Two weeks after the first round of voting, the CSU, the Free Voters and the SPD scored points in the runoff elections. Only the Greens came away almost empty-handed.
The Bavarian local election as a complete postal vote, Here the counting in Munich Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
It was already clear beforehand that it would be a historic election: the first Bavarian election without any polling stations at all. Due to the ongoing corona pandemic, the municipal runoff elections in Bavaria were held exclusively by mail. At least the turnout was good, as it was higher in many places than in the first round of voting two weeks ago. A runoff election was necessary around 750 times, and 18 district councils and 16 mayors of independent cities were not elected until this Sunday. This was the case everywhere where none of the candidates was able to win an absolute majority of votes on March 14.
The CSU was particularly pleased, but the Free Voters and SPD also scored some successes – some of them quite surprising. "CSU knows how to run a big city," Markus Soder said on Twitter when the results from Nuremberg and Augsburg became available. In both cities, his party won the race.
The prime minister from Nuremberg should be particularly pleased that a Christian Socialist can now take his seat as mayor in his hometown: Marcus Konig prevailed with 52.2 percent of the vote against the SPD’s Thorsten Brehm. Brehm’s popular party colleague Ulrich Maly did not run again. This means that the SPD stronghold of Nuremberg will be governed by a CSU member for the second time in its post-war history. There had already been a Christian Social intermezzo between 19.
In Augsburg, Bavaria’s third-largest city, the matter was somewhat less surprising. Kurt Gribl, a CSU man, had already been in power there. After Gribl decided not to run again, the CSU candidate Eva Weber was considered the clear favorite. The 42-year-old prevailed in the runoff election with 62.3 percent against the SPD candidate Dirk Wurm.
Is there a "Corona bonus"?
The CSU leadership is therefore – as two weeks ago – quite satisfied with the overall result of the elections. The fact that the CSU only achieved 34.5 percent of the votes in the local parliaments, compared to almost 40 percent six years ago, is being ignored.
The result in the SPD stronghold of Munich was hardly surprising. Here, the CSU candidate Kristina Frank had forced the incumbent Dieter Reiter into a runoff. But he now won the runoff with around 70 percent of the vote. However, the final result is not yet available. What is certain is that he will no longer be able to continue his coalition with the CSU. Two weeks ago, the SPD lost a lot of ground and is now only the third strongest faction in the city council of the state capital after the Greens and the CSU.
In the past two weeks, Reiter had not campaigned at all and had concentrated entirely on presenting himself as the savior in the Corona crisis. He rebuffed a local newspaper that wanted to ask both candidates three questions each before the runoff: He felt it was inappropriate to make partisan political statements during the crisis.
Not all incumbents were able to play out their bonus in such a way. In Ingolstadt, for example, the CSU mayor had to give up his job to his SPD challenger, in Kulmbach it was no different, and in Hof it was an SPD woman who forced the ruling CSU mayor out of office. The Bayreuth mayor, who ran for a local voters’ association, was defeated by her CSU challenger, as was the non-party incumbent in Ansbach.
A slap in the face for the Greens
In some municipalities, however, counting of the votes did not begin until Monday. The result in Regensburg, where the runoff election will decide the race between the two candidates from the CSU and SPD, is being awaited with particular excitement.
The election evening was particularly bitter for the Greens. While the party was the big winner in the elections for the city and municipal councils two weeks ago, increasing its statewide share of the vote from around 10 to over 17 percent and becoming the second strongest force, even then it was mostly left behind in the races for mayor and district council positions.
In Munich, the Green Party candidate Katrin Habenschaden, contrary to all expectations, did not even make it into the runoff, in Nuremberg the candidate there did even worse, and the bottom line is that the Greens now have even fewer municipal regents than before the election. The goal had been to double the number of mayoral and district administrator positions and to provide at least one female mayor.
In Sunday’s runoff elections, the Greens were now left with seven district council posts, four mayoral seats and 15 mayoral seats at stake. With one exception, however, they lost all of these runoff elections. In Landshut, for example, former party leader Sigi Hagl was defeated by incumbent mayor Alexander Putz of the FDP. And Martina Neubauer, who had thought she had a good chance in the district of Starnberg, also failed to make it into the district council. In Grafing and Lauf an der Pegnitz, even incumbent Green mayors had to vacate their offices.
Probably the most crushing defeat on Sunday evening was suffered by Wolfgang Rzehak, the Green district administrator of Miesbach and, to date, one of only two Greens in this office in Bavaria. But although he was the incumbent, he lost to the previous mayor of Holzkirchen, Olaf von Lowis (CSU), with not even 35 percent of the vote in the runoff.
Rzehak had taken office six years ago after the then incumbent Jakob Kreidl was no longer carried even by his CSU party following a scandal. "I think it is clear that we Greens have not leased the district of Miesbach," Eva Lettenbauer, the state leader of the Greens, commented simply on the defeat on Sunday evening.
Only Susanna Tausendfreund, the mayor of Pullach, prevailed against her CSU challenger. She is now the only remaining female Green mayor in Bavaria. In the first round of voting, nine male party colleagues also made it into the mayoral seats of smaller municipalities. In addition, Jens Marco Scherf remains district administrator in Miltenberg in Lower Franconia.