What Am Happening with the German Elections? by David Healion

A round up of the developments after the elections in Germany by Irishman Lost in Berlin & Friend of the Show, David Healion

Greetings from Berlin! Two months on from the most recent Bundestag elections and there is still no end in sight to the coalition impasse. Merkel has promised no new elections, but without any suitable dancing partners it’s hard to look past an election after Christmas.

The centrist Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democratic Party) and the far-right Alternative für Deutschand (Alternative for Germany) have thrown a cat among the pigeons since winning 80 and 94 seats respectively, with both parties holding no seats before the election. Both the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Die Linke (The Left) increased their share of the vote and took a few extra seats. This left the ruling Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union of Germany) and Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany) losing masses of seats with the latter having had their worst performance in a general election since World War Two.

Like the rest of Europe, Germany has followed the recent trend of electorates punishing established parties by voting for extreme alternatives with an emotive and overtly nationalist message. This is a problem for the German economy and political establishment as the country has been thriving on balance with a heavy focus on fiscal prudency and European integration.  

With the CDU losing 65 seats and the SPD losing 40 seats, it’s hard to believe that they have just this week begun talks with the intention of forming a new government. This is problematic for a number of reasons; if they keep the grand coalition going, this will leave the AfD as the leader of the opposition and therefore gifting a xenophobic far right party the largest platform they have seen to date. At this point in time the AfD have not expressed any interest in going into government. Similarly, none of the other five parties in the Bundestag have expressed an interest in forming a government with them.

Secondly after spending a considerable amount of time in coalition with a larger centre right conservative party, the electorate gave the SPD a thrashing due to them sacrificing their socialist and social democratic values to maintain their position in government as well as appearing to be ‘soft’ on migration. Similarly the electorate gave the CDU a thrashing as they appeared weak on migration and on the refugee crisis specifically. Continuing the status quo could continue to hurt both parties in the grand coalition.

The possibility of a ‘Jamaican’ coalition of the CDU (black), the Greens (green) and FDP (yellow) for now is off the table as the FDP pulled themselves from talks of forming a government and consigning themselves to the opposition benches. Should the talks with the SPD collapse, the CDU will be forced into calling a fresh election or forming a minority government. As we have seen in Ireland and the UK recently, minority governments are so unstable that is hard to see Merkel wanting to sustain any uncertainty.

With the lack of any independent members of the house to buy off with constituency favours, it seems that unless the SPD and the CDU find a suitable middle ground the hung parliament will continue. In any case it seems that any permutation of government will only benefit the AfD.

As I face into a long cold Berlin winter that is a chilling thought indeed.