This is excellent news for Germany’s liberal leanings as Angela Merkel wins her fourth term as chancellor.
According to Vox, Angela Merkel just walked into her fourth term as chancellor of Germany. Her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), picked up 32.5 percent of the votes in Sunday’s election, according to the first exit polls issued at 6 pm German local time. The Social Democrats, Merkel’s closest challenger, were a distant 20 percent.
The results weren’t a surprise. Merkel’s campaign taglines were all about continuity. “Clear for Stability,” read the podium under the chancellor at a rally in Munich on September 22. Her campaign was designed to remind Germans that life in Deutschland is pretty good, with Europe’s strongest economy, only 3.7 percent unemployment, and the fastest-growing GDP among the G7 industrialised nations. After a year of jolting elections, from the United States selecting Donald Trump to Brexit in the United Kingdom, the subtext was clear: Germans should stay the course.
But one party was set on crashing Merkel’s stability party — and did. The Alternative For Germany (AfD), a far-right party founded in 2013, won 13.5 percent of the vote, according to these exit polls. That meant the AfD not only easily cleared the barrier to entry to the Bundestag (set at 5 percent of the general vote) and will now be the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in decades, but it does so as the third-largest party.
The AfD are anti-immigration, clamour “to take their country back” (Farage? Trump?), and certainly hold strong opinions about Muslims. Yes, they grew in popularity, but America’s Trump and Britain’s Brexit helped to clamp down on what might have been a more worrisome result. The result of mayhem in the White House and a Brexit that lacks direction and strategy was not what the Germans wanted, regardless of their feelings about immigration.
Whatever happens, what’s new today is that the far right in Germany is no longer a sideshow. Now that the AfD is the official opposition in parliament, it will have a larger budget and a major national platform — something it hasn’t had before. The party also has the right to respond after the chancellor speaks. As the New York Times reported today, many German political watchers are worried it will alter the tenor of discourse in the Bundestag, turning it into a more acrimonious space.
Merkel has said she won’t work with the AfD. But sidelining the party as much as possible will mean she has to work fast to build bridges with everyone else.
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