September 28, 2021

German Election

“Germany’s center-left Social Democrats won the biggest share of the vote in a national election Sunday, narrowly beating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel ’s center-right Union bloc in a closely fought race that will determine who succeeds the long-time leader at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.” AP News

Here are the current results (The Guardian):

  • SPD - Social Democrats (25.7%): The traditional party of the centre-left, intermittently in government, sometimes in coalition with the CDU
  • CDU/CSU - Christian Democrats (24.1%): Merkel's conservatives and the most successful party in the history of the Federal Republic
  • Grüne - Greens (14.8%): Influential Green party which has formed coalitions at both state and federal level
  • FDP - Free Democratic Party (11.5%): Small but influential 'pro-business' party, slightly less socially conservative than the CDU
  • AfD - Alternative for Germany (10.3%): Populist rightwing party that opposes immigration and is sceptical of the EU
  • Linke - The Left (4.9%): Alliance of breakaways from the SPD and former East German communists

Both sides see the results as a continuation of the status quo:

“Typically, candidates for the highest political office seek to distance themselves as much as possible from incumbents, to demonstrate the superiority of their vision for the country. But in Germany, the main candidates vied to imitate Ms. Merkel’s centrist political style. It delivered four successive electoral victories, after all… The convergence among candidates goes beyond political style. After 16 years of rule by Ms. Merkel, the country has settled into a seemingly unshakable status quo. Economically, socially and ecologically, very little is up for change…

“Ironically, given its cautious nature, the campaign played out against a backdrop of multiple crises. The pandemic continues to place enormous strain on the country, NATO suffered a historic defeat in Afghanistan, and floods caused by climate change devastated large swaths of land this summer and claimed nearly 200 lives… The moment — not least at the European level, where the bloc requires firm leadership — demands boldness. But that’s not going to happen. Instead the new era, locked into consensual politics and tepid policy, is likely to be more of the same.”
Oliver Nachtwey, New York Times

Germany is an outlier in Europe in avoiding electoral upheavals. In the past six years, British voters took a risk on Brexit, French voters gave Emmanuel Macron’s reform agenda a shot, Italians experimented with insurgent parties, and Greece has contested elections in which voters chose between very different governing visions…

“Germans might say that’s because their country has functioned better under Mrs. Merkel, but that’s not entirely true. Whoever ends up in charge, Berlin faces serious challenges over how to spur productive investment and innovation at home, absorb large migrant inflows, respond to mounting strategic threats from China and Russia, and maintain good relations with neighbors and the U.S. As Germany settles in for lengthy coalition wrangling, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the parties and voters prefer a static status quo to a clear new direction.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“If there was one big loser in Germany’s watershed national elections Sunday, it was the conservative and extreme right wings… The far-right, especially the AfD, did itself little good by embracing an anti-vaccine and anti-mask agenda… Beyond Germany, there has been little sense that right-wing forces have provided any significant answers for many of Europe’s most intractable problems…

“In France, Le Pen is facing a challenge from a far-right media star, Eric Zemmour, threatening to split a far-right constituency that currently comprises barely a quarter of the electorate. In Italy, Salvini continues to thunder his views, but it’s technocrat Prime Minister Mario Draghi, an economist and longtime president of the European Central Bank, who is now calling the shots in a more temperate manner. And the European Community has begun attacking the right-wing government in Poland over issues ranging from press censorship to the rule of law and control over the judiciary.”
David A. Andelman, NBC News Think

“While he was crafting his political message, [SPD leader Olaf] Scholz studied two of the left’s biggest political failures in recent memory: the United States’ 2016 presidential election and Britain’s Brexit referendum…

“His primary takeaway from both events was that ‘we should, as progressives, be very careful to acknowledge all the different choices that people make about their life… That’s why Olaf Scholz talked a lot about respect. Somebody without a college degree should not get the impression [that] he or she is seen as part of a ‘basket of deplorables,’’ [one of Scholz’s closest advisers] said, referencing Hillary Clinton’s infamous gaffe…

“Scholz’s strategy has made him the front-runner to succeed Merkel as Germany’s next chancellor. Yet winning an election and retaining power are two different things, and respect has to be more than just a slogan to be effective. In the Social Democrats’ case, that means following through on the party’s pledge to address societal inequality by, among other initiatives, increasing the hourly minimum wage by 25 percent to 12 euros ($14) an hour and reintroducing a wealth tax on the country’s rich. Such promises won’t be easily fulfilled.”
Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic

From the Right

“The good news is that there will be no socialist government in Germany after Sunday’s elections narrowly defeated that outcome. Germany elected the second-largest parliament in the world (after the People’s Congress in China) with 735 representatives. The three left-wing parties, the SPD (Social Democrats), Greens (left-wing environmentalist party), and radical leftist Die Linke (the former East German Communist Party), got a combined 363 seats, but they would have needed 368 to form a government…

“Although a left-wing government was averted, it is clear that Germany is drifting further to the left: The left-wing parties (with the exception of the ex-communists) increased their share of the vote. Above all, 50 ‘Young Socialists’ will be taking up seats in the German Bundestag for the SPD, all of whom are closely aligned with the SPD left-winger Kevin Kuhnert. In the past, Kuhnert has spoken out in favor of nationalizing companies such as BMW and declared that only the state should be allowed to manage rental apartments.”
Rainer Zitelmann, Washington Examiner

Germany in 2021 is a consensus country. By American standards, that looks like sheer bliss. A change of government will shift things only a couple of degrees to the left or right. All Germany’s political parties, not only the Greens, want to save the planet. On taxes, the Greens and the ‘reds’ (the color of the Social Democrats), want to soak the rich a bit. Anybody for lowering taxes? No, but the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats promise not to raise them…

“The Germans and French will dispatch the occasional warship to the Indo-Pacific, but for show, not combat. The reflex is to evade entrapment in America’s global conflicts; let the Japanese, Indians and Australians help the U.S. defang Chinese expansionism. Naturally, the Afghan experience hasn’t galvanized European resolve. The allies weren’t even consulted about the chaotic American pullout. The French won’t forgive the U.S. for torpedoing their nuclear-submarine deal with Australia…

“As goes Germany, so goes the rest of Europe; neither will act as Mr. Biden’s lieutenant against Russia, China and Iran.”
Josef Joffe, Wall Street Journal

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.