A Glimpse of 2016 in Hamburg?

The results of the February 15 elections in the city-state of Hamburg were a mix of forgone conclusions and some surprises. It was a given that the Social Democrats (SPD) would re-secure the majority for their candidate, Olaf Scholz. He will serve a second term as mayor but now with a coalition partner, as he was not able to get a renewal of his absolute majority.

While the Greens are his most likely partner, the fact that the FDP made it back in the parliament offers a second if unlikely alternative to Scholz. The FDP is happy with the 7.4 percent result as it signals that the party is still alive in the political arena—if barely. The Liberals face a much more important set of hurdles next year in the larger states.

The other surprise was the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the parliament—now the fourth state-level platform it has achieved and the first in western Germany. How its momentum will carry into next year remains to be seen, but the continuing crises in the EU, particularly the current clash with Greece, is fueling the fires of protest against the euro.

Another 2 percent gain for the Left party was a signal that there is still room for its messages, particularly among the younger, unemployed voters.

Chancellor Merkel’s party took a big hit and left many in the ranks wondering what that suggests when it comes to measuring the strength of the CDU as a party—not just as a platform for Merkel. Some argued that Scholz had the bonus of incumbency and the CDU candidate could not differentiate himself sufficiently. But what is interesting is to see where the CDU is competitive in Germany’s major cities—or better stated, where it isn’t, which is in a significant number of the largest urban centers. That has to worry Merkel. In addition, right now the CDU governs only four of sixteen states, with its sister party the CSU governing Bavaria. Nine of the remaining eleven states are in the hands of coalition governments run by the SPD, another headed by the Greens, and one now headed by a minister-president affiliated with the Left party.

That leaves a lot of questions about how Chancellor Merkel can translate her personal popularity into successes in the more important state elections slated for 2016. That is not to be underestimated, but it looks like she will need a better roster of candidates than available in Hamburg.

Party Percentage of Votes Seats
SPD 45.7 58
CDU 15.9 20
DIE LINKE 8.5 11
FDP 7.4 9
GRÜNE 12.3 15
AfD 6.1 8
Sonstige 4.1
The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Jackson Janes

President of AICGS

Jackson Janes is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics from 2005-2010.

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Atlantic Council of the United States. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee , Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS), the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association, and the American Bundestag Intern Network (ABIN) in Washington, DC. He is a member of the Board of the German American Fulbright Commission and serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is a member of the Cosmos Club in Washington DC.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Education:
Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Expertise:
Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.