Germany's conservatives set to win state elections with far-right making gains

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Skyscrapers of the city center can be seen from the Lohrberg in the north of Frankfurt. Photo: Arne Dedert/dpa (Photo by Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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Germany’s conservative opposition was slated to win two state elections while the far-right gained ground on Sunday, exit polls showed, halfway into the government of social democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Regional elections were held in the states of Hesse in west-central Germany, which includes Frankfurt, and Bavaria in the south-east, which includes Munich. The two states were led by the main opposition Union alliance that reunites the Christian Social Union party and the Christian Democratic Union.

In Bavaria, an exit survey of the ARD broadcaster indicated that CSU — which previously ruled as part of a coalition regional government with the center-right Free Voters of Bavaria party — was set to clinch 37% of votes, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party increasing its footing to 15%.

In Hesse, theBoris Rhein’s CDU had led as part of a coalition with the Greens — and was set to win 35.5% of votes, exit polls showed. Here, too, AfD strengthened its presence, from 13.1% of votes previously to 16% on Sunday.

“Congratulations, dear@BorisRhein_cdu, to this sensational result! Above all, it shows one thing: unity and clear positions pay off,” CDU chairman Friedrich Merz said on the X social media platform, previously known as Twitter, according to a Google translation.

“Hesse has voted. Thank you for the overwhelming vote of confidence in all voters! We are starting a good new time together and will continue to lead Hesse,” Rhein said in Google-translated comments on the X platform.

The ruling Social Democratic Party is expected to gain 16% in Hesse and 8.5% in Bavaria.

In an interview with CNBC Tuesday, Robert Lambrou, head of the AfD in Hesse, said it was the standard of education and traffic logistics that were pushing voters toward his party.

“First of all you need a political will to stop it and we don’t see this will among the other parties. And many citizens see it the same way,” Lambrou told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach.

“People are … heavily disappointed by the policy of the government,” he added.