Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) has retained its position for the fourth election in a row of by far the dominant party in German politics. However, both the CDU and their traditional main rival, the Social Democrats (SPD), suffered dramatic falls in their share of the vote as populist, far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) came a strong third.
While CDU and its Bavarian equivalent, CSU, slumped nine percentage points to register 33% of the vote, the SPD recorded only 20.5% of the vote, their worst result since 1949.
Attributing their loss to being part of a ‘grand coalition’ with the CDU over the course of the last parliament, the SPD leadership were quick to rule out entering into such an arrangement again.
This leaves Merkel little option but to attempt to form the so-called ‘Jamaica Coalition’ of three parties: her very own CDU/CSU, the economic-liberal party Free Democrats (FDP), the Greens.
In the end, Merkel may be profoundly grateful for a strong showing from these two lesser parties, who registered 10.5% and 9.5% of the vote respectively, as it enables her to avoid seeking any form of agreement with the AfD. Even so, a three-party coalition government has not occurred in German politics since the 1950s.
As for the AfD, they can reflect on a stunning election night as they won 12.6% of the vote, finishing in third place overall and looking set to have 95 seats of the total 709 in the new Bundestag. The anti-Islamic, anti-refugee, and anti-gay marriage party performed particularly well in former East Germany, finishing in second place there with more than a fifth of the vote share.
Although the AfD leadership has sought to play down instances of anti-semitism within the party, reacting to the result Ronald Lauder, the head of the World Jewish Congress, commented that it was:
Abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform.
An immediate reaction to the AfD’s successful election night have been protests and rallies held in major cities across Germany, including one such protest in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.
However, it remains to be seen whether the AfD will be a mere one-election wonder – the unexpected refusal of co-chair Frauke Petry to take her seat in AfD’s parliamentary grouping suggests rifts within the party.
Although Martin Schulz, the SPD’s candidate for Chancellor this time round, described Merkel as a ‘total loser’, the SPD will certainly be licking their wounds after this election. As part of that process, they have announced a nationwide voter survey to try to determine why they flopped at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, the indefatigable force that is Angela Merkel continues on as Germany’s Chancellor for likely another 4 years. However, in the tricky negotiations to come, to mix the black of CDU/CSU colours with the yellow of the FDP and green of the Greens to form the ‘Jamaica Coalition’, she may be forgiven for feeling that her grip on power has been partially bruised at this election.