The Zeitgeist

The Zeitgeist

Episode 40: National Bellwethers for the German Federal Election?

March 16, 2021

The March 14 elections for state legislatures in the states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate kicked off an electoral marathon that will culminate in the September 26 German federal election, the end of Chancellor Merkel’s 16-year tenure at the helm of Europe’s most influential country. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) received a drubbing and posted in each state their worst post-war result, complicating the impending choice of who will lead the CDU/CSU ticket in the federal election: CDU Chairman Armin Laschet, or Chairman of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, Markus Söder. In either case it is a harbinger that a tough campaign lies ahead for Germany and its longest-ruling party.
In Baden-Wuerttemberg, the Green party won convincingly, and in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats (SPD) retained control by a surprising margin. In both states, the CDU suffered significant losses and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) saw its support decline. The left-wing “Die Linke” finds itself out in the cold, failing to meet the 5-percent threshold for entering either legislature.
After initial success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDU-led national government is dogged by criticism. Following the CDU’s heavy election losses, a governing coalition without the CDU may be increasingly conceivable. Without Merkel on the ballot, will German voters associate her positive legacy with CDU’s new leadership? And what do these trends mean for the direction of German politics beyond September?
On this episode of the Zeitgeist, AICGS President Jeff Rathke and Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program, discuss the results of the elections and their impact on the upcoming federal election.

Jeff Rathke, President, AICGS
Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director, Society, Culture & Politics Program