much lower. How can it be explained, for example, that 65% of the interviewed are charging Horst Seehofer for not being interested in political questions but only in himself? Where do they get this idea? Most of the voters have little or no direct contact with top rank politicians. The media, however, are playing a big role in the formation of the images of politicians, particularly among the educated middle class who believe in the media more than people who are ranking higher their own, direct experiences. And indeed Bündnis 90/Die Grünen could increase its share of votes among the so-called educated middle class to 28%, nearly the same percentage as the CSU (29%). It is also interesting that the percentage of votes of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen is largest, 27%, in cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants, slightly more than the CSU votes. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen have become the “party of large cities”. This could also inspire considerations regarding ways of thinking and living of people in large cities in relation to people in rural areas.

What’s next in Bavaria?

All parties now represented in the Landtag should take care not to see their share of the votes only as agreement with their programmes. More than a third of the interviewed (34%) stated that they had cast their vote not because they were convinced of the party they voted for but because they were disappointed by other parties.
In Bavaria coalition negotiations between CSU and Freie Wähler have started. The Bavarian constitution requires that a new Minister-President has to be elected within four weeks. It remains to hope that Bavaria will get a good government for the next five years. Even more it remains to hope that the political future of the state does not only depend on who was elected and who is ruling. Bavaria is a state with a direct democratic tradition. But also in Bavaria referenda have to overcome high hurdles and are still the exception. Bavaria would also benefit if the new government and the new parliament gave the true political sovereign, the citizens, more rights and more options. Then the citizens could decide directly about matters more than now and the focussing towards parties and party politicians would lose importance. More self-determination means more responsibility. This is more demanding but also a good thing.    •

Former German constitutional judge warns of lack of rule of law

km. Hans-Jürgen Papier, former President of the German Federal Constitutional Court, warned in an interview with the Funke Media Group on 13 October 2018 (www.nrz.de/politik/papier-warnt-vor-einer-willkuerherrschaft-in-deutschland-id215552971.html) of an erosion of the rule of law.
In an international comparison, Germany is still in relatively good shape, but the signs of erosion should not be misjudged. The separation of society has increased. The dispute between the various political currents is becoming more and more aggressive: “The political opponent is treated as if he were an enemy of the constitution. We have a government that may be a grand coalition in mathematical terms, but is unable to achieve great things. More and more people are losing confidence in the ability of the institutions of this constitutional state to function“.
All these are symptoms of an eroding rule and enforcement of the law. But the rule of law is indispensable to democracy: “We have a pluralistic society which is no longer primarily held together by a common culture, a common religion or a common tradition. Our society is primarily held together by unrestricted submission to the rule of law. And unfortunately this is no longer guaranteed throughout.“
For years there has been a discrepancy between what the law in force dictates or forbids and what is actually practised in Germany and Europe. This is most evident in the areas of migration and asylum: “Illegal immigration to Germany is still taking place – albeit not to the same extent as in 2015. Statutory exit obligations of persons without a residence status are still not enforced in many cases“.
According to Papier, no one should be allowed to “sneak out of the application of the law without sanctions. Otherwise commandments and prohibitions are only for the stupid, the well behaved and the weak“.
As a countermeasure, Papier demanded: “The awareness of politics and the public for the value of the rule of law must be promoted. Without the rule of law, democracy is not worth much. Then it can become the arbitrary rule of the majority over the minority.“
It could also happen that social groups form their own right according to their moral and ethical ideas – “and distinguish between a good breach of the law and and bad breach of the law“. Thus there is a danger that “valid law will be replaced by personal moral concepts“. It is certainly to be welcomed “if a society helps according to moral-ethical considerations and tries to alleviate the plight of other people. But humanity and mercy must run in the tracks of the rule of law. Morality which opposes the law leads to randomness and arbitrariness“. Papier therefore welcomed Interior Minister Seehofer‘s initiative to return to compliance with the law at German borders. “This was not a quarrel that was picked for personal reasons. It was about questions of principle.“
(Translation Current Concerns)