Merkel bows out but the election in Germany means an estranged coalition awaits
Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The national election in Germany finally witnessed the end of Angela Merkel’s reign of being the Chancellor since 2005. Her leadership of the Christian Democratic Union (2000-2018) meant that for two decades, the influence of Merkel was paramount in Germany. Yet, since announcing that she would step down in 2018, the people of Germany knew that a new leader would emerge after the 2021 general election.
However, the two main political parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), garner much lower votes now than when Merkel first took office in 2005. Henceforth, irrespective of the international media making out that change is in the offing; on the contrary, the only significance is that Germany is more divided politically than in the pre-Merkel period because the CDU and SPD rely on even grander coalitions than in the past.
According to initial reports, it appears that the SPD garnered the most votes in the national election. Hence, only minor fractions will change from the latest information. Therefore, the current figures are SPD 25.8%, CDU/CSU 24.1%, Greens 14.6%, FDP 11.5%, AfD 10.5%, Left 4.9% and other political parties polling a combined 8.6%. Thus, while the SPD can rightly claim to be the largest party in terms of votes, the reality is that the CDU/CSU and SPD now poll much lower than the pre-Merkel period.
Kanako Mita says, “Indeed when Merkel took office in 2005, the CDU/CSU won 35.2% compared to 34.2% for the SPD. In 1998, the SPD won just below 41% compared to 35.1% for the CDU/CSU. Similarly, another SPD/Green alliance is nothing new apart from another party will be needed this time if the SPD can form a coalition government after the latest general election. Therefore, the two dominant parties in German post-war history continue to struggle since Merkel came to power.”
Deutsche Welle reports, “According to these projections, one option is a continuation of the “grand coalition” of the conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD that has governed Germany since 2013.”
Initial statements from the CDU/CSU and the SPD are that they plan to form respective coalition governments with the Greens and FDP. Both main parties have stated that they will not join any coalition that consists of the nationalist AfD. However, with the Greens and FDP being on opposite economic spectrums fiscal-wise – concerning government spending (and other areas) – it seems that the first three-way coalition for many decades will be a complex and messy affair.
Reuters reports, “With neither major bloc commanding a majority, and both reluctant to repeat their awkward “grand coalition” of the past four years, the most likely outcome is a three-way alliance led by either the Social Democrats or Merkel’s conservatives.”
Merkel’s tenure from outside of Germany appeared strong and based on continuity. However, in reality, both major parties have declined dramatically since her period began. Therefore, at a time of political extremism in the body politic of the United States within both main parties and international inertia – along with major disagreements inside the European Union (especially with Hungary and Poland) – along with the United Kingdom now being outside of the European Union; a strong response from the European economic power of Germany seems distant after the recent general election result.
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