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Deciphering Germany's Election Results

Angela Merkel will likely have to form a coalition with a free-market party and an environmentalist one.

What are we to make of the results of the German election? On the face of it, Germans have opted for a safe pair of hands. Angela Merkel, who first became Chancellor in 2005, and her party, the center-right Christian Democrats, have won 33 percent of the vote and 246 seats in the Bundestag. Since there are 630 seats in the federal parliament, Merkel's CDU/CSU will need to form a coalition with one or more parties to form government.

Over the last four years, she has governed with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD gained 20.5 percent of the vote and 153 seats). That arrangement is unlikely to continue because, in order to undermine the SPD, Merkel's milquetoast Christian Democrats have moved to the left. As such, the SPD base feels that the party needs to go into opposition to find its independent voice again.

A coalition with the leftist Die Linke (9.2 percent and 69 seats) is out of the question and the same goes for a coalition with the rightist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), which gained 13.3 percent of the vote and 94 seats in the Bundestag.

The AfD is almost universally referred to as a "far right" party, but there is a world of difference between the AfD and the true far right (neo-Nazis, who remain pathetically few in number and are, rightfully, consigned to the fringes of German society). While polite society may find the AfD's policies (more on those below) reprehensible, nobody in the new Bundestag will be calling for a return to the 1930s.

That leaves Merkel with two parties, the free-market Free Democrats (11.3 percent of the vote and 80 seats) and the environmentalist Grüne (9.4 percent and 67 seats), both of which she'll need to form a stable government. Creation of the "Jamaica Coalition"—the CDU/CSU color is black, FDP's is yellow, and Grüne's is green—should pose no serious problems.

The FDP will get on with the pro-business elements in the CDU/CSU like a house on fire (they have done so on numerous previous occasions, including, most recently, between 2009 and 2013) and the Greens will be attracted to Merkel's environmentalist policies, including her opposition to nuclear power and heavy subsidies for "renewable" sources of energy.

That said, the 2017 election was something of a watershed due to the rise of the AfD, which only mustered 4.7 percent of the vote (below the 5 percent cut-off needed to enter the Bundestag) in 2013.

Unquestionably, the AfD's is a protest vote. The German political establishment has ignored growing public concerns over migration (a million refugees entered Germany in 2015 as a result of the country's participation in the border-less Schengen area) and the euro (in spite of explicit prohibition in the Lisbon Treaty, Greece has been saved from bankruptcy by an injection of hundreds of billions of euros—some of it German taxpayer money).

In its desire to see Germany regain some of its sovereignty (while remaining a part of the European Union) and get out of the common currency, the rise of the AfD should be seen as a continuation of popular revolt against political establishment that started with Brexit and culminated in Donald Trump's elevation to the U.S. presidency.

Prior to the Brexit referendum, I noted that "the EU has become a driving force behind the rise of populist parties in Europe. These parties come from across the political spectrum—from the far left to the far right. Often they have nothing in common except for their opposition to further European integration and a desire, at the very minimum, to repatriate some of the EU powers back to nation states. They are present in all EU countries and hold, remarkably, one-third of all seats in the European Parliament."

"The EU is not only failing to address Europe's problems, it exacerbates them. Moreover, it seems to be unable and unwilling to reform. With every electoral cycle, 'establishment' parties committed to further European integration are growing weaker and anti-EU parties are getting closer to power."

A vote against Merkel and a vote against the EU establishment are, of course, practically synonymous. And, as expected, Merkel and the establishment are determined to do everything possible to freeze the AfD out of the political process. Instead, they should take AfD's concerns seriously, for if past is prologue, the AfD will only grow from strength to strength.

Photo Credit: donkey hotey/flickr

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the rise of the AfD should be seen as a continuation of popular revolt against political establishment that started with Brexit and culminated in Donald Trump's elevation to the U.S. presidency.

    Consider my pearls sufficiently clutched in solidarity to what Europe is suffering through.

  • Rat on a train||

    Will the AfD start a Twitterwar with the Norks?

  • Timrekgrun||

    No, the Turks.

  • MarkLastname||

    Turks don't have numes, lucky Germans.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    A lot of Germans [I personally know a few] are getting tired of being the contrite wrong doers of history and want to move on; nor do they want to take in all of the worlds refugees as further atonement for the Third Reich. This does not mean Nazism is making a comeback, but only that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a German. This of course goes against generations of indoctrination, but it's a good start.

  • creech||

    I wonder what "being a German" means these days? My ancestry test came back like 67% German descent
    (they compare your dna to test families who have lived in the old country for like 400 years or something). It was a bit of a shock to discover that only 49% of those currently living in Germany show descent from the same control group.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Good point; given Merkel's open door immigration policy this could amount to cultural suicide; I suppose if a nation collectively wants to implode, possibly to atone for the sins of their fathers, that's their business but they should at least know what they are doing. Pathological altruism?

  • Rhywun||

    I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them are tired of paying 3x what they should for electricity, too. I hope for their sake the FDP puts the brakes on her Energiewende nonsense. I know from experience that the Germans tend toward eco-silliness way more than most peoples but enough is enough already.

  • The Last American Hero||

    They embrace it until they get behind the wheel of a car. And then it's all about driving a dirty diesel at speeds that are definitely not energy efficient.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The European political establishment continues to depend on the centuries-long inertia of the common man's deference to 'experts' placed above him, and it's wearing out.

    High time, too.

  • AZ Gunowner||

    "Germans have opted for a safe pair of hands"

    Are you f-ing kidding me.

    Merkel's disastrous immigration policies amount to the open invitation to an invading army.

    An army that is beginning to boast openly of conquering Germany, indeed all of Western Europe and convert it to Islam.

    Thousands of women, AND CHILDREN, have already been victims and more Muslims means there will be more victims.

    Looks to me like Germans haven't yet figured out that they are on the road to civilizational suicide yet.

    Sadly, many writers like the above don't see that either.

  • MarkLastname||

    Will someone think of the CHILDREN!!!

  • AZ Gunowner||

    Yes, YOU should, because Islam teaches that child rape is ok.

    ok to rape little girls.

    ok to rape little boys.

    got it?

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