The vote of not even two million Germans – there are so many voters in Saxony-Anhalt – has a more symbolic and psychological value than real. Here because. The in-depth analysis by Pierluigi Mennitti
For the new CDU by Armin Laschet, the hot phase towards the federal elections on September 26 could not have started in a better way. With the overwhelming victory in the small Land of Saxony-Anhalt (first party, 37%, + 7 points compared to 5 years ago), the post-Merkel is less scary and the new leadership of the party gains confidence and awareness.
The vote of not even two million Germans – there are so many voters in Saxony-Anhalt – has a more symbolic and psychological value than real. There are many regional peculiarities and conditions that cannot be automatically reversed on a national scale. Starting from the fact that a good part of this success the CDU owes to the charisma of its local candidate, the outgoing president Reiner Haseloff, able to monetize in votes the decent work of 5 years of government and the quiet management of the pandemic crisis: the old, dear “Chancellor’s bonus” (in this case the President) on which the CDU will not be able to count in September in the first, historic election in which the CDU will not re-present its outgoing chancellor.
To continue with the structural weakness of the Greens, who at federal level would like to compete for the first place with the Christian Democrats, but who in Saxony-Anhalt, as well as in all the Eastern Lander in general, have never had easy ground. In fact, they were playing away from home, but the Greens cannot equally hide the disappointment over the outcome of the vote. They collected a few more decimal places than in 2016, but they came in last place, overtaken even by the liberals (who returned to the parliament after a term of abstinence). With all the mitigating circumstances of the case, a party that aspires to excel in the national vote cannot afford single-digit percentages in any region.
In an election dominated by the media by the scarecrow of the far right, Afd nationalists maintain a significant consensus of 21%, but fail the assault on heaven. Their main competitor, the conservative CDU, outclasses them by 14 points, a huge amount. The polls had for a long time told the virtual reality of a head to head, except to correct the shot only in the last few days in favor of the CDU. No one can underestimate an antagonistic force that in the eastern regions collects more than a fifth of the consensus, but without the anti-immigrant rhetoric Afd does not seem able to break through to the center, especially in the most populous and rich Lander of the West, and the confinement in the the most extreme area of ​​the right condemns it to a role of protest and de facto political insignificance.
Returning to the prospects for the September elections, the Magdeburg vote demonstrates that Armin Laschet is anything but the gray and bewildered man painted by the media in recent months. Many underestimate his determination and his pragmatism. The first convinced him to continue the internal tug-of-war with Markus Soder, the Bavarian poll-winning competitor who many analysts considered a better candidate. The second pushed him to unite all the souls of the party a little and to dose them in the best way: on the one hand he declared a clear distance from the far right, consolidating the centrist profile of the CDU and demonstrating that Afd fights not chasing it on the its programmatic terrain; on the other, he covered himself on the liberal-conservative side by embarking on the very one he had defeated at the congress, Friedrich Merz.
However, the first analyzes of the vote indicate a wake-up call for Laschet. The CDU prevailed among the older electorate and the specific demographic composition of Saxony-Anhalt (reinforced by the intense youth emigration in the post-reunification years) has rewarded this imbalance. But among the young the Christian Democrats are losing appeal, in favor of the Greens and liberals.
Ecologists will have to digest the Magdeburg disappointment and ponder the risks of relying too much on the media wave that took them to the top of polls a few weeks ago. Baerbock must fear the so-called “Schulz effect”, the syndrome of the former president of the European parliament who lived a few weeks as an absolute protagonist in the previous elections (the spring polls saw him in front of Merkel) and then collapses when the electoral campaign is in full swing. Ecological issues will remain central in the coming months, but ideological solutions can scare potential new voters. What’s more, the Greens are discovering unexpected competition from the liberals in the urban and young electorate.
The last consideration concerns the economic context. Germany is putting the pandemic crisis behind it and the economic recovery promises to be robust. All the confidence indicators for the next few months are positive, not only for the industry but also for the sectors dramatically affected by the lockdowns such as commerce and gastronomy. Some analysts are unbalanced and foresee a phase of economic and social euphoria after the long months of depression, similar to the one that followed the First World War and the Spanish flu in the 1920s. And no one can predict what influence a climate of this kind could have on voting intentions.

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