The 27 October election in the German federal state of Thuringia saw Die Linke (a merger of the post-Stalinist PDS and a breakaway from the SPD) emerge as the biggest party, with 31% of the votes.
The far right AfD came second with just over 23%, and the CDU (German Tories) third with just under 22%. The SPD (roughly the German Labour Party) came a poor fourth with just 8% of the vote.
The FDP (German Liberal Democrats) managed to just scrape past the 5% hurdle, which parties must achieve to win any seats. It passed the hurdle by just five votes.
Compared with the last federal state election, the CDU vote fell by a third, as too did the SPD vote (already in a state of free fall). The AfD more than doubled its vote. The vote for Die LInke increased by just under 3%.
Prior to the elections Thuringia was governed by a coalition of Die Linke, the SPD, and the Greens. But the poor performance of the latter parties means that they no longer have a majority of seats in the state parliament.
The collapse in the CDU and SPD votes underlines dissatisfaction with the ongoing pro-austerity and neo-liberal record of the Grand Coalition government in Berlin. The two parties in the coalition are the CDU and, suicidally, the SPD.
Despite its pretensions to radicalism, Die Linke is only moderately left-wing. And in Thuringia it is not even that. Its leader, Bodo Ramelow, is very much on the party’s “moderate” wing. In fact, a Die Linke-CDU coalition in Thuringia is now a serious possibility.
The performance of the Die Linke weakens still further the position of the pro-populist faction around Sahra Wagenknecht in the party. Her main line of attack has been to focus on the party’s poor electoral performances. But now Die Linke has won an election.
Led by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD in Thuringia represents the most right-wing elements in the party. Hoecke himself is a leader of a far right (even by AfD standards) inner-party faction known simply as The Wing, which now has the support of about a third of the AfD membership.
Hoecke has described the Holocaust memorial in Berlin as “a monument of shame” (i.e. its mere existence, not what it commemorates). His speeches are peppered with Nazi terminology – “racial suicide”, “decaying state” and “cultural Bolshevism”.
In 2017, two thirds of the AfD’s regional leaders voted for Hoecke’s expulsion from the party, but a party commission rejected the call. More recently, a German court ruled that it was legitimate to describe Hoecke as a fascist.
15% of AfD voters last Sunday voted CDU in 2014. 9% voted Die Linke. 37% did not vote in the last elections.
25% of its voters are under the age of 30, compared with 16% over the age of 60. Nearly a third of its voters are manual workers.