Question marks over Berlin

Question marks over Berlin

Daniela Huber
The CDU/CSU wins but loses ground, the left collapses, the far-right enters parliament, and the only viable option for Merkel seems to be negotiating with the greens and liberals. After the latest elections, German politics is grappling with a negotiation process that still looks to be an uphill struggle

Germany’s 2017 parliamentary elections might have heralded in the end of the two big people’s parties, as the Conservatives (CDU) with 33% and the Social Democrats (SPD) with 20,5% could barely cross the 50% mark. For the first time in the history of the Federal German Republic an extreme right wing party - the Alternative for Germany (AfD) - has succeeded to enter the Bundestag; and entered as the third biggest party, winning 12,6%. At the same time, with the Linke (9,2%), the Greens (8,9%), and the FDP (10,7%), the German parliament has never hosted so many diverse parties. At the same time, the parliament has never been so male in the past 19 years, with female parlamentarians being at 31% (down from 37%). This is mainly a result of the entrance of the AfD, but also of the FDP; only 11 of the 94 AfD parliamentarians are women, and 18 of the 80 FDP parliamentarians.

The difficult dialogue between parties and the Jamaica option

Setting up a coalition might not be an easy task for Angela Merkel. The SPD has categorically rejected a new Grand Coalition. Merkel’s sister party, the CSU, now seems even more set to hold on to its strategy of trying to reclaim its territory on the right, even though this strategy has been a resounding failure. The CSU has lost 10% in Bavaria with voters moving either to the AfD despite the CSU’s move to the right, or to the FDP as many CSU voters had been appalled by Horst Seehofer’s attacks on the Chancellor. The FDP is highly emboldened under the strong leadership of Christian Lindner and will come forward with tough demands towards the chancellor to evade another electoral debacle as it suffered four years ago. Lindner will not only seek the Ministry of Finance, but the FDP has passed a ten-point plan just a weak before the elections to strengthen its position in coalition negotiations, among which figures a “liberal” immigration policy (Canada’s model) and a "trend reversal" in the Eurozone which constitute major obstacles in deepening economic integration as proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. The Greens, however, have already taken up Macron’s call, and look prepared to enter a Jamaika coalition, working their way towards the foreign ministry.

A challenging situation for the German left

Will a Jamaika coalition materialize which is currently far from certain mainly due to the tough position of the FDP, the SPD - and not the AfD - will lead the opposition as the biggest opposition party. No one in the leadership of the SPD has, however, taken responsibility for the electoral disaster, above all Martin Schulz who has announced that he will again run for the leadership of the party. This does not bode well for the party’s announced strategy that it wants to become younger and more female now. Due to the resounding failure of the SPD in these elections and with the Greens branding themselves civic-liberal, the left is rather weak in the new Bundestag, as SPD and Linke are at 30% only. It remains to be seen if the SPD and die Linke will compete or cooperate with each other in the upcoming legislative period. Only by working together, however, will they be able to bring social justice back to the political agenda and to present a credible political alternative for voters who have been left behind by globalization.

The far right is set to enter the Bundestag

The majority of the voters of the AfD have not voted for the party due to deep ties of affiliation. About 60% of the party’s electorate had mainly voted in rejection of the other parties and 42% of the AfD’s voters feel disadvantaged in Germany relative to others (compare this to 16% of all voters). Nonetheless, it will be a difficult task for all parties to deal with the AfD now in the parliament. Angela Merkel already received much sympathy as she - provoked by the statement of the representative of the AfD that he hardly sees Germans anymore in the city centers – stated that she cannot see on the street who has a German passport or not.