June 14, 2019
Three regional elections will shape the political debate in Germany after the summer break. Polls suggests that the combined election results could shift majorities in the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of the German parliament. But they are also a bellwether for the grand coalition.
Saxony and Brandenburg go to the polls on September 1. Thuringia votes on October 27.
The regional polls differ from the national ones, and from each other, but they all share the trend we have been observing since the 2013 elections - that the so-called grand coalition partners are dramatically losing support.
What is also interesting about the east German elections is that the three states are representative examples of recent and potential future coalition scenarios - an SPD-Green coalition in Brandenburg, a grand coalition in Saxony, and a red-red-green coalition in Thuringia - the only state with a prime minister from the Left Party.
Regional opinion polls suggest that SPD and CDU are both losing support, especially in Saxony where they govern under a grand coalition. What interests us specifically is not only the overall results but the relative gap between Saxony and the rest. If the SPD does relatively better in the red-red-green state of Thuringia than in the grand coalition state of Saxony, or vice versa, this would clearly impact the debate on the future of the grand coalition in Berlin. Our main focus will be on the relative results, not the absolute ones.
In all three states the existing coalitions may not be viable after the elections, according to a Civey poll for Spiegel Online. The AfD is the big winner along with the Greens. Brandenburg used to be an SPD stronghold, but the gap over the Left Party is now within the statistical error margin. Another interesting fact is that the CDU lost dramatically in the last four months. It is now polling behind the AfD.
In Thuringia, the Left Party has fallen behind the AfD. So far, the CDU has categorically ruled out any coalitions with the AfD, but this may no be no longer sustainable given the voting patterns. We expect to see a CDU/AfD government in at least one east German state within the next five years, German politics enters a phase in which both the Left Party and the AfD could end up as coalition partners in Berlin as well - though this is unlikely to happen until 2025 at the earliest.
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