Thuringia: Headwind from the streets: AfD loses district election

From the perspective of experts, the AfD defeat in a district election in Thuringia can also be attributed to the nationwide demonstrations of the past few days.

Thuringia: Headwind from the streets: AfD loses district election

From the perspective of experts, the AfD defeat in a district election in Thuringia can also be attributed to the nationwide demonstrations of the past few days. The fact that the right-wing extremist threat to democracy should be prevented together, as demanded at the demos, certainly motivated many voters from the SPD or the Left to vote for the CDU in the runoff election, said Erfurt political scientist André Brodocz to the dpa.

In the Saale-Orla district in eastern Thuringia, AfD candidate Uwe Thrum lost the runoff election on Sunday despite previously having a clear lead against CDU man Christian Herrgott.

Political scientist Torsten Oppelland from the University of Jena said that the slightly higher voter turnout in the runoff election indicates a mobilization effect. “The wave of demonstrations may well have had a decisive impact.” In general, the influence is difficult to quantify without available data.

CDU defeat would have been a “devastating signal”.

The CDU sees itself strengthened by the success for the upcoming state elections in Thuringia. But in a state election there is no runoff election in a constituency, said Oppelland. "Thrum would have easily won. So you can't be infinitely optimistic." On the other hand, it would have been a “devastating signal” if the CDU had lost the runoff election. Simply because Herrgott has a high profile in the Union as general secretary of the state party.

Brodocz sees the runoff election as having few indications of the state election. He pointed out that two new parties, the Sahra Wagenknecht alliance and the Union of Values, would probably take part. “Here the cards are being completely reshuffled.”

Voter turnout increased

Herrgott received 52.4 percent of the vote on Sunday, while Thrum received 47.6 percent. Thrum dominated the first round of voting two weeks ago with 45.7 percent of the vote. For God's sake it was 33.3 percent. The candidates from the SPD and the Left were well behind. Voter turnout rose from 66 to 69 percent. Herrgott gained over 9,000 votes in the second round, while Thrum gained around 1,700.

Herrgott's first day of work as district administrator is scheduled for February 9th. After the election success, he said: "I want to be a district administrator who is there for everyone in this district. Even for those who didn't vote today and also those who didn't vote for me today."

The AfD had hoped for the second district administrator post in Germany after Robert Sesselmann in Sonneberg, also in Thuringia. The Thuringian AfD is classified and monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution as definitely right-wing extremist. In the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people across Germany have taken to the streets against right-wing extremism. In Thuringia and the Saale-Orla district, initiatives mobilized against Thrum's election.

AfD sees “opposing forces from across the country”

The AfD in Thuringia saw nationwide events as one reason for the result. From the perspective of party leader Björn Höcke, “the opposing forces of the entire country” were needed to turn the tide again. Other AfD representatives made similar statements.

The Left's state leader Ulrike Grosse-Röthig said: "That definitely had an influence." The protests had the effect of getting people to deal with the issue who would otherwise be the silent majority. The result also shows “that it is not irreversible that the AfD is marching everywhere here.”

A local civil society representative was more skeptical. “It should have ended more clearly,” said a spokesman for the “Village Love for All” alliance, which mobilized in the district against the AfD. The result shows how big the division is and how much work still lies ahead of the alliance. “Because the 48 percent AfD voters are there.”

Mood test for upcoming elections

The election was seen as a mood test for the upcoming elections in Thuringia. In May, many district administrator and mayoral seats will be filled. The state elections are coming up on September 1st. The AfD is well ahead in surveys, recently reaching values ​​above 30 percent. The situation is similar in Saxony and Brandenburg, where state elections are also due in the fall.

The rural Saale-Orla district is located in the southeast of Thuringia and borders Bavaria and Saxony. According to data from the state statistical offices, in 2021 it was one of the ten districts with the lowest salaries per employee in Germany, with a gross salary of 29,048 euros. Around 40 percent of employees are in the minimum wage sector, according to the German Federation of Trade Unions in Hesse-Thuringia.