The party landscape is shifting. The CDU is losing ground, the SPD even more. Only the AfD is gaining support. Uwe Jun tells DW that voters are situational decision makers.
DW: Opinion pollsters only seem to have good news for the AfD (Alternative for Germany) these days. The former "one theme party," which began as a reaction to the euro crisis, is currently profiting from Chancellor Angela Merkel's controversial refugee policies. How much ground can the AfD gain in Germany's three upcoming state elections?
Uwe Jun: That is not so easy to predict at the moment, because voters are reacting very situationally right now, and we cannot say for sure what the situation will look like on March 13. But one can expect that the AfD will win a lot of votes. In any case, I would say that it is very likely that they will win seats in the state parliaments, and that they will likely win double-digit percentages of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt.
The AfD has a reputation as the angry citizen party. But large swaths of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) are angry, too. How much of those parties' bases will the AfD peel off?
I don't really think that the CDU and SPD bases will suffer many defections to the AfD. A more likely scenario is that a great number of voters who have not felt drawn to the major parties for quite some time will now will vote AfD. These will mostly be swing voters, or people who did not tend to vote previously.
Projections are forecasting that only 15 percent of the vote will go to the SPD in Baden-Württemberg's state elections. Is that just another drop downward in a longterm trend for the Social Democrats? Or does it have more to do with the specific context of refugee policy and the party's lack of identity as a junior partner in the "Grand Coalition" in Berlin?
I would say that the SPD's current status as junior partner in the ruling Green-SPD coalition in Baden-Württemberg also plays a role in their ongoing loss in popularity. The state government is being overshadowed by its Green Party Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann. Many potential SPD voters feel a certain affinity with Kretschmann and the Greens. I would say that besides the aspects that you just mentioned, state policy issues are playing a role in the SPD's current downward slide.
But the CDU is also losing support. Will there be new coalition options soon? CDU/Green Party, or eventually even a CDU-AfD emergency alliance?
I can't imagine that the CDU will seek a governing coalition with the AfD at the state or federal level any time soon. CDU-Green alliances are probably a different story. We currently have such a coalition in Hesse. Although we have to acknowledge that right now refugee policy differences are opening up such huge chasms between the CDU and the Greens that it is hard to imagine cooperation between the two at the federal level.
The CDU is pursuing refugee policies that the Greens could call for if they were in the administration. At the same time, the SPD is trying to overtake the CDU on the right. Are all previously known political platforms getting lost in the shuffle?
One cannot really say that. The CDU has probably gone through the biggest changes over the last several years They have jettisoned most of their existing policy positions. Refugee policy is just one example, among many. One could cite a whole list of them: family policy, education policy, compulsory military service, nuclear policy. The CDU has undergone a fundamental transformation. The SPD has changed in other ways. Under the leadership of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder many long-standing social and economic policies were rolled back. Those were severe changes. The Greens have changed relatively little in terms of policy platform over the last few years.
Can the FDP (Free Democratic Party) move out of the opposition and get back into the game? And if so, how?
It's not easy for the liberals, but as we can see, they are naturally attempting a comeback. Their party chairman Christian Lindner has a strong media presence. He is attempting to get his party back in the game on a national level. There could be surprises. For instance, in Baden-Württemberg, where there is a chance that the only government possible after March 13 may be a "traffic light coalition" (SPD/FDP/Greens). That would be worth considering, and it would be an outward signal that the party is open for new constellations.
Professor Uwe Jun teaches political science at the University of Trier.
This interview was conducted by Volker Wagener.