Although Angela Merkel will return to the position of Chancellor of Germany, the parliamentary elections show that her open borders, pro-globalist vision and Germany’s position in the EU and the world has suffered a setback. A relatively new party- Alternative for Germany (AfD)- who some have likened to neo-Nazis- is now the third strongest political party in the country. There are surely some extreme right wing radicals within their ranks and this marks the first time since World War II that such a right wing party will be represented in the Bundestag (calling them neo-Nazis may be going a little too far).
Unlike its extreme right counterparts of the past, the AfD will be much stronger. They will likely get about 80 deputies. The AfD, in order to make sure that they remain a viable political party four years from now, will have to make sure that Germany remains divided on important issues facing the country, most notably Germany’s role in the EU and immigration policy. Therefore, they will likely keep open any divisions in the country since it serves their political ambitions. They are a “Germany first” party espousing some views that sound suspiciously like those used by Trump in 2016.
Merkel’s conservatives composed of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) lost power, plain and simple. Even though Merkel won a fourth term, she cannot count on the center-left Social Democrats (SDP) to form a coalition government. Instead, she will have to look to the Green Party and the Free Democrats. Officials within the SDP have already discounted any chance of joining forces with Merkel. Instead, Merkel needs the Greens and Free Democrats now, but they have no inclination to join one another (although either would join the CDU to block the AfD).
The two “big tent” parties- the CDU and SDP- are now the weakest they have been in 60 years. Eight of the past 12 years, Merkel managed to forge a working partnership with the SDP, but now with blood in the water and a further fraying around the edges of both parties, it appears an every-man-for-his-political self philosophy is setting in.
The SDP is collapsing at a greater rate than Merkel’s party. Under the leadership of Martin Schultz, there are defections not only to the CDU, but also other parties that now seem more viable. In fact, this is the worst electoral loss for the SDP since World War II. They insist the fate of Schultz is not in question, but time will tell if that is the truth. If they stand opposed to Merkel, as they seem to indicate, then there is the AfD to contend with.
Christian Linder is leader of the Free Democrats. The last time they joined Merkel’s coalition (2009-2013), they were dominated by the larger party. This will weigh heavy on Linder who would have preferred to be head of the opposition in the Bundestag rather a part of the coalition government. Further complicating things is that the last time they joined Merkel’s government, they suffered serious losses at the state level as their message was drowned out. They will have to navigate those waters again and risk losing seats in state-level parliaments.
The Left Party came out unscathed as far as percentage of votes goes, but they have no chance of being the voice of opposition, or of being asked to join Merkel’s coalition. With the ascension of the AfD, the Lefties cannot even make a claim to being the “protest vote.” Traditionally, it is the Left Party that did well in the former East Germany areas, but the AfD made its greatest advances in these regions.
Further, the strong AfD showing places greater stress on the CSU based in Bavaria which faces state elections in 2018. Horst Seehofer’s relationship with Merkel was already strained to the point that they were considering breaking from the CDU. These elections may force Seehofer to move his party even further to the right. In the short term, he wants to win a clear majority in the 2018 Bavarian state elections. In 2013, they came close with 49.3% of the vote; this year it was 38.5%. Hence, it appears that the CSU is actually losing influence in Bavaria.
The resulting governing coalition will be nothing like Germany has seen since the end of World War II. Throwing more uncertainty and chaos into the cauldron, opposition in the Bundestag will be polarized between the SDP on the one hand, and the AfD on the other.
This will be a very interesting next four years in German politics that will have effects on their relationship with the EU (especially over immigration), with the United States, with NATO, with Russia, and ultimately the world. This chaos may be amusing from a political standpoint, or it may be a dangerous time politically in Germany putting that country at a crossroads.