Germany: The electorate induced a political quake

Germany: The electorate induced a political quake

by Rainer Schopf

Germany has voted. After the lame campaign, in which the established parties omitted almost all controversial themes such as a weapon arsenal, the refugee crisis, saving the euro, the EU crisis etc. the German electorate induced a political quake at the polls. According to the election officials, the voter turnout increased to 76.2%, after being at 71.5% in 2013. However, the CDU/CSU (32.9%) and SPD (20.5%), in comparison to the last German parliamentary election in 2013, have taken massive losses of approximately 10% (CDU/CSU) and 5% (SPD) respectively. These results show a historical low since the first federal elections in 1949. The Left Party (9.2%) and the Green Party (8.9%) remain stable and the FDP achieves re-entrance to the Bundestag with 10.7% after failing to reach the hurdle of 5% in 2013. A clear election winner is the AFD Party, which won 12.6% and therefore enters the Bundestag and immediately becomes the third strongest faction as well. What are the implications of these results for the constellation of the next government?

Angela Merkel lost the previous coalition partner SPD. She no longer has any choice with the formation of the coalition. The only possibility is the Jamaica-alliance which includes CDU/CSU, the Green Party and FDP, if she wants to remain in power. Alliances with the AfD or the Left are out of the question for her. However, her leadership as chancellor is foreseeably limited. The Jamaica-alliance remains difficult because the Green and FDP parties are hopelessly embatteld. The coalition negotiations will take months and during this time Germany will be without a capable acting government. This was reported by the commentators of the German media who collectively estimated that this governmental alliance will break apart within 1 to 2 years, due to internal tensions. On election night, Martin Schulz (SPD) had already declined the Chancellor the possibility of forming a large coalition to avoid that the AfD will become the strongest opposition party, he wants to lead his SPD faction into this position. The strongest opposition party holds special speaker rights and possesses important committees in the Bundestag which the SPD wants to secure to itself before the AfD.

Success of the AfD

For the politically informed the success of the AfD is not a real surprise. The original politics of the AfD began with the top candidate Bernd Lucke who was against the saving of the euro and who could rely to the Federal Constitutional Court. After he stepped down, the new leaders Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel (both AfD) concentrated their campaign with more emphasis on words like “German” and “Christian” which in Germany today have an extreme right-wing flavour although these words are also found in the name of the CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP. Expressions like “national” or “conservative” are already considered to be a case for the constitution protection. The voters did not fall for the attempt to defame the AfD and with their AfD votes, they made a clear statement. The established parties must change their course of action if they want to win back the voters who changed parties.
A word about the size of the Parliament. There was an expansion from 598 to 708 seats for 200 voting regions. This unfortunate situation is due to the complicated German voting rights with a mixture of majority vote (first vote) and proportional representation vote (second vote), which now gives us 111 additional overlapping and compensating mandates. In the last legislative period a reform of the German voting rights already failed, because many parliamentarians hung on to their cushy positions. A reform in the future does not seem likely because not only four, but six parties must agree on a reduction. Each seat involves the cost of 1 million euros for an elected member of the Bundestag and his office.

Quo vadis?

The future government must take a position on controversial topics such as the EU crisis, the intervention of NATO on the Russian border, the Korea Crisis, the illegal wars in the Near- and the Middle East and Africa. A political standstill until spring 2018 cannot be allowed. As early as 2015 Rolf Hochhuth pleaded in an open letter to the Chancellor and to the President of Germany, for the pull-out of NATO. Otherwise he fears the end of Germany, “finis Germaniae”. The politics of as far as possible have ultimately failed. Germany desperately needs an honest and open discussion about the current controversial themes and the future of our democracy.    •

(Translation Current Concerns)

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