by Marco Malaguti

Il campanello d’allarme che ha suonato ieri per la maggioranza di governo Scholz, retta da Socialdemocratici, Verdi e Liberali, reduci da una cocente sconfitta elettorale in due importantissimi Länder dell’Ovest (Baviera e Assia) suona sempre più come una campana a morto per il governo federale.

Government and coalition failed without appeal

The defeat leaves little room for justification, and even if political figures in Berlin speak of results closely related to "local" contexts, it is very difficult not to see, in the elections involving two of the most important regions in terms of GDP (just think that yesterday votes were cast in both Frankfurt and Munich), a message of national significance. The rejection of the government appears even more inappellable when we consider that in Hesse the Social Democratic candidate for president was the ultra-immigrationist Nancy Faeser, currently interior minister in the Scholz cabinet. As for the bogeyman of the moment, the Alternative für Deutschland party, it broke all previous records in both states, coming in at 14.6 percent in Bavaria (it was previously at 10.2 percent) and 18.4 percent in the Hessian state, where it became the second largest party, far outpacing all government parties, with the SPD and Greens both falling sharply and becoming the third and fourth largest parties in the state, respectively. It is no better for the extreme post-communist Linke left, which exits parliament for good, losing votes mainly to AfD.

The West also finally looks to the Right

The turn to the right is evident. The CDU achieved an undoubted victory in Hesse, where, although already the governing party along with the Greens, it sees a significant increase in its support (+7.6 percent) while the environmentalists themselves lose five points. Also rejected was the SPD, also down nearly five points, confirming the national significance of the Hessian vote. Also punished were the liberals of the FDP, in government in Berlin with Economy Minister Christian Lindner, who fell from 7.5 percent to 5 percent. But it is AfD that achieves a respectable result in a Land, Hesse, historically hostile to the sovereignists, rising from 13.1 percent to 18.4 percent.

In Bavaria, things are no better for the central government. The reappointment of Markus Söder's Christian-social government comes as no surprise, but the CSU's recovery from the 2018 drubbing, when the Catholics had the worst result in its history (37.2 percent), was not there; on the contrary, the Christian-socialists still lost a few thousand additional votes (-0.2 percent). Here, too, the Land's turn to the Right is evident. While the CSU has remained stable, the independents of the Freie Wähler (FW), an apolitical force that has already been in government for five years but whose ideology is considered conservative, have in fact grown. The Bavarian FW rose from 11.6 percent to 15.8 percent, confirming its indispensability to govern. Good growth also for AfD itself, which registers +4.4 percent. Growing, then, are the forces to the right of the large center party, a very clear message for Berlin. The course, on the other hand, is unequivocal for the forces on the left: both the Greens and the SPD are losing about five percentage points, with the Chancellor's party increasingly marginal and not winning in any constituency, while the Greens still manage to hold on to a few city districts.

Cities and the countryside ever more distant

The geographical distribution of votes seems to confirm what is now a polarization throughout the Western world, that between city and rural districts. While the right turn is evident in all districts, it is nevertheless much less pronounced in urban districts than in rural ones. In both Bavaria and Hessen, the suburban districts reward right-wing parties with high percentages, as much the CDU/CSU, which has always symbolized the older rural electorate, as AfD and the Freie Wähler, favored by a younger electorate. In Bavaria, despite an ugly defeat at the regional level, the Greens continue to be the undisputed first force in the Munich Centre constituency with a strong 44 percent, and they also hold strong majorities in the urban constituencies of Munich Giesing (32.8), Munich Schwabing (34.2) and Munich Milbertshofen (34.1) while AfD does not exceed 6.5 percent in any of these districts. The opposite occurs in rural districts, particularly those bordering the Czech Republic, where AfD often exceeds the twenty-point threshold, such as in Schwandorf (21 percent), Cham (21.2) and Freyung-Grafenau (21.8). In Hesse, the city of Frankfurt am Main, the economic capital of the European Union, confirms the Greens as the first party, albeit slightly down, with 31.6 percent while AfD stands at 6.7 percent, as well as in the important city of Darmstadt where environmentalists prevail with 27.8 percent while AfD stands at 10.6 percent. By contrast, the industrial center of Wiesbaden, wrested from the Greens by Governor Boris Rhein's CDU, changes signs. Here, too, the rural districts tell a different story, with a strong condominium between CDU and AfD. Höcke's populists are at 24.2 percent in Fulda, and they do very well in the Vogelberg (23.9), Schwalm-Eder (26.2) and Wetterau (27.2) districts. In the rural areas of both Länder, then, the conservative electorate settles between 60 and 70 percentage points, while it hovers around 30 and 35 in urban areas.

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More Right, More Participation

Interessanti anche le dinamiche dei flussi di voto. Sia in Baviera che in Assia i partiti di destra sembrano crescere in maniera correlata. In particolare, la crescita di AfD risulta, non da oggi e non solo in questi Länder, strettamente legata a quella dell’Union, a conferma del fatto che i due elettorati si somigliano, malgrado tutte le prese di distanze della CDU e dei suoi omologhi bavaresi. Sussiste sempre un certo flusso di voti dal centrodestra verso la destra-destra (AfD strappa molte migliaia di voti alla CDU-CSU in Assia, e oltre 110mila in Baviera) ma quest’ultima risulta attrattiva anche per elettori apparentemente lontani tra loro come quelli liberali e i postcomunisti della Linke. Notevole è anche l’attrattiva che AfD esercita, in entrambe le regioni, verso l’elettorato abitualmente non votante: i sovranisti strappano infatti all’astensione 76mila voti in Assia e 130mila in Baviera, a conferma che la presenza di partiti di rottura aumenta la partecipazione democratica anziché diminuirla, come invece sostenuto innumerevoli volte dai progressisti.

A vote heavy with consequences

That the wake-up call will, at least at the official level, be ignored by the central government is quite certain. In both Länder, in fact, the majorities saw precisely the CDU-CSU as the majority shareholder (CSU+FW in Bavaria, CDU+Greens in Hesse), and this will allow the government, at least publicly, to quickly move on. It is not excluded that, indeed, the very government, and especially the green component, will push even harder on the accelerator of green reforms, the real reasons for the defeat, so as to secure tangible results ahead of the federal elections, in any case still a long way off. The rejection of the executive is, in any case, without appeal. It is a result that, together with that of neighboring Slovakia a few weeks ago, is bound to leave a mark, a mark that will also remain in AfD, where Björn Höcke, whose identitarian current has now also imposed itself in the West over the centrist-moderate one, finally obtains, even west of the Elbe, a result comparable to those in the regions of the former GDR.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.