Sunday’s election rocked the German establishment. Why was this such a significant election
1. Merkel is set to remain chancellor
Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU lost seats and votes, but emerged as the largest party by a mile. According to DW, the CDU/CSU won 33.2% of the vote, and a projected 246 seats, down from the 311 they won last time on 41.5% of the vote. The only viable coalition is one led by Merkel, so despite the near ten-point loss, Merkel looks set to remain at the country’s helm. It is worth noting that in terms of share of the vote, the share won by Merkel’s party is the lowest since she has been in power.
2. The two main parties lost seats and votes
Germany’s two largest parties, who had been governing together in a grand coalition, suffered stinging losses. As already said, the CDU/CSU won their lowest share of the vote during Merkel’s time in power. Meanwhile, the SPD fell from 26% of the vote to just over 20%. Combined, the country’s two major parties won just over half of Germany’s votes. Compared that to Britain in 2017 when the two-party system given a significant boost, with the two major parties winning well over 80% of available votes.
3. The SPD are going into opposition
According to Politico, following their disastrous defeat, Germany’s second party announced its intentions to leave the grand coalition and go into opposition. Out of Merkel’s three administrations, the SPD has been a junior partner in two. Some time away from government could help their fortunes, allowing them to distance themselves from the CDU/CSU.
4. A Jamaica coalition is the most likely option
A coalition between the CDU/CSU, the liberal, pro-market FPD and the Greens (dubbed a Jamaica coalition due to the combined parties’ colours) looks like the most likely option. Such a coalition has existed on a federal level, but could it work on a federal level? An alternative arrangement could be a CDU/CSU-FPD coalition with a confidence and supply arrangement with the Greens.
5. The AfD became the country’s third largest party
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany came from seemingly nowhere to win almost 13% of the vote and become the country’s third largest party. The rise of the Afd is another manifestation of increased in nationalist support across Europe. According to the BBC, the party’s success has led to protests in Berlin.
6. The AfD became the second-largest party in East Germany
According to CNN analysis, the right-wing populist AfD are expected to be the country’s second-largest party in former East Germany, which was under Communist-rule until the fall of the Berlin wall and reunification at the end of the 20th century. This shows how far the party have advanced in its four-year history.
7. The FPD are back
After a four-year spell out of the Bundestag – due to falling below the 5% threshold to enter parliament – Merkel’s natural electoral allies are back. In a striking endorsement of Christian Linder’s leadership, the FPD won almost 11% of the vote. The main story of the night is the rise of the AfD, but the return of the FDP, who look set to be key players in the new administration, should not be overlooked.