Merkel has done less well than expected and weeks of fractious political bargaining now lie ahead. But whatever the country’s next government looks like, don’t expect a softer line on Brexitby Paul Lever / September 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
Usually when a nation goes to the polls interest centres on who is going to win. Yesterday’s federal election in Germany was different. Everybody assumed that the Christian Democrats would emerge as the largest party and that Angela Merkel would continue as Chancellor. Everybody assumed too that the Social Democrats would be in second place. The big question was who would come third—would it be the Greens, Die Linke (the party of the far left), the liberal Free Democrats or the upstart populist Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD)?
In the event all the small parties did well. The definitive results are not yet published, but Die Linke and the Greens look to have retained their vote shares of around 9 per cent. The Free Democrats who had failed in 2013 to reach the 5 per cent threshold needed for representation in the Bundestag look to have bounced back to over 10 per cent. But the big winners were AfD who came from nowhere to reach 13 per cent.
Though nationalist movements have in the past occasionally been elected to provincial parliaments in Germany, this is the first time that a party to the right of the Christian Democrats has achieved national success, something that will send shivers down many German spines. AfD was founded in 2012 by a group of economists and academics who were sceptical about the euro. But it later morphed into an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party which was able to exploit the resentment caused by Chancellor Merkel’s decision in 2015 to let in a million refugees. Its leaders say things that make other politicians wince (sharia law has no place in Germany, Islam is incompatible with democracy), but which many Germans privately agree with. The other parties treat it as a pariah and have ruled out any co-operation with it. But it seems to have caught the zeitgeist.