Europe’s most populous and prosperous nation is starting to look slightly less stable.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel won an overwhelming victory yesterday and is destined to serve a fourth term as Germany’s head of government. However, her victory looks Pyrrhic, as the two traditional ruling parties continue to hemorrhage voters.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union combination (they are sister parties, with the latter running only in Bavaria) had its worst result since the Federal Republic of Germany’s first poll in 1949, receiving 33.0 percent (according to preliminary returns). Moreover, the CDU/CSU sustained the largest drop of any party from the election four years ago, when it received 41.5 percent and almost gained a majority in the Bundestag on its own. No wonder Merkel said she hoped to win back voters from the Alternative for Germany, which attacked her government from the right.
However, while the SPD lost less in absolute terms, dropping from 25.7 percent to 20.5 percent, it also suffered its worst result since 1949. One of the country’s two major governing parties, it won the allegiance of barely one-fifth of voters. In what once was East Germany the SPD of Germany, heir to the Marxist-oriented working class movement, which famously arose in authoritarian Prussia, came in third, after the AfD.
Four years ago the two main parties accounted for almost two-thirds of the votes. This time they barely gained half. Four other parties will be represented in the Bundestag. Die Linke, the former East German communists, rose from 8.6 percent to 9.2 percent, and the Greens edged up from 8.4 to 8.9 percent.
Moreover, the two parties that failed to meet the five percent threshold for entering parliament in 2013 did substantially better this time. The Free Democratic Party and the AfD together collected nearly a quarter of the vote, meaning nearly one-out-of-four parliamentarians will represent viewpoints absent over the last four years. The FDP, representing European liberalism (generally free market and pro-enterprise), rebounded from its shocking collapse with 10.7 percent of the vote to return to the Bundestag. The Free Democratic Party had been Merkel’s coalition partner from 2009 to 2013.