Summary of the panel discussion about the Bavarian election

2018-11-07

The following article gives an insight into the panel discussion about the Bavarian election and its implications on Hungary and the EU. The event was organised by Political Capital and held on 19 October 2018 on the TRIP boat in Budapest. The summary was compiled by Political Capital's intern Szilárd Borsos.

The participants of the event were Edit Inotai, senior fellow at the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID), dr András Hettyey, senior lecturer, National University of Public Service, and Boris Kálnoky, a foreign correspondent (Die Welt, Weltwoche, Die Presse, Kleine Zeitung, Deutsche Welle, Cicero) based in Budapest. The event was moderated by Bulcsú Hunyadi, senior analyst, Political Capital.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) won the Bavarian elections with 37.2% of the vote, followed by the Greens with 17.5%, the Free Voters (FW) with 11.6% and Alternative for Germany (AfD) with 10.2%. The CSU formed a coalition with the FW in the Bavarian Parliament. The most important topics of the campaign were: the education system and education policy, affordable housing, climate change and migration.

Interestingly, migration was not the most important topic. The anti-migration AfD earned less votes than it did in the federal election. According to experts, the integration process has been successful in Bavaria. German population growth is driven more by migration than by births. Germany has a history of accommodation guest workers, which means that German society has a different take on migration. Most Germans are rather satisfied with their life, so they do not long for radical change. However, the AfD is getting stronger thanks to the presence of a minority dissatisfied with the current state of German politics.

According to Mr Kálonoky, the CSU’s popularity has remained stable for 10 years. The reason why they got approximately 10 percentage point less votes than in 2008 was the much higher turnout rate in 2018. Bavaria is a much-improved, modern part of Germany that has seen a significant amount of internal migration in the past years. The CSU has a stable voter base and they may get stronger again. Armin Laschet (CSU) said that „the conservative revolution is over,” but it is a question whether consider the AfD a conservative party or not. Conservatives would not have earned more votes even if Europe had not had a migrant crisis. We can also observe the disappearance of the social democrats (SPD), who got only 9.7% of the votes. Most of their voters are dissatisfied people above 50, but the majority of the German population seems satisfied with the political and economic system. The Greens got stronger, probably they attracted votes from ex-social democrats.

With the CSU winning the election, Hungary will probably have an ally in Bavaria for the next four years as well. Mr Hettyey said that German and Hungarian politics are very different (for example: status quo, European Union) and the two countries are extremely different as well (wealth, population, political culture, etc.), but they still have good partnership in business.

Ms Inotai thinks that it is business that keeps Germany and Hungary together. Germany and Bavaria are really important partners for Hungary and for all the Visegrád countries. Big investors such as BMW, Audi, Siemens have received huge subsidies from the Hungarian government, although it is a question if it is worth it because these companies only invest in manufacturing, not in research and development. Hungary is attractive for international companies because there are almost no strikes held in the country and trade unions are weaker than in most Western countries.

Even though politics in Hungary and Germany are completely different, Germans usually never criticise Hungary openly. They criticise Hungary in the European Parliament and voted for the Sargentini-report but they never criticise openly. According to experts, most of the German politicians have given up on Hungary.

There are a lot of uncertainties about the future of Germany and Hungary, but they will probably face different problems. Despite their political contrast, their partnership will continue, mainly based on economic cooperation.

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