German Election Wrap-Up: The Schulzzug Has Brakes After All

, by Willem Van Boxtel

German Election Wrap-Up: The Schulzzug Has Brakes After All
The no-brakes train seems to be stoppable after all. Credit: Gottkanzler Schulz // Facebook

The New Federalist has published extensively on the German Federal Election held this Sunday, which saw Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic party lose 8.6% of their vote share, but remain the largest Bundestag force. In an article on Friday [1], I explained some of the possible outcomes and consequences of this key vote, and this short piece serves to swiftly explain what’s happened, and what’s going to happen after the election.

The Schulzzug Overshoots ‘Station Chancellery’

Do you ever attempt to catch the train, only to hear an announcement claiming your train’s late by 20 minutes “due to the train being late from the depot”? Well, that’s what aptly describes the SPD after Sunday. The Social Democrats, led by the once hyped and revered Martin Schulz, achieved its worst result since 1949, dropping 5.2 points to 20.5%. [2] After the first exit poll was published at 6pm CET on Sunday, a prominent SPD source told the Tagesschau news agency that he expected his party to remain in opposition the coming parliamentary term. This means the “GroKo”, or Grand Coalition, of SPD and Merkel’s CDU/CSU (Union) will end.

The anticipated Schulzzug, or Schulz train, which was rumoured to have no brakes and would take the SPD straight into the office of Chancellor, seems to have missed the station completely. It ran out of fuel fifty kilometres before reaching the platform.

Germany’s ‘New’ Alternative?

Meanwhile, for the first time since the Second World War, a far-right party has entered the Bundestag. Having profiled itself as fresh, new, and truly opposed to the established parties, the Alternative für Deutschland party crossed the 5% threshold needed to enter Parliament and attained 12.6% of the vote. They even won several constituency votes in Germany’s eastern state of Saxony. [2]

But is the AfD new? No. No, far from it. It’s what we might call a classic populist party which fits neatly in line with UKIP, the French National Front, and the Austrian and Dutch Freedom Parties. AfD candidates have gone on record as saying “mixed peoples” would destroy national identities; that Islamisation in Europe is organised by Saudi Arabia; that the Holocaust is an “effective instrument for the criminalisation of Germans”; and that live-ammunition firearms ought to be used by border police. [3] Yeah, good luck, Germany...

Moments after winning what should be their breakthrough vote, the AfD proved it also fits in with the other European nationalists by immediately showing internal dissent, with leader Frauke Petry resigning her leadership of the party caucus on Monday morning. [4] Well done. Very well done.

Jamaica: More Than a Sunny Island?

The only majority government option remaining in Germany now is a ‘Jamaica coalition’, i.e. a deal between black, green, and yellow (the colours of the Jamaican flag.) Merkel’s Union will need to seek support from the Greens and the liberal FDP, but the latter two aren’t the best of friends. Whether this will succeed, or to use the fantastic German verb ‘klappen’, remains to be seen. If Merkel can’t manage to get enough support behind her, she’ll need to come up with some kind of minority government, which may prove very challenging.

So in the end, what do we as Federalists need to keep in mind? Well, we can at the very least look at the bright side of this election. After all, pro-EU parties have won the vast, vast majority of the vote, and even the moderately sceptical FDP will need to be balanced out by the Greens and Union if it wants to get its hands on any power. So look at it on the sunny side, follow developments with interest, and definitely don’t forget all the memes.

References

[1] Van Boxtel, W. (2017) “German Federal Election – Vote by Meme”, The New Federalist. Available from http://www.thenewfederalist.eu/german-federal-election-2017-vote-by-meme [Accessed 25/09/2017]

[2] Tagesschau Wahl (2017) Available from http://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2017-09-24-BT-DE/index.shtml [Accessed 25/09/2017]

[3] Tagesschau (2017) Wer zieht für die AfD in den Bundestag? Available from https://www.facebook.com/tagesschau/videos/10155861860704407/ [Accessed 25/09/2017]

[4] Connolly, K. (2017) AfD leader quits party caucus hours after German election breakthrough. The Guardian, 25th September. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/25/afd-leader-frauke-petry-quits-party-german-election-breakthrough [Accessed 25/09/2017]

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