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Hamburg to hold elections amid domestic political turmoil


Hamburg to hold elections amid domestic political turmoil

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Photo: dpa/Daniel Bockwoldt

Voters in the German state of Hamburg will head to the polls today to elect members of the 22nd Hamburg Parliament. With a current plurality of 45.6% of seats, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) tops most opinion polls, led by incumbent Mayor Peter Tchentscher.

These will be the first state elections since October’s inflammatory results in the central state of Thuringia saw Thomas Kemmerich of the pro-business Free Democrat Party emerge victorious. For many Germans, the issue is that Kemmerich could not have done so without the support of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. This marks the first time a German politician won the regional leadership with the support of the alt-right, an alliance widely considered politically reprehensible.

The German political climate is unstable. Long-time federal leader Angela Merkel is serving her last term as chancellor and there are looming questions about who will be her eventual successor. Even more troublesome, Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union was part of the coalition that worked with the AfD and brought Kemmerich to power in Thuringia.

With the SDP solidly in line for first place, expect the Hamburg election to assuage fears of a growing far-right resurgence. However, the events in Thuringia have the potential to ignite far-right mobilisation in future regional and national elections. Now that the electoral power of the AfD has been proven, the temptation for weaker parties to seek its backing will be increasingly alluring.

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