Bavaria has been one of the hotbeds of neo-fascist resurgence in Germany, mainly as a backlash against the Merkel government’s relatively tolerant policy toward refugees. Merkel’s coalition partner, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), has moved sharply to the right in the hope of heading off gains by the far-right AfD.
So who do you think was the biggest gainer in Sunday’s Bavarian election? The pro-immigrant Green Party, that’s who. And in Hitler’s former stomping grounds, Bavaria’s capital of Munich, the Greens got more votes than any other party, an astonishing 30 percent.
Alongside the ominous rise of the far right, young people are flocking to the Greens, with their support for cultural tolerance and concern about global climate change. The Greens saw their support in Bavaria roughly double, to about 18 percent of the vote, while the AfD gained only about 10 percent—not as much as many people feared. The long-dominant CSU, which gambled on moving right, fell to its lowest level ever, about 37 percent.
Well, that’s the good news, but the news isn’t all good. The Social Democrats (SPD) got clobbered, with its share of the vote falling from 21 percent to under 10 percent. Basically, some right-wingers deserted the compromised CSU in favor of the neo-fascists, while a roughly equal number of progressives left the compromised SPD for the Greens. Turnout rose, which helped both the Greens and the far right.
Bottom line: German sentiment may not be as hard-right as some fear, but German sentiment is badly fragmented. And that’s not good news for what passes for a government of national decency, namely Angela Merkel’s increasingly shaky three-party coalition of Christian Democrats plus the CSU and the SPD.
Lord only knows who comes after Merkel. It’s conceivable that there is a progressive coalition in waiting, comprised of resurgent Greens, the Social Democrats, and the Left Party. But national support for those three parties peaks at around 40 percent, and they tend to loathe each other. So for now that option is in the realm of fantasy, if not delusion.
I said this would be a good news story. Well, it is, compared to a lot of other recent news. But these days, alas, even good news tends to come packaged with not so good news.