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Three Factors of Merkel's Success: Bundestag Elections

The Bundestag elections have attracted considerable international attention, which is primarily related with the role of Germany in the EU and in the world in general. Of more than 30 parties participating in the parliamentary elections only five parties were able to overcome the 5% threshold.

Still in the pre-election period it was clear that the main struggle would be between the Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. These two forces have been dominant throughout the history of postwar Germany. These elections were no exception, but they differed by the fact that both forces registered not the expected results, moreover, they were historically the worst outcomes (CDU/CSU 33%, SDP 20.5%). In fact, such results suggest that the recent crisis of confidence towards traditional political forces also exists in Germany (as in the United States, France), and on the other hand, they speak about the transformations of the political landscape. One of the brightest and definitely unpredictable manifestations of them was the fact that Germany's right-wing populist "Alternative for Germany" party came in third place with 12.6% of votes.

In all this the surprising thing was not only the fact that a political force with nationalist views entered the German parliament for the first time after World War II, but also the large number of votes it received. Such a success can be explained by a considerable activation of the right-wing forces in Europe. As a result of the migration crisis, the number of the supporters of the right conservative parties in a number of EU member states increased and, as a result, right-wing political forces in Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary recorded substantial progress during the elections, even getting seats in the parliament. An obvious and unprecedented manifestation of the success of nationalist forces was the fact that Marin Le Pen, the leader of the National Front Party, succeeded to pass the second round during the French presidential elections.

Despite not so desirable results, the CDU/CSU succeeded in getting a relative majority and received an opportunity to form a coalition, while Angela Merkel received a chance to once again become Germany's Chancellor. By the way, 63-year-old Merkel will be the 3rd Chancellor of Germany (after Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl), who will serve for the fourth time - until 2021. It is noteworthy that if the European political circles consider staying in one post so long as "incompatible with the spirit of democracy," Merkel's fourth term of office did not become a reason for such discussions.

Such a success of Merkel may have its own objective reasons. Although in 2015, she announced the "open door" policy for migrants, which significantly impacted her political reputation, the decrease of the migration flows and some toughening in the migration policy helped Merkel to relatively regain her position.

No matter how strange it may sound, but "Trump Factor" also contributed in the victory of Merkel. The choice of such an "unpredictable" person as the US president and the fear of possible consequences in Europe and in Germany forced people to reassess Germany's role in international relations. The process of withdrawing the UK from the EU also has its impact on the situation, which has some challenges for each EU member country. Under such circumstances, for the ordinary Germans, the stability issue became more important, which better than Merkel, could hardly anyone be able to provide.

The third factor of Angela Merkel's success was the situation in which the main opponent, the Social-Democratic Party of Germany was. In 2005, the Social-Democratic Party formed a "Great Coalition" with the CDU/CSU, so it was not easy for them to come from tough or critical positions in the pre-election campaign.

 

What is the next step?

Though as a result of the election Merkel’s political force became the first in the list, it did not receive the majority and thus cannot form a government. At least 355 mandates are needed to form a government and appoint a Chancellor. According to different opinions, in the current situation Angela Merkel has to form a coalition of three political forces and start negotiations with the Greens and Free Democrats (it will secure 393 mandates). The coalition, which has already received the name "Jamaica" (black, green, and yellow colors on the Jamaican flag) due to the colors of the parties, is the most likely one, as the Social Democrats and the "Alternative for Germany" party have already declared that they will not cooperate with CDU/CSU.

The formation of a possible Jamaica coalition will also be difficult for Merkel and will require certain time, taking into account the differences in the approaches of the three forces in relation to different issues (eg, migration, EU relations, etc.).

Summarizing, it should be mentioned that the results of the Bundestag elections will not have a significant impact on Germany's domestic and foreign policy, however, they clearly reflect both the change of the political discourse in Europe and the crisis of confidence towards traditional political forces.


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17.12.2017
   
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