German conservative opposition wins 2 state elections, with far-right making gains

Boris Rhein, top candidate of the CDU and Minister President of Hesse,is celebrated by his supporters at the CDU election party, in Wiesbaden, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. Germany's center-right opposition was set to win two state elections on Sunday at the halfway mark of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's unpopular national government, according to exit polls, which showed gains for a far-right party. (Lando Hass/dpa via AP)

BERLIN — Germany’s center-right opposition won two state elections on Sunday at the halfway mark of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s unpopular national government, projections showed, and a far-right party that has been riding high in national polls celebrated gains.

The votes followed a campaign marked by discontent with persistent squabbling in the national government and by pressure to reduce the number of migrants arriving in Germany. The national interior minister, who leads the federal response on migration, suffered a heavy defeat in a difficult bid to become governor of her home state.


About 9.4 million people were eligible to vote for the new state legislature in Bavaria and around 4.3 million in neighboring Hesse, a region that includes Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt. Both states were already led by the country’s main opposition Union bloc, made up of the Christian Democratic Union and the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television based on exit polls and well-advanced counting showed the CSU, which has led Bavaria since 1957, extending that run with support of nearly 37%.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has risen to second place in national polls behind the Union, won’t be a factor in determining the states’ new governments, as other parties refused to work with it.

But it looked likely to finish second in Hesse and possibly also in Bavaria. Projections showed it taking about 18% of the vote in Hesse and 16% in Bavaria, improving significantly on lower double-digit showings when the two states last voted in 2018.

They showed disappointing results for the three national governing parties — Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. Hesse’s conservative governor, Boris Rhein, was challenged by both his current Green deputy and by the Social Democrats’ candidate, national Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

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