Angela Merkel, Germany’s worst postwar chancellor, but the leader (to some) of the free world and paramount defender (to some) of ‘liberal values’ appears to have stumbled (just a bit, at least: She still won) in today’s parliamentary elections.
Angela Merkel has secured a fourth term as German chancellor but with her authority diminished, after her conservative bloc secured the lead position in parliamentary elections but failed to halt the march of rightwing populists. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was celebrating its historic third place success on Sunday night, having secured 13% of the vote, according to exit polls, marking the first time in almost six decades that an openly nationalist party will enter the Bundestag.
As a reminder, the AfD, which began life defined (more or less) by its opposition to the euro, has evolved (after splits and the departure of its founder) into a much harder line party of the nationalist right, a party that has clearly been given a big boost by Merkel’s irresponsible and narcissistic behavior during the migrant/refugee crisis in 2015.
Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrat-led alliance secured around 33.5% of the vote according to exit polls, 12.5 points ahead of her main rivals, Martin Schulz’s centre-left Social Democrats, who according to initial results had secured 21 points, marking a historical low for Germany’s oldest party and pushing it on to the opposition benches.
The arrogant and condescending Schulz, a eurofundamentalist and a lion of the ‘European’ Parliament (he was its president), has now discovered that winning a real parliamentary election is rather more difficult than was the case with the EU’s sad facsimile. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
Addressing CDU supporters in Berlin, a somewhat subdued looking Merkel thanked “voters who put their trust in us”. She said the “strategic goals” of her party’s election campaign had been reached, and gave her a clear mandate to form the next government, but she called the outcome “a result which was not as good as we had expected”.
She also promised to listen to the “concerns and anxieties” of AfD voters in order to win back their votes.
And if you believe that…
There will be plenty more to say about this election, but Angela Merkel will serve a remarkable fourth term as chancellor (whatever happened today, that’s still an impressive achievement), with her CDU and Bavaria’s CSU probably (best guess) in an somewhat awkward coalition with the free market FDP (now back in parliament) and the Greens. The AfD will be given the cold shoulder, and not only by Merkel. This may enable them to portray themselves as the ‘real’ opposition, a strategy that has worked well for the Sweden Democrats, a somewhat similar party that was shunned by all the other parties after it first made it into the Swedish parliament.
One interesting question is the degree to which the Social Democrats will now grow closer to the Left Party, a party with roots in East German Communism and which took (judging by the exit polls) a little under 9 percent of the vote.
Not such a dull election after all.