On Sunday, Saxony and Brandenburg held elections to their legislatures. Some 5.5 million people — about 12 percent of Germany's total electorate — went to the polling stations to elect their new parliaments.
As is typical for eastern Germany, these states are significantly poorer than the West and have been very critical of Merkel's "open arms" policy, under which more than 1.5 million migrants from the Middle East and North Africa have arrived in the country from 2015-2016.
In Saxony, the CDU came in first with 32.1 percent of the vote — down from 39.4 percent in 2014 — followed by the AfD with 27.5 percent — nearly three times the 9.7 percent received it in 2014. The SPD landed in only fifth place with 7.7 percent of the vote, preceded by the left-wing Linke party with 10.4 percent and the Greens with 8.6 percent.
In Brandenburg, the SPD led with 26.2 percent of the vote, followed by the AfD with 23.5 percent and the CDU with 15.6 percent. In 2014, their results were 31.9 percent, 12.2 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
Results That Will Make Germany More Difficult to Govern, Possibly Without a Grand Coalition
The established parties, in particular, the CDU, have already warned that they would not form a coalition with the AfD. As is evident from the results of the votes, the old coalitions can no longer possibly exist without an additional partner.
Therefore, Saxony and Brandenburg might as well end up with large abnormal alliances between the right and left, with the risk of paralysing political action and deepening the existing polarisation.
"We have seen an enormously strong polarisation. It was about the question who will be the strongest force. It was about the confrontation between the AfD and the parties in power, the CDU and SPD," Christian Lindner, the leader of the Free Democratic Party that has not made it beyond the minimum vote threshold to be elected, said.
The right-wing tidal wave is especially a setback for the CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — single-handedly chosen by Merkel as her successor — because it significantly reduces her chances of becoming chancellor in the near future, considering that the victory in Brandenburg is traditionally tied to the Chancery position.
The success of the AfD has been unfolding in the background of the Grand Coalition's downward trajectory for quite some time now. Experts and professionals have voiced the view that it might signal a divorce between the CDU and SPD soon.
"These regional polls are a new slap for Angela Merkel, who has already announced that she will leave power in the autumn of 2021. The chancellor has been at the head, since last year, of a fragile coalition with the Social Democrats of SPD. Both parties in the Grosse Koalition are losing at each election, but for the SPD, it is much worse. They are in total disarray", Michael Weigl, professor of political sciences at the University of Passau in Bavaria, said.
The expert expects that the SPD will announce leaving the coalition before the end of the year.
"The SPD has announced that they would decide before the end of the year whether they remain in the coalition or not. They will probably quit, which will mean new elections. So, it is very probable that Angela Merkel will have to leave office much before the date of October 2021 that she had chosen", he added.
His opinion was echoed by the co-chairman of the AfD, Jorg Meuthen.
"We prepare ourselves for the coming federal election that will come when the present GroKo coalition will crumble to pieces, probably before the end of 2019", Meuthen stressed.
Reactions in Germany and Abroad
Traditional forces and media in Germany have rushed to stress that, despite the success, the AfD still failed to defeat the grand coalition. Abroad too, along with congratulations, is the sound reminder that the road to victory will be long.
"It is a great victory for the AfD, but they will be confronted like we are in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and many other Western countries, with the 'sanitary cordon' that the parties claiming to be democratic have organized to keep the nationalist parties, also called populists, out of power. Populists represent roughly 30 percent in many countries and are growing, so this total lack of democracy could still last for some time", Filip Dewinter, member of the Belgian parliament and former president of the nationalist Flemish Interest (VB) party, stated.
In the 1980s, as the VB party — back then Vlaams Blok — started gaining increasing popularity in Belgium, the other parties committed to refrain from forming a coalition with them — a pact known as cordon sanitaire.
The AfD party itself says it is only a matter of time before other parties change their minds and seek a coalition with the right-wing party.
"It is true that the traditional parties have until now steadfastly refused to hold discussions with the AfD regarding alliances or coalitions at any level. But everything comes in its time", the co-chairman of the AfD, Jorg Meuthen said.
He used the example of the Lega party of Italy to illustrate how a party with a strictly regional appeal can grow into a national one that ends up forming a ruling coalition.
Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.