New configuration of forces in German parliament can seriously change political landscape
30 September 2017. PenzaNews. The leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) Angela Merkel won the election for a new Bundestag on September 24, and secured another term as German Chancellor – the post that she has held for 12 years since 2005.
© PenzaNewsBuy the photo
However, according to many foreign media, the victory of the Federal Chancellor was “disastrous,” as the results of this vote were the worst for the CDU ever since the party was headed by Angela Merkel.
In accordance with the final data of the German Central Election Commission, the party alliance of the CDU/CSU won with 33% of the vote, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) led by Martin Schulz picked up only 20.5% of the vote having demonstrated the lowest result in history, and the right-populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) received 12.6% of the vote, making it the third strongest party in the next Bundestag. The Liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) came in at 10.7%, the far-left Die Linke party scored 9.2%, the Greens received 8.9% of the total vote.
According to the observers, the results of the last election can significantly change the political system of Germany, which was established after 1949: for the first time a three-party government can be created in the country.
Commenting on the results of the voting, Michael Broening, Head of the International Policy Department of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, said that German voters sent a very clear message that they have had enough of grand coalitions.
“In a way this is a textbook-example of too much centrism in politics. The years of cooperation between the center-left and the center-right have arguably produced some good results for the country but have also strengthened the political fringe on the extreme left and right,” the expert told PenzaNews.
In his opinion, government making will prove difficult.
“With seven parties in Parliament and deep running ideological differences not only between the Liberals and the Greens but also between Merkel’s Bavarian sister party and the Greens, all bets are off on whether they will actually succeed in building a strong government coalition,” Michael Broening said.
From his point of view, the fact that the small parties have emerged as kingmakers has far-reaching repercussions for Germany's future course.
“The small coalition partners will yield much more political influence than their small size would otherwise suggest. Another tectonic shift will be caused by the entering of Alternative for Germany to Parliament. While it is unclear which role they will eventually embrace, they will certainly have a notable impact on the way the German parties will do business in Parliament. Strategically, they may well prove to be a lasting burden in particular for the Christian Democrats. If AfD managers to present themselves not so much as radical extremists but as a conservative alternative to the Christian Democrats, then this could be bad news for Germany’s conservatives for a long time to come,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), said that “the traditional large parties have lost progressively the feeling for the concerns of the people that they were called to govern.”
“Their leaders formed a cut-off group of political professionals, largely sharing the same views, using the same language code to express themselves and heavily influencing the media and other so-called social ‘multiplicators.’ They thought themselves to be almost invincible and developed therefore certain arrogance. The political differences between those parties have almost vanished over the last two decades. The coming into existence of new political movements with other ideas had therefore to be expected. This development has been reinforced by the emergence of social media which form partly a counterweight to the dominant mainstream media,” the politician explained.
Meanwhile, according to him, the results of the elections are connected with specific domestic political events.
“The result in Germany can certainly be better understood in the light of the migration crisis, the introduction of the lunatic gender-theory in many schools, growing distrust in the media, the lack of commitment to defend the traditional family and, more generally, in the dominance of the leftist political agenda as invented in 1968. The abandoning of nuclear power, the fight of the ecologists against automobiles, the abolition of compulsory military service, the uncertainty of the monetary policy and the limitation of the freedom of expression are all elements that have created sufficient uneasiness in the German society to open the way for a new party. It is interesting to note that the almost equally successful FDP and the AfD share a number of key proposals in their programs,” Luxembourg Parliament member said.
Answering the question about the government coalition, he noted that he has no data beyond the usual speculation.
“However, I would like to note that the ‘strategy of exclusion’ towards the AfD has not worked. Basically, this is a strategy to keep the power within the ‘gang of four’ – CDU/CSU, SPD, Green and Left – and to exclude new competitors. But the AfD is now become stronger than ever, both regionally and nation-wide. As we remember the failure of similar strategies originally directed against the Greens and the Left, one may wonder for how long such a strategy has a chance to be upheld,” the politician said.
From his point of view, in Europe, Germany will appear “weakened since her leader has suffered a huge domestic defeat.”
