Angela Merkel as she takes the stage at CDU headquarters after the first votes come in.

2013 German Election in Pictures

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.

The reaction on the floor of CDU headquarters when the party's victory is first predicted

The reaction on the floor of CDU headquarters as the party’s victory is first predicted

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. 

Not only joy, but worry: the reaction to FDP's results

Not only pure joy, but also worry: the reaction to FDP’s results in CDU’s headquarters

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.

Election posters from The Left (top), SPD (middle) and The Pirates (bottom) in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

Election posters from The Left (top), SPD (middle) and The Pirates (bottom) in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

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 SPD's 150th birthday party opened the election season for them in front of the Brandenburger Gate

The SPD’s 150th birthday party opened their election season in front of the Brandenburg Gate

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.

Peer Steinbrück, the SPD's candidate for chancellor, speaking in Berlin three days before the election

Peer Steinbrück, the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, speaking in Alexanderplatz, Berlin three days before the election

Die Linke? Pretty Unlikely.

The Left Party rounds up the camaign season on September 20th in Alexanderplatz

The Left Party rounds up the campaign season on September 20th in Alexanderplatz

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.

Gregor Gysi, The Left's candidate for chancellor, speaks to supportors in Berlin

Gregor Gysi, The Left’s candidate for chancellor, speaks to supporters in Berlin

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…

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