On Sunday, 1.7 million Thuringians were called to vote in local elections. What do the results mean for the parties? What signals are citizens sending before the eagerly awaited state elections on September 1st? Late on Sunday evening, not all of the results were available, let alone a national result.

However, it became apparent that the AfD, which is clearly classified as right-wing extremist in Thuringia, had made gains but missed the hoped-for breakthrough. She failed to win district offices and mayoral positions in the first round of voting. The feared “blue wave” of huge AfD victories therefore failed to materialize.

However, runoff elections with AfD participation are looming in several regions. This means that right-wing extremist Björn Höcke’s party still has a chance of winning top municipal positions in the Free State.

Höcke wants to become the strongest force in the state elections on September 1st. In the 2019 election he came in second with 23.4 percent. Recent surveys indicated a loss of popularity for the AfD, first after the secret conference in Potsdam (“remigration”), and most recently after the various scandals involving the AfD’s top European candidates Maximilian Krah and Petr Bystron.

In the Hildburghausen district, neo-Nazi Tommy Frenck made it into the runoff election for the district administrator position. Frenck came second with 24.9 percent of the vote, just ahead of the CDU candidate. Sven Gregor (Free Voters) achieved 42.4 percent. The AfD decided not to run for office.

The left of Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, who has ruled the country since 2014, did not achieve a significant victory, as of Sunday evening. Party leader Ulrike Grosse-Röthig consoled herself with the lack of AfD successes and said that Thuringia had “not turned blue all at once”.

Some of the Left members had switched to the Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) alliance, which was founded in January. Ramelow’s problem is that the state election is shaping up to be a duel between Höcke and Mario Voigt (CDU), a brutal humiliation for an incumbent head of government. In the last state election survey, the Left is at just 16 percent, half of what it achieved in the 2019 election.

The BSW had already tried before Sunday to put the signal nature of the local elections into perspective. The BSW only competed in individual districts and municipalities. “The result of the local elections will have no meaning,” said the Thuringian BSW state chairwoman Katja Wolf to the Tagesspiegel.

The opposition CDU, which provided the Prime Minister from 1990 to 2014, is aiming for victory in the state elections. Her success in the mayoral election in Erfurt, where head of public order Andreas Horn (CDU) came in first, should inspire her. The top candidate for the state elections, Mario Voigt, spoke of a “good day”. He referred to the victories of CDU candidates in the mayoral elections in Weimar, Suhl and Altenburg.

Election Sunday was not a particularly pleasant one for the structurally weak SPD in Thuringia. It appears to have lost votes across the state. In the state capital Erfurt, the largest city in the state, the mayor Andreas Bausewein (SPD), who has been in power since 2006, suffered a defeat.

He only reached the runoff election in second place, after Andreas Horn (CDU), head of the public order department. In 2018, Bausewein was around eight percentage points ahead of the CDU candidate with 30 percent. The runoff election will take place in two weeks. A consolation for the comrades: In Schmalkalden, the citizens confirmed Mayor Thomas Kaminski (SPD) in the first round of voting.

The SPD is at 7 percent in the latest state election survey. The top candidate and Interior Minister Georg Maier (SPD) is considered solid, but has to live with the problem of a lack of power prospects. Before the state election, SPD-leaning voters could decide to vote for the CDU in order to prevent Höcke’s AfD from becoming the strongest faction in the state parliament.

The same applies to supporters of the Greens, who are also historically weak, such as the SPD, part of the Ramelow minority government. The Greens were able to achieve above-average results in the university cities of Erfurt and Jena. As of today, in the state elections they have to tremble before the five percent hurdle. In 2019 they only narrowly overcame it with 5.2 percent.

The FDP, which suffers from structural weakness in Thuringia, can at least point to the decent performance of Jena’s incumbent mayor Thomas Nitsche (FDP). He came first in the first round of voting. On Sunday evening, after counting 133 of the 137 voting districts, Kathleen Lützkendorf (Greens) was considered a candidate for second place and a place in the runoff election. A runoff election between the FDP and the Greens – has that ever happened?

Nationwide, the Liberals are likely to have lost votes compared to 2019, when they achieved 4.8 percent. As of today, your chances of entering the state parliament in September are minimal.

The most recent state election survey sees the FDP at 2 percent. The Infratest Dimap institute no longer reports the FDP. Thuringia’s FDP does not receive financial support from the federal FDP. Its state chairman, short-term Prime Minister Thomas Kemmerich, is at odds with the federal leadership.

The other parties, including numerous local groups, again achieved a comparatively high level of support. In the 2019 local elections they achieved 15.4 percent nationwide.

By Daniel Friedrich Sturm

The original for this article “Neo-Nazi success, AfD setbacks and Wagenknecht excuse: What the Thuringia elections mean” comes from Tagesspiegel.