The end of the Merkel Era

Angela Merkel provided strong leadership and single-handedly shaped the present image of Germany
The end of the Merkel Era
"This election was the 20th election for the Bundestag (German Parliament) and no single party won a huge chunk of seats and it appeared from the beginning that the German parliament will have a large and extended coalition."David Plas [Flickr/ Creative Commons]

The recent election to the German parliament marked an end of an era in one or more ways. It was the first time that an acting chancellor did will not run for the election in German history, and secondly, it will also be the first time that Angela Merkel will not be re-elected as the chancellor of Germany as she opted out of the election. This was a crucial election in Europe as Germany is the largest economy as well as the most populous nation. This election was the 20th election for the Bundestag (German Parliament) and no single party won a huge chunk of seats and it appeared from the beginning that the German parliament will have a large and extended coalition.

The party of Angela Merkel the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU)/ Christian Socialist Party (CSP) that was in power for the last 8 years with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). These two parties have been dominating German politics for the last decade and have been in power most of the time. Even during this election SPD emerged as the largest party with around 26% of the total vote share and second one was the CDU/CSU with 24%. The vote share of SPD has increased while CDU/CSU went on the downhill from the last election where they had over 30 % of seats. Germany has a multi-party system and there has been a rise of other regional and populist parties. The leading populist party of Germany the Alternate for Germany (AFD) fell to fifth place. This party came to the scene after millions of Syrian refugees entered Germany, fleeing war-torn Syria. The AFD has mostly flourished in East Germany which has seen many huge gatherings from far-right extremists to Neo-Nazis.

This led to an increase in many anti-immigrant groups and parties and AFD was the largest, and in 2017 it was the third-largest party. The left parties performed the worst and barely had 5% percent of the total vote share. It was a massive drop for the left parties since the last election where they had managed 10 % of the vote share. The biggest surprise has been the Greens that got their best results in history with a 15% vote share and jumped to third place. Since 2018 the Greens has won both state elections in Bavaria and Hessian. In 2019 they won 21 seats their highest number of all time. The 6th major party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), increased their vote share slightly from the 2017 elections, a liberal party that has a strong presence in major Western German cities.

As we have seen from the last two elections the CDS/CDU has been winning the most seats but in this election, it suffered a massive blow after it failed to get even 200 seats. This surely puts the bid for coalition and it seems since Angela Merkel didn’t contest this election it heavily damaged the party and they had to endure this loss. Angela Merkel first became the chancellor of Germany in 2005 and since then was re-elected in 2009, 2013, 2017. Angela Merkel provided strong leadership and single-handedly shaped the good image of Germany. She guided Germany through tough times like the euro migration crisis, Brexit, and the recent pandemic of the coronavirus. The largest party SPD, will dictate the terms for the coalition as many rounds of talks have been held between various parties to ensure and smooth and stable government.

The 2021 German elections were contested after Germany as well as Europe was trying to make a comeback after suffering tremendously due to the global pandemic. But very recently Germany was devastated in what can only be considered as the worst flooding in the last 100 years. All the political parties agreed to put climate change as one of the top issues and emphasized that more efforts are required to deter the threat of climate change. The Russian aggression also was one of the key topics that were discussed and how Russian influence was a major threat, especially in eastern Europe.

The one impact that this election made was how important Merkel was to Germany and the rest of Europe. Not only did his party do worse but her presence ensured a solidity that isn’t seen in any of the candidates who contested the elections. Merkel‘s image was undoubtedly seen as the strongest women leader in the world and from the last 15 years, she maturely handled German politics. During her tenure, Germany’s exports overtook that of Italy, France and UK. It was also during her era that the German Middle Class grew while the rest of Europe was suffering after the 2008 recession. All this she did while constantly encircled with the extreme right as well as left parties. She was a strong centrist and had managed to bring all facts together and ensured stable governance over 16 years. Her major contribution will surely be how she handled the finical crunch of 2008, the Brexit negotiation, the 2016 refugee crisis, and very recently the Coronavirus pandemic. It would be a tough job for her successor to fill her boots and to have the same sense of understanding and competence as she had.

The results were a bit shocking but since SPD has emerged as the largest party it seems Olaf Scholz will be the next chancellor. The talks between SPD and the Greens have been going on from the very beginning. The FPD will play a very important role in the government formation. The FDP and The Greens combined have 210 seats they held a separate round of talks as both parties are crucial for government formation. The unions will have a tough time even if FDP supports them; they still will require support from another party, most likely the Greens. There have been many thoughts that have been presented over this grand coalition but it will take time to find mutual ground. On 7th October the FPD and the Greens met the SPD for the first time to discuss a possible government formation and it seems that these three parties will form the next government if things don’t take an ugly turn. This will also be the first time the Unions will not be in the government in the last 16 years.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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