Berlin, Germany. Sept 24: The latest election polls from Germany, today, Sunday, show that incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) is in the strong lead ahead of Martin Schulz”s Social Democrats (SPD), putting her on the path for a fourth term in power. The polls also suggest that Angela Merkel will be forced to strike a coalition deal with the SPD, or a potential three-way alliance between the CDU/CSU, Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The far-right has also managed to make big gains. One party to look out for, is the controversial AdF which has grown in support in the run up to the election.
Early projections show Merkel’s center-right CDU won an estimated 32 percent of the vote, followed by the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, that trailed behind with about 20 percent of the vote. Several other parties managed to cross the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament, including the far-right Alternative for Germany party, pro-business Free Democratic Party and environmentalist Greens.
Merkel will now likely seek to partner with the Free Democrats and Greens to form a government ― an untested alliance known as the “Jamaica coalition” because of the parties’ colors. Another possibility was a continuation of the so-called “grand coalition” between the CDU and the SPD, but the latter decided to rule out any partnership and attempt to rebuild itself as the main opposition party.
Although Merkel’s victory in the vote was fairly certain, the election did see fractures emerge in Germany’s established party system as the two largest parties lost seats to smaller political movements. The shift was similar to other European elections this year, such as France and the Netherlands, where once prominent parties suffered massive defeats. As in those elections, Germany’s vote also resulted in significant gains for the far-right.
The anti-immigration, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany, or AfD, looked to take around 13 percent of the vote on Sunday, becoming the first far-right party to enter German parliament since World War II. The AfD’s rapid rise since its founding in 2013 has brought once-fringe views back into Germany’s politics, including ethnonationalist ideology that has long been taboo in the country.
Establishment politicians like Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, SPD leader Martin Schulz and even Merkel herself all spoke out against the AfD during the campaign.
The AfD campaign relied heavily on criticism of Merkel’s decision to allow over a million asylum seekers into Germany at the height of Europe’s refugee situation in 2015. Despite facing some backlash to her policy and giving fodder for the far-right, Merkel’s approval ratings rebounded in the ensuing years.
Germany’s economy experienced strong growth in the past year, and income inequality is less pronounced than in other European nations. At the same time, Merkel has also come to be seen as a steady hand at a time of global instability. Following the election of President Donald Trump, for instance, Merkel has repeatedly said that Europe could no longer completely rely on the United States and must take matters into its own hands.
Born in communist East Germany and trained as a physicist, Merkel has had an unlikely rise to become only the third chancellor since World War II to hold a fourth term. The past year has seen her take on an equally improbable role as the most influential defender of Western liberal order ― a position that Trump has left vacant and Merkel has reluctantly, increasingly filled.