Germany’s Christian Democrats are defending the AfD far-right challenge, getting 36% of the vote, according to exit polls.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Conservatives won a landslide victory in a state election in eastern Germany on Sunday, in a push to Armin Laschet, who hopes to succeed her in the September national election.
A Saxon-Anhalt election exit poll for public broadcaster MDR had the Christian Democrats (CDU) at 36 percent, up more than six points five years ago, and well ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which stood at 22.5 percent, slightly lower than in previous elections.
Laschet, a centrist, was seen as an uncertain start to his election campaign and had faced calls to chart a more right-wing course to reclaim voters disillusioned by 16 years of compromises under Merkel.
“We won the election,” Reiner Haseloff, Saxony-Anhalt’s prime minister, said after the polls came out. “A large majority of our citizens have said that we do not want to be associated with the AfD. And for that I am grateful ”.
He and other conservatives hailed the result as a tail wind for them before the federal election.
“This will give us a boost for Berlin,” said Ralph Brinkhaus, national conservative leader. “It’s a win for Armin Laschet.”
The AfD has steadily moved to the right in recent years and its chapter in Saxony-Anhalt has been subject to greater control by the German national intelligence service for its links with extremist groups.
While elections in the 16 German states are often influenced by local issues and voting sentiments, they are also considered important witches for the national mood.
A strong victory for the CDU would be seen as a sign that Laschet, the party’s new leader, can expect the support of conservatives and centrists on September 26, when he intends to maintain power at the federal level despite four-term chancellor Merkel don’t run again.
Meanwhile, the election result, if the projections based on partial counts are confirmed, would be a strong endorsement for Haseloff, who now has the comfort of being able to choose between three possible coalitions with smaller parties.
The 67-year-old, whose popularity in the state was a strong boost for voters, ruled out any cooperation with AfD or the former left-wing communist party, which was expected to get 10.9 % of votes, a record low in the state.
The center-left Social Democrats, junior members of Merkel’s ruling coalition, also did worse than five years ago and were expected to get 8.4 percent, while Green environmentalists made modest gains to 6.2 percent. .
For the leader of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, the success of the CDU corresponded to the voters who wanted to block the AfD. Many people had voted in favor of the CDU because “they didn’t want right-wing extremists in government,” he said.
However, he admitted that the presentation of the Greens was poorer than expected, as he blamed the performance of the “specific” electoral landscape on Saxony-Anhalt.
Greens are traditionally weaker in less urban East Germany, which depends more on the carbon-intensive industries that Greens hope to phase out.
Projections also showed that pro-business free Democrats re-entered the state assembly after losing five years ago, receiving 6.5 percent.