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Mood test in Thuringia: This is how the AfD’s chances stand

Mood test in Thuringia: This is how the AfD’s chances stand

In Thuringia, citizens will vote on Sunday about the occupation of town halls, district offices and local parliaments. The AfD could win some positions for itself.

Local elections in Thuringia have so far been the domain of the CDU: But things are different before the decision on 13 district administrators, 94 mayors and mayors as well as several local parliaments this Sunday. The CDU, which wants to retake the state chancellery from Bodo Ramelow (Left) in the state elections in September, sees itself being attacked by an AfD with its frontman Björn Höcke, which is strong in the polls.

Can the Höcke party, which has been classified as proven right-wing extremist by the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, set the course for the state elections in the local elections? This question has been troubling the election campaigns of all other parties for weeks.

AfD has made significant gains since the last local elections

The Erfurt political scientist André Brodocz initially sees the local elections, to which more than 1.7 million Thuringians are called, as a mood test. “Their outcome can have a mobilizing or demobilizing effect on the individual parties. This should not be underestimated with a view to the state elections about three months later.” And: “Winning parties are more attractive to many voters than losing parties.”

In addition, if the AfD makes significant gains compared to the 2018 and 2019 local elections in Thuringia, it could say that people trust it – “to the last corner of Thuringia”.

“Part of AfD voters immunized against Nazi incidents”

However, no one dares to make a prediction – the regional conditions and issues as well as the personalities of the candidates are too different, with the SPD, the Left, the FDP and independents also having a chance of becoming mayors and district administrators. After all, the AfD won its first district administrator’s office in Germany in Sonneberg, Thuringia, in 2023 – but this was followed by defeats in the Nordhausen and Saale-Orla districts, where an independent and a CDU man won.

Brodocz does not believe that the conviction of AfD right winger Höcke for using a Nazi slogan in a speech could influence voting decisions for or against the AfD. The AfD has apparently succeeded in building party loyalty among some of its voters in recent years. “Some of the AfD voters are apparently immunized against such incidents.” In state election surveys, the AfD has only lost slightly in recent months and is currently at 30 percent, the CDU at 20 and the Left at 16 percent.

CDU has to fight in Thuringia

Brodocz believes that there is already a lot at stake for the Thuringian CDU in the local elections. In 2018, in the election of district administrators and mayors of independent cities, it was, as six years before, the strongest party with around half of all district administrators and a share of the vote of 37.9 percent. Some of their long-standing office holders, such as in Thuringia’s Eichsfeld – a predominantly Catholic region – are no longer running for reasons of age. “The CDU needs a good municipal result with a view to the state elections,” emphasizes the political scientist.

CDU man Christian Herrgott showed in the Saale-Orla district at the beginning of the year “that we can beat the so-called alternative,” CDU leader Mario Voigt continues to encourage members and supporters of the Christian Democrats – and relies on the Thuringians’ sense of home. “We are the only party that has put forward candidates across the board in the local elections,” explains Voigt.

Candidate selection for the AfD is not going entirely smoothly

The AfD does not run its own candidates everywhere: in three districts there are no AfD people on the ballot in the district elections, and in Weimar the party does not have a candidate for mayor. The CDU is running in the district elections with twice as many applicants, and the Left, the SPD and the Greens also have more candidates than the AfD.

The creation of an AfD candidate list in the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district ended in a split: after an internal party dispute, there are now two lists that compete with each other. The local CDU and the AfD themselves have already brought up a possible challenge to the election. The incident caused a nationwide stir, with local AfD politicians calling for Höcke’s resignation.

The candidacy of a right-wing extremist for the district office in Hildburghausen in southern Thuringia is causing people to shake their heads. The election committee there approved the applicant, even though he is considered a central figure in the right-wing extremist scene in Thuringia.

It is expected that a whole series of personal elections will not be decided on Sunday. Then there will be run-off elections – together with the European elections on June 9.

Source: Stern

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