For the first time in living memory, the CSU appears almost certain to fall below the 40 percent mark — and possibly well below it — in Sunday’s regional election, an outcome that would send political tremors from Munich to Berlin.
Founded in 1945, the CSU has ruled the prosperous southern German state with an absolute majority for most of the post-war era. That strength has made the CSU an indispensable (if often difficult) partner for its sister organization, the Christian Democrats, which is active in every German state except for Bavaria.
The CSU won nearly 48 percent at the last election, in 2013, securing a majority of seats, but according to one poll last week it has fallen to just 33 percent. In much of Europe that result would be a dream finish for an incumbent centrist party. Given the CSU’s long reign, however, such a result would be seen as a disaster.
Though Bavaria is doing extremely well economically, with unemployment below 3 percent, a combination of frustration over migration policy as well as infighting within the CSU and the coalition in Berlin has many voters looking for alternatives.
It’s not just the CSU’s dominance in Bavaria that’s at stake. As a key player in Germany’s ruling grand coalition, Sunday’s election will also serve as a bellwether of the party’s influence on national politics.