Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) won a majority of seats in the German legislature — by a thin margin — in yesterday’s federal election. The CDU garnered about 33 percent of the national vote, while the FDP took about 7 percent.
More than 80 percent of Germany’s lawmakers are currently from the CDU/CSU bloc, however, and nearly 50 members in the Bundestag took their oaths of office with the help of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). If, as expected, the AfD takes between 24 to 30 seats, it will be the party’s biggest electoral success in its history, shattering all expectations. The far-right party took nearly 9 percent of the popular vote, and the first-time candidate who defeated Merkel’s former spokesman to represent the party in the Bundestag is a known Euro-skeptic. She has promised to fight new initiatives to streamline immigration laws by the European Union, but her platform wasn’t well known before she entered the campaign, and until recently she had not weighed in on Donald Trump’s Twitter controversies.
Since the election, the party has formed a new coalition with the Greens, who garnered between 5 and 7 percent of the vote. But the Greens were somewhat of a surprise vote-getter; they have in the past vowed to block any new power-sharing agreement with the far-right, and leading members even threatened to resign rather than participate in a government with the AfD. Yet with one seat under its belt, the party is likely to keep its distance, and now simply waits for the new parliamentary system to get its full makeover.
The main question now is whether the next government will include the CSU and FDP, or whether they will form a coalition with the Social Democrats. The SPD won about 19 percent of the vote, but in order to enter the coalition with the two mainstream parties, it must form an alliance with the Greens, which would give the SPD its greatest increase in seats since the beginning of the post-war era. The possibility of a rainbow coalition of left and right has been spooking more established parties such as the SPD, which could see its ranking fall to under 16 percent — a level under which it could not form a government without an alliance with the other parties.
The SPD’s position within the Bundestag has been shaky since the start of the election. After the election, nearly half of party voters remained undecided about whether to vote, and many believed that the SPD had taken a U-turn on its previous criticism of Social Democrats who joined Merkel’s current government. But a poorly handled pledge to abolish coal plants before the election, an eventual U-turn on its opposition to joining the coal-power alliance, and a leaked CDU wish list which included a new refugee plan and Merkels’ departure as chancellor, all contributed to the sagging confidence.
The SPD remains an unlikely winner of the parliamentary elections. Yet a euroskeptic party that advocates for the head of each member state to be appointed by the European Council could end up obstructing the majority party’s plans for an EU-wide energy policy, and a far-right party — one that has been ascendant for most of this year — could not only shake up German politics, but also change its multicultural approach to Muslims, making German relations with other countries even more strained.
Read more about Germany’s elections here.