After governing Bavaria for the past five years in a coalition with the business friendly Free Democrats (FDP), the conservative CSU regained near-complete dominance over the southern state's politics on Sunday, winning a projected absolute majority in the regional parliament with 47.7 percent of the vote.
"It's a great election victory," said Horst Seehofer, the incumbent Bavarian premier. "The CSU lives on as a party of the people. We are deeply anchored in Bavaria. Every second Bavarian voted for us."
But the news was grim for the CSU's allies, the FDP. According to initial results, the party won just 3.3 percent of the vote, well below the 5 percent needed to guarantee representation in Bavaria. Although the CSU no longer needs the FDP to govern Bavaria, the result could be a bad omen for the center-right coalition in the national elections on September 22nd.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), sister party of the CSU, team with the CSU and FDP on the national level to secure a parliamentary majority.
If the FDP fails to win representation in the national parliament next week, then CDU-CSU will likely have to seek a coalition partner among the center-left opposition.
CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe welcomed the CSU's resounding victory as good sign for the entire Christian Democratic political family. Despite the FDP's defeat in Bavaria, Gröhe said that CDU would not ask its supporters to help the FDP secure representation on the national level.
In Germany, voters may cast two ballots. The first is for a single direct candidate in their constituency, while the second is for a political party and its list of candidates nationwide. Ultimately, this "second vote" is the one that decides the balance of power in Germany's parliament. There had been speculation that the CDU might call on some followers to cast their second vote for the FDP, thereby ensuring that the party makes it into parliament and can continue serving in Merkel's coalition government.
"The second vote is the decisive one in regards to the political majority in the country," Gröhe said on Sunday in Berlin. "It's a quasi vote for Merkel. And that's why we are going to campaign for both votes [for the CDU]."
SPD puts positive spin on Bavaria
The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) are currently projected to take around 20.6 percent of the vote in Bavaria. SPD candidate and Munich mayor Christian Ude said that his party had managed to improve its fortunes in the conservative southern state.
"Exactly those people, who with great pleasure predicted a defeat for the SPD, have to admit that we have managed to reverse the trend in Bavaria," Ude said.
But the national head of the environmentalist Green Party, Claudia Roth, was less optimistic. The Greens won just 8.6 percent of the vote in Bavaria on Sunday.
"We are disappointed," Roth said. "We really hoped for more." But Roth remained in a fighting spirit, saying that CDU/CSU-FDP coalition "did not win the election today, and that's what we want to achieve next week."
Meanwhile, the socialist Left Party came in at 2.1 percent support, thereby failing to win representation. The Free Voters (Freie Wähler), a regional party advocating decentralized government, were projected to take 9 percent of the vote.
Voter turnout on Sunday was 63.9 percent according to exit polls. That's significantly higher than in both 2008 and 2003, when the turnout was approximately 57.9 percent and 57.1 percent respectively.
slk, msh/dr (AFP, dpa)