“Chancellor’s freedom for decision-making is now much more limited than it was until now. Several parties have announced that they would like to come back to more conservative policies in order to gain back voters from the AfD. A number of leaders are now openly challenged. Hence, we may expect significant changes in the political landscape in Germany,” Fernand Kartheiser explained.
Experts: Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels not yet yielded tangible results
“Seen together with other developments, I think that we arrive at a turning point in Europe: the 1968 revolution comes slowly to an end. The European unification and the dream of abolishing the Nation States is challenged by Brexit. The political left's attempt to safe its ideological supremacy by introducing censorship especially in the social media meets with growing opposition. Conservative forces have a tendency to organize themselves in a more efficient way and to formulate their demands more openly. They are herein encouraged by the election of President Trump in the States. The leftist Europe has become out of pace with developments in the rest of the world. Now, it has to try to catch up,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hugh Gusterson, Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University, president of the American Ethnological Society, traced the connection between the results of voting in Germany, the referendum in the UK and the presidential elections in the United States.
“It is now clear that there is a deep connection between right-wing anti-immigrant populism and deindustrialization. You see the first where you find the second. We've seen this in support for Trump in the declining US rustbelt. We've seen it in the UK in support for Brexit in the old industrial North. In Germany, the AfD did particularly well in those parts of former East Germany that have suffered most from the new capitalism,” the analyst said.
According to him, the rise of this right wing populism is making stable governance difficult.
“In the US the Republican coalition is breaking up and the Republican party, despite its control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, seems incapable of getting anything done. In the UK, the governing conservative party is at war with itself and is clinging to power thanks to a deal with an unlikely coalition party. Now Angele Merkel faces her own version of this problem,” Hugh Gusterson said.
In turn, Heribert Adam, Professor Emeritus of political sociology at Simon Fraser University, stressed that in general, support for AfD was not extremely high.
“Since 87% of German voters did not vote for the AfD, the alarm about the right-wing entering parliament should be seen in context. The centre holds in Germany despite the anti-Muslim mobilization and the difficulties with the integration of a million refugees in 2015. I expect the AfD to be absorbed by internal ideological faction fights and eventually fade away again. The label ‘neo-Nazis’ is problematic, because unlike the historic Nazis, these nationalists praise Israel as a model, and like Le Pen, have shifted their racist focus from Jews to Muslims,” the expert said.
In addition, he drew particular attention to the fact that the voters of AfD in Germany differ significantly from those of right-wing parties in other countries.
“Unlike, the populist support elsewhere and particularly in the US for right-wing parties, which originates disproportionally from an insecure working class, 39% of AfD voters have above average income. In short, the vote was not so much an anti-Merkel or anti-SPD expression, but support for the smaller parties of the conservative, the middle and left, which together with big business, support the pro-European project and also Merkel’s steady, pragmatic immigration policy,” Heribert Adam said.
According to Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, the election result clearly underlines that the German voters are in favor of a fourth term for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“She has proven to lead the country through turbulent times and stands for stability and a steady hand. Secondly, the rise of the right-wing populist party shows that society is increasingly polarized. For the upcoming years, it is of great importance that the established parties regain the trust of voters across the political spectrum. This includes a clear position on the issues of migration, refugee policy and homeland security. It is the duty of all democratic forces to unmask right-wing populism and offer clear solution to existing problems,” the politician said.
Meanwhile, the formation of the government and building its working strategy is one of the most acute questions, he believes.
“In a potential coalition with four partners, it remains to be seen how compromises might look like. This is especially true for the areas of homeland security, tax reform and migration. While the conservative and liberal party have a relatively great extent of policy overlap, consensus with the Green party will be much harder,” Patrick Sensburg explained.
According to him, Germany will sustain the foreign policy that the government has established over the course of Chancellor Merkel’s time in office.
“All potential coalition partners agree on a pro-European consensus, although they partially differ on the level of integration that the Union should pursue. This is especially true with regard to fiscal policy. Germany’s political system is extraordinarily resilient. Although a right-wing populist party has now entered the parliament, our partners in Europe and beyond can trust in Germany’s reliability as an actor for peace, security and prosperity,” German MP concluded.