Ms Merkel’s Underwhelming Election Victory

Despite Angela Merkel’s fourth general election victory, the German Chancellor will find it harder to build a stable coalition and lead radical change in the EU.
Paul Lewis
Sep 25, 2017

Corporate strategists may have to adjust their long-term assumptions. The FT’s excellent analysis of the results in charts and maps show how centrists parties—Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian ally the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democrats (SPD)—performed so badly. The CDU lost votes to the liberal Free Democratic party (FDP), while the SPD lost much of its traditional working class support. (As in the UK, the main leftist party attracted more young voters and those in high-quality jobs). The SPD will not join a centrist coalition, leaving a CDU/CSU bloc, the FDP and the Greens as the most realistic option.

The biggest shock of recent years has been the rise of the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) which captured 12.6% of the vote, many from previous non-voters. The four-year old, anti-immigration party will be the first right-wing group to enter the Bundestag for half a century, with some 88 seats. Its supporters are ‘typical of the new crop of European rightwing parties that have emerged as reactions to new problems [such as asylum abuse and Islamist terrorism] which haven’t been dealt with by the traditional parties,’ according to German-Israeli historian Michael Wolffsohn.

The AfD also introduces a sharply Eurosceptic element into the German legislature. Ms Merkel will now find it more complicated to support plans for EU reforms, including a larger eurozone budget, a euro finance minister, a European monetary fund, and a common bank deposit insurance scheme, advocated by France’s new President Emmanuel Macron. Any new euro pact will have to be modest, and not require a treaty change. Ms Merkel will also come under increasing pressure to address the EU-wide migration issue, shoring up Schengen with tougher external border controls. However, a fairer distribution of legitimate refugees is likely to intensify tensions with Hungary and Poland. As for Brexit, Germany is much less likely to lean on the EU’s negotiating team for a softer line on Britain’s negotiating team, as the latter has long hoped and assumed.

Paul Lewis

Editorial Director at Headspring