Angela Merkel secured her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany with her centre right coalition, taking 246 seats in the Bundestag.
Merkelís victory will bring her total years in power to 12, presumably to rise to 16 at the end of the new term when she will become Europe’s longest ever serving female political leader. With this victory, Merkel also becomes Europeís second longest leader, bested only by Putin.
However, while Merkel managed to cling onto her position in power, losing 63 seats in the process, the German establishment crumbled as the Social Democratic Party (SPD) achieved their worst result since 1945, with only 153 seats, 40 less than their 2013 total. As a result the SPD leader, Martin Schulz, announced he would not be reforming the ‘grand coalition’ and instead leading the SPD as opposition.
The SPDís disappointing result comes as a result of them failing to gain traction on key issues. Shell’s plea about Germany’s inequalities was consistently beaten back throughout the campaign by unemployment rates, and any attempt to criticise Merkel’s immigration policy from the left seemed fruitless. Their early momentum was stunted towards the end of the campaign, especially in the head-to-head debates in which the major two parties largely agreed with each other.
The CDU and SPD haemorrhaging such a large amount of seats was largely due to the rise of the populist far-right party Alternative for Germany (AFD). The party gained their first ever seats in the Bundestag, reaching a grand total of 94. This shift follows the rise in far right parties across Europe, and is the first time since 1945 that a far right party has had seats in the Bundestag.
The rising influence of the AFD is largely down to their response to Merkel’s immigration policy. Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders has been met with fierce hostility, but this is the first time itís had major political repercussions inside Germany.
Alexander Gauland, the AFD’s top candidate said that his party will ìhuntî Merkel over her policy, maintaining his commitment to a parliamentary investigation into the legality of Merkelís immigration policy.
In the meantime, however, Merkel will be focusing less on the sudden threat of the AFD, and more on managing to form a working coalition. Most speculation suggests she will pursue the ‘Jamaica coalition’ (named because of the black red and green party colours) with the Greens and the FDP. This is largely because the other remaining parties have either ruled out a coalition (SDP) or would be too controversial to enter a coalition with (AFD).
Controversy over the AFD’s rise has already begun, with, Albrecht Glaser, their nomination for Vice President of the Bundestag, being widely criticised by the Greens, SPD and FDP on his views of religious freedom. The CDU have yet to comment, but the schism is indicative of an increasingly fragmented Germany. As for Merkel, she may have held on to power but her era of invincibilty is most certainly at an end.