Angela Merkel has won a fourth term as German chancellor, but the election results indicate that she might have to make huge compromises. Her party’s lead in parliament has been cut, and the country is facing a surge in support for the far right.
Published results indicate that Merkel’s CDU/CSU group would be the largest in the Bundestag, but with its lead cut to 33.5% of the seats, down from 41.5% in 2013. The SPD fell to 21% from 25.7%.
This result appears to have shocked everyone at that party’s headquarters. It was also the worst result for CDU since 1949, and the SPD’s worst since 1945. The centre-left SPD, which had been in a “grand coalition” with Merkel, has been consigned to a new role as the leader of the opposition.
Subsequently, addressing her supporters, a subdued Merkel said the result gave her a “mandate” to govern but that the AfD’s success would require a “thorough analysis” to understand the concerns of their voters.
The hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has now become the third-largest group in the national parliament, the Bundestag, as German voters delivered a stinging blow to the traditional parties.
The AfD, founded only four years ago, has become the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag since 1961, with a seat projection of 13%, according to FORSA polling institute data commissioned by German public broadcaster ZDF.
Election results have laid bare some drastic points.
The CDU/CSU had 311 seats in the German Parliament after the 2013 election. Now they will have 217 seats, a loss of 94 seats. The SPD a member of the post-2013 coalition government has secured this year 137 seats, a loss of 56 seats. After this election the AfD, will have 88 seats; the FDP -- 69 seats, the Left 60 seats, a loss of four seats. And the Green Party will have 60 seats, a loss of three seats.
The coalition she will form might slow her down. However, despite difficulties, she will once again be able to head the free world
The media has reported that after the election results were published, Merkel addressed her supporters and pledged to try and understand the concerns of voters who lent their support to the AfD: “There’s a big new challenge for us, and that is the entry of the AfD in the Bundestag,” she said.
“We want to win back AfD voters.”
SPD leader Martin Schulz in the meantime has said that the result was a “bitter disappointment” and that his party would not continue in the erstwhile coalition. It has been alleged by SPD supporters that during the election campaign, Schulz had found it hard to mount an effective opposition to Merkel, as his party had been inextricably linked to her policy decisions.
The AfD’s local party leader in Berlin, Georg Pazderski has declared AfD’s success a “political earthquake.”
The glory of AfD
It may be recalled that this party, founded in 2013, rose to prominence on the back of an anti-immigration stance and its opposition to Merkel’s decision to open the country’s borders to over a million migrants, mainly those fleeing violence and persecution from the Middle East. Their stand on the refugee issue has however influenced this party’s opponents to say that it has stoked Islamophobia in Germany.
CNN’s Fred Pleitgen and James Masters have noted that the AfD polled particularly strongly in East Germany, which includes Berlin, attracting 21.5% of the vote, according to exit polling conducted by Infratest Dimap.
In the West, it scored about 11%. The results have put the AfD on course to become the second largest party in the East, after the CDU.
In the meantime Alice Weidel, a leading AfD figure, has told supporters that she would keep her promise to call for a committee to investigate Merkel’s decision to allow more than a million refugees into the country in 2015.
It may be mentioned here that she has repeatedly claimed that Merkel should be “punished” for her decisions during the refugee crisis. Now she has stated: “People have given us their trust and we will keep our promise.”
However, the international electronic media has noted that there were protests outside the party’s headquarters in Berlin after the provisional results came through on September 24. Protesters chanted “Nazis out” and sang “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
Such anger also needs to be understood against the perspective of the controversial comment made earlier, by top AfD politician, Björn Höcke. He caused outrage by condemning the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and told AfD supporters that Germans were the “only people in the world who planted a memorial of shame in the heart of their capital.”
As expected, as a consequence of the results, and the glaring rise of the AfD, the European Jewish Congress has called on the major parties to shun the AfD in parliament.
Green and yellow
With the SPD refusing to rejoin government and no party willing to work with the AfD, the result appears to have left Merkel with few options for a coalition. Merkel may now be forced to make a deal with the Green Party and FDP, to create a so-called “Jamaican coalition” -- with the green and yellow of the two parties combining with the black of the CDU to resemble the flag of Jamaica.
Paul Hockenos, in this context has however observed that this option-of-last-resort would however be anything but fun. The Greens and the FDP stand on opposite sides on environment, social welfare, immigration, and education.
The liberal FDP, a pro-business, free-market party was jettisoned from the Bundestag four years ago but has now staged a dramatic comeback, having garnered 10% of the vote. The alliance might also be unruly and conflicted from day one -- not the best starting point to lead the free world, as some analysts have called upon Germany to do.
It may be mentioned that to form a government, the parties involved must have a combined total of at least 50% of the seats in parliament. There are likely to be several coalition options, and plenty of disagreement between the parties before they reach a deal.
There is however time for this process to be completed as the Bundestag is due to reconvene on October 24 -- a few weeks later -- with the new government in place.
Nevertheless, as soon as possible, Merkel will need to get to business and start tackling some of the “red-button issues afflicting Germany” -- this includes issues like the question of EU reform, the eurocrisis, migration, Putin’s Russia, and Trump’s US.
This time she will have to face diverse issues that will keep her critically engaged as an important leader of the free world. The coalition she will form might slow her down. However, it is generally believed that despite difficulties, she will once again be able to head the free world.
Merkel, this time, will be able to lead Germany and hopefully, together with Macron, Europe, too.
Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]