Germany after the Elections – Uncertain Times Ahead?

26.09.2017 Public Affairs von Bernd Buschhausen 

Germany took to the polls on September 24th to elect the set-up of the Federal Parliament, the country’s Federal Government, and its new leadership team. 

Those hoping for more of the same under Merkel – hope no more. The results indicate significant changes in personnel, policy, and perspectives.

HERALDS OF CHANGE – The Results of the German Elections

  • Angela Merkel and her conservative CDU/CSU group won the elections – entering Parliament as a weaker force, after losing more than 8% (from 41.5% in 2013 to 33% in 2017)
  • The Social Democrats have refrained from forming a coalition with Merkel - after achieving their worst result since 1949 (from 25.7% to 20.5%)
  • Liberal Democrats FDP (10.7%) and Greens (8.6%) are the new kids on the block – but look to be unequal coalition partners under a Chancellor Merkel
  • Far left Die Linke made some minor gains (from 8.6% to 9.2%) – and lost its position as biggest opposition party
  • Right wing AFD comes in third (12.6%) – but they are in disarray even before getting into the Bundestag, after its party chair announced she will be taking a seat in Parliament as an independent instead.

THE OUTLOOK – Bigger, Bolder, Louder

  • For the first time, seven parties will enter the new Bundestag. With 709 MPs, the new Bundestag will be the biggest in post-war Germany. A significant number of CDU/CSU and SPD MPs have lost their mandate. New faces from all parties will take their seat in the Bundestag.
  • The tone in the new federal parliament is going to be more tumultuous, with the AfD announcing they want to chase the new government. The SPD has also signaled they want to be a strong opposition party who will bring back a true debating culture into the Bundestag.

THE NEW POWER OPTION – Jamaica makes change necessary

  • Numerically, the only feasible coalition option is the “Jamaica Coalition” between both conservative parties, the liberals and greens. The Social Democrats have announced that they are not willing to enter coalition talks.
  • “Jamaica” will be complex: All parties have diverging ideologies and positions, which makes coalition talks more difficult. On the plus side, all partners will be forced to talk about their issues in a new and different manner in order to make compromises possible.
  • The CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the CDU is under pressure due to the losses in Bavaria. In light of regional elections in Bavaria in 2018, they will be reluctant to make large concessions to the liberals and greens.
  • The greens will enter coalition talks with serious determination. However, its party base will have to approve the final coalition agreement. This means, their leadership will need clear “green government projects” to convince the more left leaning members.
  • The liberal FDP was very confident throughout the election campaign and will definitely enter coalition talks. However, prominent party members have stressed that there is no assumption that the FDP will form a Jamaica coalition.
  • And the SPD will be a serious challenger of any new policy formulation under Chancellor Merkel. Party chair Martin Schulz announced in front of a cheering party audience that he will not lead his party to enter a coalition Government, opting for opposition in Parliament instead. This makes it the biggest opposition party, well before far right AFD and far left Die Linke, and very hard to ignore.

THE WAY AHEAD – A Bumpy Road?

  • Right after the election of the Bundestag on September 24, exploratory talks started between the parties to find out which coalition can be formed. Merkel will have to shape new policies to appease a broad spectrum of positions from CSU, FDP and Greens while facing strong headwind from the SPD and a loud and unsavory AFD opposition.
  • According to the Constitution, the first session of the Bundestag must take place within 30 days of Election Day. The period of office of the old government ends with the constituent session, though old ministers and the chancellor keep their positions until the new cabinet is officially confirmed.
  • With regional election in Lower Saxony on October 15, the uptake of coalition negotiations is likely to drag on until after these elections.

It is now up to Merkel to invite parties to join coalition negotiations. Before that happens officially, there will be a lot of pulling of strings behind the scenes. Whether it will work out is still in the open. Over the coming weeks the parties will define the negotiation teams and positions – and set out to haggle for a future government agenda.

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