October 23, 2017
German Elections took place almost a month ago as Angela Merkel (CDU), aiming for her fourth term as German Chancellor, was challenged by former European Parliament President Martin Schulz (SPD). Results resulted in some surprise, an unprecedented option for government coalition, and internal struggles and disagreements in almost all parties. The first rounds of coalition talks started last week. We asked 89ers for their comments as part of our series “Europe at the crossroads: Election season.”
Europe was watching closely as the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) was expected to enter the Bundestag as the first right-wing (populist) party since the end of the Second World War. While voter turnout rose slightly compared to 2013 from 71% to 76% – mirroring an observable trend during this year’s elections -, both governing parties suffered historic losses. The conservative alliance of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) scored their worst result since 1949, the Social Democrats (SPD) dropped from 23% in 2009 to 20%. The leftist Die Linke, and the Greens both showed slight wins, while the big winners of the evening were the liberal FDP, celebrating a comeback after having been kicked out in 2013, and the AfD. The AfD probably exceed expectations for some by becoming third strongest party, and the strongest party in Saxony.
Christoph, 24 (Stuttgart): “The election results with a strong FDP, strong Green party and the CDU having the mandate to form a government, which after the refusal of the SPD, can only become a Jamaica coalition is what I wished for. I have hope that the topics most important to me, the “Energiewende” (the transition to clean energy), modern migration laws, sustainable agriculture, as well as the evolution of administration towards E-governance, will be established as a common thread in coalition negotiations. While it is sad that the AfD has achieved such a result and that only 76% of Germans wish to see their opinion represented in the Bundestag, I think we have to resign ourselves to it.”
Maren from Münster (the only city the AfD did not tackle the required 5% hurdle): “The result of the 2017 Bundestagswahl did not surprise me very much. Nevertheless it did scare me, that the AfD could become the third strongest party in German politics this quickly and that the SPD could lose such an amount of voters. I would be surprised if a minority government happened, a Black-Yellow-Green coalition seems much more likely. Overall, I think that the result could be expected, but nevertheless, it remains frightening and could have been avoided.”
Martha, 24, from Duisburg: “I am very disappointed in the result of the election. I had hoped, that the dissatisfaction within a broad part of the public would result in a chance for other democratic parties to improve (the situation). Most of all the vision of a pro-European and socially just Germany as Martin Schulz proposed, convinced me. I am convinced that a change in chancellors would have been good for the perceived balance of power in the EU. Instead a right-wing populist party has become the third strongest power in German politics and Merkel remains chancellor. The AfD knew how to use the weaknesses of the established parties. It is now time for these democracy-friendly parties to learn from this and to formulate adequate, and comprehensible for the average citizen, solutions for the questions, concerns and challenges of society.”
Public opinion now shows support for a new form of government coalition – the so-called Jamaika coalition -, bringing together CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens for the first time on the national level. Immediately after the results coming in, Schulz declared that his center-left social democrats would not enter into talks about a new “grand coalition”, but rather lead opposition. In a subsequent talk show, the so-called Elefantenrunde, he even accused Merkel of making a proper election campaign impossible as she refused to discuss political content.
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