Bavarian poll may shape Angela Merkel’s new German government

State’s conservatives seek absolute majority a week ahead of national elections

Berlin

The shape of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s future government could be outlined on Sunday when the Bavarian branch of her conservative party goes to the polls in one of Germany’s most prosperous states in a vote seen as a litmus test for next week’s general election.

Bavaria’s governing Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats, is facing a key state run-off against the opposition Social Democrats just one week ahead of Germany’s full general election, which takes place on 22 September. 

Horst Seehofer, Bavaria’s CSU Prime Minister, is banking on winning an absolute majority in the state, which would enable him to end his current coalition government with the faltering, pro-business liberal Free Democrats: “I want the CSU to be the only governing party in Bavaria,” he insists. With her party enjoying a steady lead of nearly 10 per cent over its nearest rivals at a national level, Ms Merkel is not dependent on winning in Bavaria. However, the CSU’s ruling alliance with the Free Democrats in Bavaria mirrors the line-up in Ms Merkel’s coalition.

If the Free Democrats lose in Bavaria, pundits argue that the party will most likely fail to win the necessary five per cent of votes to enter parliament in Berlin. Such an outcome would then oblige Ms Merkel to form a national “grand coalition” government with the opposition Social Democrats, which could force her to soften her current hard line austerity policies on Europe. Ms Merkel’s first government in 2005 was a grand coalition.

The conservative CSU has ruled unbroken in Bavaria for 55 years, prompting charges that it is a “one-party” state. It sees itself as the driving force behind the state’s enviable prosperity. Bavaria has the lowest unemployment rate in Germany, running at just 3.8 per cent. It is also home to major German companies such as BMW and Siemens.

Mr Seehofer’s CSU looks set to romp home to victory on Sunday. His party is enjoying popularity ratings that are enough to make Angela Merkel jealous. The CSU is polling at 48 per cent, placing it some 28 points ahead of its nearest rival, the opposition Social Democrats led by Munich mayor, Christian Ude.

The 64-year-old Bavarian leader, who is the son of a lorry driver, has been annoying Ms Merkel during his campaign by calling for a road tax for foreigners, an idea which the Chancellor has publicly slapped down. But Mr Seehofer has only benefited from the spat, having shown that he is one of the few male conservatives left who are prepared to confront Germany’s seemingly omnipotent leader.

The CSU is hoping that, by obtaining an absolute majority, it will be able to ditch its Free Democrat coalition partners and rule the state on its own.Such an outcome is unlikely to be on the cards for Angela Merkel in a week’s time, although Heinrich Oberreuter, a Bavarian political scientist, said that if the CSU does well in the state election it would send a “strong signal” for the conservatives overall.

He told Der Spiegel online that a defeat for the liberals in Bavaria could also motivate tactical voters who believe that Germany needs  a pro-business party in its national government to support them at the polls in the general election a week later.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border