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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has held on to win a fourth term as leader of her country. But the conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany and Christian Social Union bloc that she leads suffered many blows — a humbling slump in her vote and a surge in support for the far right — that will temper any celebrations. Merkel is considered Europe’s most powerful political and a key bulwark against the influence of Vladimir Putin; what does this election mean for her, Germany, and Europe?

How did it break down?

In concert with many elections around the world in the previous couple of years: mainstream parties saw their vote shares plummet, with fringe populist parties mopping up the difference. In this case the CDU/CSU bloc secured 238 seat with 32.9% of the vote — down nearly 10% from 2013, and their worst result since 1949. It was even worse for their main rival, the Social Democrats who slumped to just over 20% — their worst performance since 1933. And, to use one of the more ominous phrases available to humans, speaking of things that haven’t happened in Germany since the 1930s…

Are…are Nazis a thing in Germany again?

With 13%, the third most voted for party was Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist party. They had slowly been spreading across the German state parliaments (by May this year they had representatives in 13 out of 16 of them). Formed in 2012 as a centre-right eurosceptic party led by economist Bernd Lucke. The party competed in various state and federal elections, and looked to have fallen to in-fighting across June and July 2015. The turmoil eventually led to Lucke being ousted and replaced by leader of the party’s national-conservative faction Frauke Perry. This precipitated a hard right shift for the AfD — she has argued for tougher immigration policies, greater scrutiny of Islam in Germany and closer ties to Russia. Perhaps most ominous of all, rallies have heard their speakers lament the level of guilt the country publicly expresses regarding the Holocaust. “German history is handled as rotten and made to look ridiculous … Germans are the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the heart of its capital…[they] have the mentality of a totally vanquished people”, one of their speakers told a beer hall in Dresden, amidst cries of “Deutchland!”

What’s the risk the AfD poses? 

As the results came in, hundreds of anti-AfD protesters descended on the party’s celebration, shouting “all Berlin hates AfD”and “Nazi Pigs”. Merkel (and the other major parties) have vowed to not collaborate with the far right, meaning she will have to knit together a tottering coalition, most likely involving the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats Party. Charmingly, this has been referred to the “Jamaica Option” — owing to the fact that the colours associated with the parties (green black and yellow) make up that countries flag.  It will be potentially arduous process and could potentially take months. This comes about because of the end of the grand coalition between the two major parties — the Social Democrats are seemingly happy to have a period in opposition. It seems voters are tired of the two major parties having such similar views, and this was part of what pushed them to the fringes.

Peter Fray

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