Germany: Lessons learned by the elections

Victory with a scent of defeat for Angela Merkel, the emergence and rise of the nationalistic, populist right, difficulties in forming a coalition government and a crisis in the Social Democrats: what are the first lessons that we must learn from the German elections and what are the future challenges?

Pyrrhic victory

The Chancellor won the election with her party and is heading for a fourth term. However, the CDU / CSU Christian Association received between 32.7% and 33.3%, according to forecasts, and that is the worst result that German Christian Democracy has ever recorded. To date, the worst election performance was recorded in 2009 with 33.8%.

As a result, Angela Merkel failed to achieve the goal of her party receiving, at least 40%. This can prove to be a danger of fueling a debate within the CDU and the CSU circles, sparking criticism with regards to the centralized orientation of its policy. This will also seriously complicate the procedures for forming a coalition government in a fragmented parliament.

Hard right in the Bundestag

“Merkel, is the mother of AfD,” according to one of the authors of Spiegel’s main article. Whether or not she contributed to the rise of the party with the admission of more than a million refugees, Angela Merkel is preparing to go down in history as the Chancellor that has not been able to prevent the entry of the nationalist right into the German Parliament and receiving a percentage even more than expected. The Alternative for Germany received over 13% as predicted and can hope to gain nearly 90 seats. Even though it has been part of the political landscape in Europe for years, the presence in the German Parliament of a nationalist and populist right campaigning for the end of the mockery of the III Reich broke a taboo in Germany. Apart from the issue of immigrants, AfD benefits from rising social inequalities and labor market insecurity, despite the low rate of unemployment. These issues also pushed up the percentages received by the left with Die Linke, receiving 9% of the votes.

What sort of government?

Angela Merkel and the conservatives will not easily form a government majority. The Social Democrats, having recorded the worst results in their post-war history, between 20% and 21%, and have immediately announced that they would form the opposition. An alliance of Christian associations and FDP liberals (around 10%) would be and can be considered as the most natural development. But their rates are not enough to form a coalition government. A unique solution, would be opening up to ecologists, a development that will be unprecedented at national level. The problem is the significant difference of opinion between the Greens, on the one hand, and the liberals, but also the most conservative wing of Merkel’s political family on the other. Negotiations on the formation of a government may last until the end of the year. And some media predict holding new elections unless the negotiations are fruitful.

Which political direction?

The future orientation of the new coalition will depend on Germany’s future choices in Europe and the world. International issues were almost absent from the election campaign. Maintained by its stability, to a degree known as “Great Switzerland,” Germany will nevertheless have to face a series of international problems in a troubled world due to the presence of Donald Trump in the White House and Brexit.

“Germany is now confronted with changes coming from elsewhere, geopolitical rearrangements come in contrants with its traditional orientation towards the east, but also with its traditional alliance with the United States. This is a sudden change, “said Jean-Dominique Juliani, president of the Robert Schuman Foundation. In the event of an alliance with the SPD, Germany would be more open to the introduction of ambitious reforms in Europe. This will be difficult to do having the liberals on board and coming under pressure by the nationalist and anti-euro right wing.

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