When Germany chooses political leadership, the rest of Europe holds its breath. This is also how it looked in the weeks leading up to the Bundestag election on 22 September. Then German voters flocked to the ballot box to decide who would rule the country for the next four years.
- Why is it so important what German voters decide?
- What was the result of the German election?
- What are some of the major issues in German politics?
- How important is the election outcome for the rest of Europe?
Germany is with its central location, its 81 million inhabitants and a strong economy by far the largest and most powerful country in Europe. It is the world’s second largest export nation and the fourth largest economy after the United States, China and Japan. We are happy to find the country’s export products in our garages (cars), kitchens (household appliances) and tool sheds.
In recent years, demand for German production equipment has been particularly high from the emerging countries in Southeast Asia and South America. This has made German companies rich and the German state an economic center of gravity in the European Union (EU). In Washington and Brussels, many expect Germany to show global leadership that reflects the country’s size and power.
The Germans themselves seem reluctant to lead the world. Most of all, they want to be a slightly larger version of the neutral, restrained, but rock-rich Switzerland, many joke. 20th century history still constitutes a central premise for German voting and policy-making. Two world wars, super-inflation and expensive times, two totalitarian regimes and the catastrophe “Holocaust”, leave little will for radical politics. “Keine Experimente” – no experiments – is an election slogan from the near post-war period that still gives votes. Also at the 2013 election, voters liked this recipe.
2: Merkel for the third time
The election was a major victory for Germany’s first female chancellor, East German priestess and physicist Angela Merkel . Her conservative party – the Christian Democratic Union ( CDU / CSU), which consists of a nationwide party CDU and its sister party CSU
in the state of Bavaria – received as much as 41.5 percent of the vote. Such high support is the exception rather than the rule for a large People’s Party in crisis-stricken Europe. Prime Minister after Prime Minister has lost his job in recent years.
In Germany, a country located in Europe according to EBIZDIR, on the other hand, Merkel has gained a remarkable reputation and gained confidence as a sober, fact-oriented and hard-working politician. The Germans have even given her the nickname “Mutti” – “Mother”. In addition to Merkel’s own appeal, the election result is largely explained by low unemployment and a very solid economy – in stark contrast to the rest of Europe. In addition, the opposition is divided .
The Social Democrats (SPD) have long appeared torn between a strong right and left wing, even in the leadership trio. The SPD – Europe’s oldest Social Democratic party – therefore made its second worst election ever (25.7 percent). Nevertheless, the SPD may end up in government.
For historical reasons, most Germans want a majority government. The parties therefore tend to form a government coalition rather than a minority government. It is rare for one party to achieve an absolute majority in the Bundestag, even though the CDU / CSU were only five representatives away in 2013. Merkel’s current coalition partner, the Liberal Free Democrats (FDP), on the other hand, made its worst election ever. With 4.8 per cent, they fell below the threshold (5 per cent) and thus fell out of the Bundestag .
A high barrier limit also has historical reasons. A high limit must be secured against a large number of small parties in the National Assembly. The purpose is to avoid management problems. The fear is great for a shaky, weak government (cf. Germany during the Weimar Republic in the interwar period). For the first time, the FDP is without representation in the National Assembly, and Merkel must therefore seek a partner other than the one she prefers. The new anti-euro party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) also fell out (4.7 percent).
Only two other parties entered the Bundestag – Die Linke (left opposition) and the Greens . Die Linke houses three different groups: the successors of the GDR state’s Communist Party, small left-wing radical groups from old West Germany and defectors from the SPD. The party became the third largest party with 8.6 percent, but is unthinkable as a partner for the conservative CDU / CSU. So far, the SPD has not wanted to cooperate with them at national level. Had the SPD opened up to it, the two parties would have been able to govern with a red-red-green majority. The Greens who ruled with the SPD from 1999 to 2005 received 8.4 percent.
3: “The Black Widow” on a partner hunt
The FDP’s dramatic drop from 14.6 percent in 2009 makes it difficult for Merkel to find a new partner. In the media, she was quickly nicknamed “the black widow” – the spider that eats her husband. This frightens both the Greens and the SPD. A collaboration between the bourgeoisie and the Greens would be a historic innovation. They do not agree on much, but unite in one important issue. Both will decommission Germany’s nuclear power plant by 2022 and work for a low-carbon economy by investing more in renewable energy (solar and wind).
But it is precisely Merkel’s high-profile “Energiewende” – energy turnaround operation – that has drained the Greens of environmental votes. The party’s election result was in fact far worse than expected and can be partly explained by the fact that Merkel and the CDU / CSU after the nuclear accident in Japan in 2011 carried out a rapid turnaround operation on the issue of nuclear power. Apart from energy, there is little that unites the two parties. Today, however, the party’s ground plan is far more liberal, for example in economic policy, than the recently resigned leadership and the party’s original roots would suggest.