Germany grapples with hard left, far-right election success

The daily Die Welt called it a “disaster” for both Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats.

By Associated Press

Germany’s traditional big parties of the center grappled Monday with the outcome of a state election in which they won a combined 30% of the vote, while parties on the hard left and the far-right triumphed.

Sunday’s election in the eastern state of Thuringia ended a year of votes that the daily Die Welt called a “disaster” for both Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats, their partners in the fractious national “grand coalition” government.

Merkel’s party, which led Thuringia for 24 years until 2014, finished third behind the ex-communist Left Party and the far-right Alternative for Germany — whose regional leader, Bjoern Hoecke, has come under scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency for his extremist views. Support for the Social Democrats dropped below 10%.

Thuringia was, in some ways, a special case: Germany’s only Left Party governor, the pragmatic Bodo Ramelow, appeals to voters well beyond the traditional base of the party, which is in opposition nationally.

Sunday’s election followed the pattern of two votes in other eastern states in September: the governor’s party won at the expense of rivals in the center while large numbers of votes went to Alternative for Germany, which has benefited from many eastern Germans’ sense of still being disadvantaged nearly 30 years after reunification.

Still, along with the outcome of May’s European Parliament election, it underscored a picture of support for traditional mainstream parties eroding.

It was the fourth poor election performance for the CDU under Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, its leader since December, who has struggled to establish her authority. The Social Democrats are in the middle of a months-long process to choose new leadership after their previous chairwoman quit in June.

Mike Mohring, the CDU’s candidate in Thuringia, called for an “end to all this bickering” in the national government.

“The center has lost massively because it has lost (people’s) confidence,” he told ARD television.