The protests of the past few weeks have recently meant headwinds for the AfD. Now the party has lost a district election in Thuringia despite a clear lead in the first round.
The AfD lost the runoff election for the district office in the Saale-Orla district in eastern Thuringia. The CDU candidate Christian Herrgott prevailed on Sunday against AfD man Uwe Thrum, as the state returning officer announced. Thrum went into the runoff election with a clear lead and was hoping for the second AfD district office nationwide after Robert Sesselmann in Sonneberg.
After all voting districts were counted, CDU candidate Herrgott received 52.4 percent of the votes. Thrum achieved 47.6 percent. The 39-year-old Herrgott is general secretary of the Thuringian CDU and has been a member of the state parliament since 2014. His first day of work as district administrator is scheduled for February 9th.
Voter turnout higher than six years ago
Of the more than 66,000 eligible voters, around 69 percent took part in the runoff election. In the first round two weeks ago, voter turnout was around 66 percent, twice as high as in the last district election in 2018. Thrum dominated the first round with 45.7 percent of the vote. Good Lord came to 33.3 percent. The Thuringian AfD is classified and monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution as definitely right-wing extremist.
Across Germany, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets again at the weekend against right-wing extremism. According to the police, up to 100,000 people were on their feet in Düsseldorf alone. Several thousand people also came to protests in Thuringia. Last week in the Free State, a broad alliance of over 3,400 municipalities, associations, companies, churches and individuals presented themselves to the public under the title “Cosmopolitan Thuringia”.
The election was seen as the first test of sentiment for the upcoming elections in Thuringia. In May, a number of district administrator and mayoral seats will be filled in the Free State. The state elections are coming up on September 1st. The AfD is well ahead in surveys, recently reaching values above 30 percent. The situation is similar in Saxony and Brandenburg, where elections are also due in the fall.
Low wage levels in the district
The rural Saale-Orla district is located in the southeast of Thuringia and borders Bavaria and Saxony. According to data from the state statistical offices, in 2021 it was one of the ten districts with the lowest salaries per employee in Germany, with a gross salary of 29,048 euros. Around 40 percent of employees are in the minimum wage sector, according to the German Federation of Trade Unions in Hesse-Thuringia.
The district, like other regions in Thuringia, is struggling with declining population numbers: While 103,000 people lived there in 1994, at the end of 2022 there were around 79,000 – half of whom were 50 years old and older. The largest city, Pößneck, has around 12,000 inhabitants.
As head of the district administration, a district administrator must primarily implement decisions made by the district council, but also by the state parliament and the federal parliament. He can also clarify regional issues such as daycare care or the renovation of buildings and roads. District administrators can also make decisions regarding the accommodation and care of refugees in the district. Recently, several CDU-run districts in Thuringia introduced payment cards for refugees.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.