September 20, 2017
AfD on the rise
We noted this morning that Germany’s main TV-news website has effectively given up on the German elections. The first ten items were foreign news - admittedly on a busy day for non-European news. And the only election news was a relatively minor issue relating to the AfD.
We would warn against widespread complacency that the German elections are uninteresting or irrelevant. It is true that no conceivable outcome would have a marked impact on the country’s readiness to compromise on eurozone governance reform, beyond the liquidationist measures proposed by Germany itself and which now appear to be accepted by the Macron administration. But this scepticism does not render the German election uninteresting as such.
We will, for the first time since the second world war, have Nazis back in the Reichstag. Not all AfD members should be categorised in this way, but some clearly deserve that expression, including the future parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland who at one point effectively issued a death threat to a German minister with non-German roots.
Three of the six party groups in the next German Bundestag will be highly radicalised parties - the Left Party, AfD, and the FDP - the latter advocating an open breach of EU law by forcing Greece out of the eurozone. According to the polls, these three parties may account for some 30% of the votes.
What is also not boring are the options for the next government. A CDU/CSU and FDP coalition seems to be beyond reach. The two groups plus the Greens would have a majority, but we fail to see how this can work politically. The Grand Coalition will always be an option, but the joint share of the vote of the two large parties could fall to below 60%. There is nothing grand about such a coalition. And it would totally destroy the SPD. Our assumption is that Martin Schulz and Sigmar Gabriel ultimately care more about their ministerial limousines than the future of their party, so this remains our most likely outcome.
And finally, there is also the possibility of a minority government, a construction Germans are not familiar with. As we have seen in Spain, and also in the UK, minority governments can be surprisingly stable.
The polls have not shifted much in recent days. Here is the latest snapshot:
Die Welt has dug up a poll by YouGov, included in the list of established German pollsters, which uses a different methodology - essentially similar to its UK-type constituency-by-constituency analysis. Their results come to a somewhat different conclusion, especially for the small parties. Under their model the AfD comes third with 12%, followed by the Left Party with 10%, the FDP with 7%, and the Greens with only 6%. Their CDU/CSU result coincides with the mainstream number of 36%, while the SPD scores a little better with 25%. The YouGov method takes into account that the Germans have two votes - a direct mandate and a proportional part. Under new rules, the system is no longer 100% proportional as it used to be, so that there may be discrepancies between a party’s share of the vote and its share of MPs. These could be significant for small parties with regional strongholds, like the AfD and the Left Party.
We also noted a very good commentary in FAZ by the Allensbach polling institute, which goes much deeper into the numbers. Allensbach used to be the polling organisation most sceptical towards the AfD - even having predicted its possible demise as recently as a few months ago. It notes that both AfD and Left Party generate their support from protest voters, yet the rise in the AfD did not happen at the expense of the Left Party, but at the expense of the SPD.
It also notes that there is very little public support for the continuation of the grand coalition. Only 25% of CDU voters want it, and a mere 14% of SPD voters.
And Allensbach is also warning that a very large number of voters have not yet made up their mind. And every fourth voter is ready to split their first and second votes.
In other words, this election is not quite as boring as it may appear.