Germany’s federal election took place and Sunday, and I had the chance to spend the evening in the headquarter’s of the CDU, Merkel’s party, with my camera.
The Election Results: CDU, big time
There are many ways to read Sunday’s results. The CDU has fallen a few seats short of having a majority without needing to form a coalition – a rare event in a parliamentary democracy. The CDU is center-right here, though I would describe their politics as generally similar to those of the U.S. Democrats.
That being said, they have been ruling with the FDP, “The Liberals”. The FDP used to be the party of civil rights, defining their politics by a social liberalism. In recent years they have moved to being economically liberal (in the British, not American, sense of the word). So their party looks a bit like the liberal wing of the U.S. Republican party, the McCain-Bloomberg-Schwarzenegger types. The CDU-FDP coalition has ruled Germany for four years, and in those years the FDP managed to loose much of their base by letting their social liberalism drift to the back of their agenda. The result is that on Sunday, their share of votes went from 15% down to below 5%. Slam.
The trick is that in the German system, a party with less than 5% of the votes doesn’t even make it into parliament. So the FDP has gone from a ruling party to having exactly 0 seats in the Bundestag. Null. Nada. Kaput.
The Opposition: Everybody Else
This leaves three parties which did get seats: The Social Democrats (SPD), The Green Party (Grüne) and The Left (Die Linke). I don’t thing I need to explain that these parties are all to the left of the CDU. So while we can read the results of Sunday as a sweeping victory for the CDU, it could also be seen as a left-leaning victory: the majority of seats are held by parties to the left of the CDU. And as of writing on Thursday, none of these parties really want to play ball with Merkel.
The Pirates – a re-invention of direct democracy, this time internet based, did not get seats in parliament either. Nor did the “Alternative For Germany” who want to kill the euro and reinstate the estates of pre-Weimar nobility, nor did any of the extreme right parties (more on them in my next post).
CDU and SPD, a Grand Coalition?
The second largest block of seats – by a landslide – went to The Social Democrats, the SPD. Once in a while the SPD and CDU team up to create a “Grand Coalition”. This time they would have more than 2/3 of the seats together, meaning that to a great extent, whatever they agree on behind the scenes will become policy and could even (probably) change the constitution. For a variety of reasons, nobody really wants a Grand Coalition, but it may become a reality. Below, the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrück.
Die Linke? Pretty Unlikely.
If the Social Democrats are left-center, Die Linke are simply left. Reading their campaign slogans and hearing their leaders speak, their main points were often similar to one another. Introduce a minimum wage, allow dual citizenship, forbid the extremist NPD, a Neo-Nazi party. But underlying the SPD was a more conservative tone of democracy and underlying Die Linke was one that veered to the left. When The Left’s candidate, Gregor Gysi, spoke of not participating in any wars, it appeared to be grounded on protectionism, not pacifism.
The Left and the Greens each came in with about 8.5% of the vote, making them each forces but neither powerful. Merkel is trying to find a partner with whom to rule. The politics of Die Linke are just too far from those of the CDU. The Green party could very well happen though – on some issues, like energy policy, the parties are rather similar.
To Be Continued…