There are “only” two state elections. But there were no two opinions on this election evening that the results in Hesse and Bavaria also mean a vote of no confidence in the traffic light government in Berlin. People are not “deaf and blind,” said SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert shortly after the polls closed. “There is also a message for us in this election result.”
The SPD achieved its historically worst results in both countries. In Bavaria, the Social Democrats are only number five with just 8.4 percent. In Hesse, with Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser at the top, it ended up in third place - well behind the CDU and AfD. The FDP continues its series of defeats in state elections and is almost thrown out of parliament in Bavaria and in Hesse. Despite significant losses, the Greens got off relatively lightly. You could even continue to govern in Hesse with the CDU.
The trend in these elections is clearly to the right - quite far to the right. The AfD, which the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classifies as a suspected right-wing extremist case, is no longer an East German mass phenomenon. 18.4 percent in Hesse, 14.6 percent in Bavaria, second and third strongest forces - the result in Hesse is the highest so far in state elections in the west.
So there is no doubt - the two elections have shaken up federal politics quite a bit. How can things continue now?
Election loser from Berlin: What will become of Nancy Faeser?
The fact that perhaps the biggest loser on election night doesn't work in Wiesbaden or Munich, but in Berlin is symptomatic of this election. The Federal Interior Minister was sent into the race in Hesse by the SPD because there was no alternative. And it failed miserably. Nancy Faeser lost to Prime Minister Boris Rhein and his CDU by almost 20 percentage points: 15.1 to 34.6.
But it is quite unlikely that Scholz will drop her because of this. The Chancellor doesn't like to get carried away with questions like this and even endured the bankruptcies and mishaps of the then Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) until it really wasn't possible anymore. He has so far expressed no doubts about Faeser and has expressly praised her several times in the past few days for her actions in reforming the European asylum system. The entire party leadership also made this clear: “We stand by Nancy Faeser,” said Kühnert.
There is still the possibility that Faeser will give up himself. She left her future role as state party leader open on election evening, but otherwise she didn't sound like it: "I received a lot of solidarity from Berlin today."
Liberation or a steady hand: What does Scholz do?
After the disastrous election evening in Wiesbaden, Faeser returns to Berlin in pretty bad shape. At the same time, her department has the issue where there is the greatest need for action: the high number of migrants coming to Germany. It is quite possible that, as a consequence, the Chancellor will now take the reins of action himself. The Union is pushing for a Germany pact between the government and the opposition to curb irregular immigration.
Scholz sees the heads of state government rather than the CDU chairman Friedrich Merz as his interlocutors. He will meet with them in Berlin on November 6th to talk about migration policy. He has until then to go on the offensive on the issue that played a major role in the election campaign. There is also growing dissatisfaction within his own party about the traffic light's image as a divided bunch that doesn't achieve enough. “There needs to be more speed and a different style now,” said SPD leader Lars Klingbeil.
The parliamentary group recently went against the Chancellor's position with its vote for a temporary industrial electricity price to cushion high energy prices. The call for a stronger profile on other issues is now likely to become louder in the SPD.
Riot or discipline: what is the FDP doing?
One uncertainty factor for the traffic lights is how the FDP will now deal with the election results. She has already started trouble in the coalition during previous election failures - without this helping her in the next elections or in polls at the federal level. FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai did not reveal in the evening where the journey was going this time. The FDP committees would evaluate the results this Monday, he said. “We will also analyze and discuss these results within the coalition.”
The deputy FDP chairman Wolfgang Kubicki found clearer words. “It can’t go on like this,” he told “Bild”. "This is a clear signal that we in Berlin finally have to take up what concerns people. On the nuclear power plant issue, the heating law or migration policy, we were or are consistently in contradiction to the majority opinion. If we don't present solutions, things will change In the end, the issues that coalitions are looking for."
Trend to the right: Is the wind changing in Germany?
The AfD celebrated itself as a big winner. “The wind is changing in Germany, it goes from left to right,” said the first parliamentary managing director of the Bundestag group, Bernd Baumann. AfD leader Alice Weidel wrote on the X platform (formerly Twitter): “Our record results prove our politics right!” and added "Ready for more" - a slogan the party has been using since the summer to make it clear that it wants to co-govern at some point.
Weidel sees the results in Hesse and Bavaria as an interim success. The political landscape could be really shaken next year when new state parliaments are elected in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. In the surveys, the AfD was recently ahead of all other parties in the three countries with over 30 percent.
On Sunday evening, however, the AfD also suffered a defeat. In Bitterfeld-Wolfen (Saxony-Anhalt) she did not succeed, as hoped, in winning the mayoral election and appointing a mayor for the first time in Germany. Things were similar in Nordhausen, Thuringia, a few weeks ago.
The Union's K question: Is it clearer now?
The elections did not provide any information on an important question with a view to the next federal election. Who will be the Union's candidate for chancellor is just as open as before. Bavaria's Prime Minister and CSU leader Markus Söder was unable to make up for his disastrous result in the last election five years ago, but things haven't gotten any worse. This does not change his chances of running for chancellor. Söder remains in the game - even if he confirmed again on Sunday evening that he is not seeking to run for chancellor. “With such a strong AfD, we also need a very strong prime minister,” he said on ZDF. “Anything else is out of the question for me.” But they don't really believe the assurances even in Bavaria's environment - and certainly not in the CDU.