The AfD fell well short of its goals in the local elections in Saxony. The right-wing party had high hopes of winning at least one district administrator or mayor in its heartland. But the political earthquake did not materialize.
Elections were held in nine districts and in over 200 municipalities in the Free State on Sunday.
In the first ballot, the AfD did not come first in any of the districts. The CDU, which has so far provided all district administrators in Saxony, was able to defend its leading position in the districts of Leipzig, Nordsachen and Pirna right away. There, the Union candidates achieved over 50 percent. The Christian Democratic incumbent Henry Graichen won the clearest in the district of Leipzig with 69.9 percent. A runoff election is no longer necessary there. In the district of Mittelsachsen, where the AfD had high hopes of success, the independent candidate Dirk Neubauer was clearly ahead of the AfD. In all other districts, the candidates of the Union have been in the lead so far.
As expected, the field is closest together in the district of Görlitz. There, the AfD member of parliament Sebastian Wippel achieved more than a third of the votes (35.6 percent) in the district election. The CDU candidate Stephan Meyer achieved 46.3 percent. In the second round of voting on July 3rd in the district of Görlitz, a duel will be repeated that already took place in a similar form in the mayoral election in Görlitz in 2019. At that time, Wippel ran as a mayor candidate for the AfD against the Christian Democrat Octavian Ursu. In the second ballot, Wippel lost by 44.8 percent. This time he did even worse.
A second round of voting is also necessary in the state capital of Dresden, which has been scheduled for July 10th. There incumbent Dirk Hilbert received the most votes with 32.5 percent. Hilbert stood for the voters’ association “Independent Citizens for Dresden” and was supported by the CDU. Green Party candidate Eva Jähnigen (18.9 percent) and SPD candidate Albrecht Pallas (15.2 percent) came in second and third. The AfD candidate, Maximilian Krah, only came fourth with 14.2 percent.
The Greens, SPD and Left had agreed in Dresden to go into the race with a common candidate in the second ballot. The runoff will now be held between Hilbig and the Green Jähnige. AfD man Krah can theoretically also compete, but given the results on Sunday his application has no chance.
There was a clear winner in the city of Zittau, where the non-party incumbent Thomas Zenker, who was supported by a liberal voter initiative, was able to prevail against an AfD challenger. Zenker won with 71.8 percent. The result is also remarkable because in Zittau in winter and spring there were still huge marches by opponents of the Corona measures, in which thousands of people took part every Monday. Zenker had demonstratively distanced himself from the protests by the Corona deniers. The fact that he nevertheless won the election impressively shows that the volume and majority opinion in the population are not necessarily the same.
After the results in Saxony, which were sobering for the AfD, it is not the Christian Democratic Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, who is in need of explanations – but AfD boss Tino Chrupalla. The Saxon, who was still able to defend his direct mandate in the 2021 federal elections, had hoped for successes in the local elections for a tailwind for the coming weekend.
Then the AfD held its federal party conference in Riesa, and Chrupalla was up for re-election as federal chairman. He was recently criticized in the party for not being able to come up with any brilliant ideas for electoral success in the West. In Schleswig-Holstein, the AfD was kicked out of the state parliament in May, in North Rhine-Westphalia the AfD only just cleared the five percent hurdle.
But even in the Free State of Saxony, where the AfD was ahead of the Union in the last federal elections in 2017 and 2021, the expected successes did not materialize this weekend. The results in Saxony, which were disappointing for the right-wing party, therefore outweigh the defeats and modest results in the west of the republic.
Nevertheless, the AfD remains a key factor in the east of the republic with a particular stronghold in Saxony, where it achieves its best results nationwide in federal and state elections. However, the populist recipe for success obviously cannot be easily transferred to the municipalities – where it is less about ideology and more about concrete politics and candidates.