Horst Kahrs

State Elections in Hamburg

Elections for the Hamburg parliament gained unexpected importance after the political events in Thuringia, the conduct of the federal parties and the debate of the conservatives about their political course. (translated excerpt of an analysis by Horst Kahrs)

Turn out grew to 63,3% (+6,8%). This increase corresponds with a growing voter turnout during state elections since 2016. Mostly the Greens benefit from it while the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the right wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) could hardly gain from any previous non-voters. The social imbalance between more affluent voters and precarious non-voters has not essentially changed.

The results allow a continuation of the red-green coalition. In total, the coalition comes out of the elections strengthened even though the weight has shifted in favour of the Greens.

The Social Democrats had to accept clear losses, yet remain by far the strongest party (39,2%). Mayor Tschentscher succeeded in preserving the status of the SPD as a “Hamburg party”, facilitated by his good personal ratings. Nonetheless, it will not have the desired effect for the party on national level: as with many recent state elections regional factors, constellations and personalities played a much higher role. The SPD campaigned as “Hamburg Social Democrats”, ostentatiously leaving out the federal party chairs. While the people of Hamburg know what “their” SPD stands for, this does not apply to the federal party. The SPD is a humble winner: it looses 6,5%, more than any other party, yet remains strongest force. The most likely coalition will be a continuation with the Greens, with the parties constituting a comfortable majority (81 of 121 seats).

The Greens are the definite winners of these elections (24,2%). They double their previous result and maintain their political upswing. They gain votes from all other parties, mostly from the SPD. Yet they failed their intermediate campaign goal to constitute the first mayor of the town. The Greens clearly gain among demographic groups who usually do not give their vote to them: among workers (from 5 up to 16%) and among voters with lower oder medium education. The general acceptance of green issues and positions is growing.

DIE LINKE  (the Left) is another winner of this election night (9,1%). It can slightly increase its share of votes (+0,6%) and gains a couple thousand voters from the Social Democrats as well as from the group of previous non-voters. There was no vote exchange with CDU, FDP or AfD, which highlights the left democratic embedment of the party. Voter profile remains relatively constant: there was above average approval by voters under 40 years old and in districts with a higher share of basic security beneficiaries.  The higher turnout did not affect the party negatively, as is usually the case. During the campaign the party intended to distinguish itself as a left oppostion to the likely continuation of the red-green government. This strategic orientation was successful even though the targeted double digit outcome was (again) not achieved.

The CDU looses another 5% and comes out with a record low of 11,2% – only two percentage points ahead of the Left. Especially dramatic for the CDU: only 6% of the  under 25 years old voted for the party compared to 14% for the Left. For a former peoples party this is a desastrous result in a West German town. This belongs to the trend of the CDU having trouble to gain ground with younger urban voters. Additionally, their top candidate Weinberg lacked charisma. The conduct of the federal party might have contributed to the result. Its political lack of orientation after the elections in Thuringia has been acted out publicly. Currently the party seems to be ideologically crouchy, incapable to act and having now leadership. The Hamburg CDU could not make their plans for the town clear. The events in and around Thuringia demonstrated how quickly an alleged stability factor can turn into an engine for policital insecurity.

The AfD barely re-enters the parliament (5,3%). It lost 0,8 percentage points but could maintain its (radical) right wing voter base.

The liberals (FDP) did not succeed in entering the parliament (4,9%) as a party but gained one direct mandate.