Friday, September 29, 2017

Merkel Wins, But a New Right Arises

German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term on Sunday, making her Europe’s longest surviving and premier leader. But the election saw the emergence of the far right anti-immigrant, nationalist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), as a major parliamentary opposition party. It received 11 percent of the vote in Western Germany, but 23 percent in the East to be the region’s second largest party after Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU).

Merkel’s campaign slogan was “Die Mitte,” The Center. Unfortunately, the center parties, CDU and Social Democratic Party (SPD), part of the ruling coalition, suffered major losses in this election. They went from a combined 67 percent of the vote in 2005 to 54 percent today. The SPD, which lost 20 percent of its 2005 vote, now claims it will go into opposition and not be part of the ruling coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses supporters
after election win, Sept. 24, 2017 | Reuters
The rise of the AfD on Merkel’s right is largely a product of her immigration policy. Most CDU voters who did not vote for the party told the exit poll it was because of Merkel’s refugee policy. But the new right didn’t just draw from Merkel’s CDU. In fact, it took nearly a third of the SPD lost votes (500,000) and 40 percent of CDU/CSU decline (1 million). AfD also attracted more than 1.2 million non-voters from the 2005 election.

While Merkel won, forming a new government will be difficult and the new coalition less stable. Her party is now weaker and the pro-EU, pro-refugee policies will be on the defensive.

Wall Street Journal: Rising right dents Merkel’s win
Wall Street Journal: Strong Showing by Nationalist Party Jolts German Politics
The Guardian: What the stunning success of AfD means for Germany and Europe

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