The German Federal Election 2017

Friday, 29 September 2017 - 03:02 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Editorial, European Union
Reading Time:  13 minutes

The electoral participation in the Bundestag election in 2017 was 76.2%, and again increased by just under 5% compared to 2013 with 71.5%. The electoral participation has now risen for the third time in a row, which in principle is a very good signal. People are more and more interested in politics and realize that it is “about something”. Parties who could reach the 5% hurdle to enter the Bundestag are:

Chancellor Angela Merkel will lead the future government, but is now expected to be with other coalition partners (Greens and FDP, together with the CDU/CSU forming the Jamaica coalition) who, due to their party political orientations, will provide in particular for minor changes in federal policy. The corresponding coalition negotiations will begin in mid-October 2017. Until the conclusion of the coalition negotiations (or possible new elections), the current coalition government of the CDU and the SPD remains in office, as are all Minsteres. The handing over of the political offices will take place during the constituent meeting of the new government coalition.

Abroad, the changed political landscape provides for different reactions. While the White House is skeptical about the Jamaica coalition because of the Greens and their demands for environmental and climate protection tightenings, the Kremlin is pleased by the announcements by FDP chairman Christian Lindner who want to drop the sanctions against Russia and thus legitimize the Russian violations of international law on Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine. Athens, on the other hand, is much less pleased with the prospect of a possible FDP Finance Minister of Germany, especially because the current Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble looks like a true friend to Greece and to the Greek people compared to the FDP’s efforts. France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker are also not very enthusiastic about the prospects of FDP government participation, especially as important and promising EU reforms are to be launched by the end of 2017. Many of the partial goals for the conversion of the EU will at least be hindered by the clientele party FDP.

The inflow to the AfD, especially in the new federal states, is not really surprising, especially since in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, but also in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, clear right-wing tendencies were recognizable immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this group has still largely voted for the CDU, so that the East CDU has denied these tendencies to preserve voters’ votes for decades. The situation has fundamentally changed now so that further denying won’t help.

One of the most frequently asked questions from abroad is “Who is the AfD?”
The answer “A bunch of unrealistic and learning-resistant nutcasees” is quite correct at first sight. In detail, however, the answer is more complex. According to the current state of affairs, the party is composed of different interest groups, all of which cook their own soup within the AfD. In this respect, the phenomenon of AfD is difficult to transform into figures and facts. The following is an overview of the main flows:

  • Parts of the Russian German community with a strong affinity for Putin and Russia, significant xenophobia and at the same time great jealousy potential in the light of the friendly and open willingness of Germany to take in war refugees from Syria, while they themselves do not have such experiences through considerable negativ efforts from the own population group.
  • “Disappointed Citizens”: A group of people in the new federal states, which defines themselves as “losers of the fall of the Berlin Wall” and who are of the opinion that they are disadvantaged (which is often the result of a lack of professional qualifications to be able to compete at all), has also come to the conclusion that the achievements of the citizens in the new federal states would not be adequately appreciated. If, however, one compares the completely desperate state of East Germany in 1989 with the state of today’s new federal states, in particular by massive support from the old federal states, then it is difficult to follow the initial stance. It is true that there are still wage and salary differences between the old and new federal states. The new federal states achieve 70% of the productivity of the old federal states, so that wage and salary equilibrium can not be financed. At the same time, however, this represents a competitive advantage for the new federal states. Without this advantage there would certainly be fewer jobs. In addition, for example, rents in the new federal states are much lower than in the old federal states.
  • “Concerned/Angry Citizens”: People with diffuse fears for things that can not be factual substantiated, living under the motto “Belly feeling weighs heavier than mind and facts”, operating in the gray zones of conspiracy theories.
  • Identitarian movement
  • Reichsbürgerbewegung
  • Burschenschaften
  • Evangelical and Catholic fundamentalists
  • Anti-abortion fundamentalists
  • Anti-same-sex marriage fundamentalists
  • Pegida
  • NPD and other old and neo-Nazi groups.
  • Protest voters, among them a lot of former abstaining voters.
  • Conspiracy theorists
  • Common to these groups is latent or open hatred of minorities (Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, foreigners and everything foreign).
  • Contrary to clear warnings of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Jewish groups are among the supporters whose motivation is not quite clear yet. The motivation might come from the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory, since the xenophobic and especially islamophobic voices from the Israeli Likud are becoming increasingly louder.
  • This as well explains why members with ties to the basic law and the German liberal democratic basic order are increasingly silenced and marginalized.

The very first statements made by the party leaders after the Bundestag elections clearly show that the party has no idea of domestic or foreign policies. The processes of a democratic state are alien to the party, just as domestic and foreign policy challenges and requirements. This is especially surprising as the party and its supporters show strong presence on the Internet, but apparently completely avoid visits to the website of the Federal Center for Civic Education. Thus the AfD, even if in a much less successful manner, stands for the Trumpization of the Bundestag, or maximum loudness and absence of facts, paired with half-truths and lies. The AfD was already in a covert dissolution process before the Bundestag elections. After the elections this dissolution process is now open. The growing right-wing radicalization of the party during the past months let moderate forces (if there is something that can be called “moderate” in an right-wing populist environment) to leave the party for the CDU or FDP. Some newly elected Bundestag members are now openly talking about a split from the party, including chairmen of parliamentary groups and members of the federal executive committee. The vast majority of experts and analysts assume that the AfD will not exceed the legislative period.

What are the effects of the elections?
The most obvious effect is the withdrawal of the SPD from governmental responsibility. The harsh setback in the elections is causing the social-democrats to seek for a new orientation of the party and to reach this out of the role of the strongest opposition party. The coalition negotiations for Chancellor Merkel will not be a Sunday walk as well. Not only the partly completely contradictory positions of the potential coalition partners Greens and FDP have some potential for conflict. The Bavarian sister party CSU, whose remarkable election debacle has plunged the party into an identity crisis creates a need for talks. Therefore, the coalition negotiations may last for several weeks.

Economic impact
Unlike in the new federal states, the AfD has achieved a rather modest result on the federal level, so that the possibilities for action correspond with the election results. Apart from much noise, the party can not achieve much. The negative economic consequences of the strengthening of the right-wing populists and right-wing radicals, especially in Saxony, doesn’tt apply on the federal level. While they are likely to intensify further in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, especially as international investors, as well as tourists are understandably at least irritated by the regional electoral results, they can be limited on the federal level. More than slight irritations and the further focus on West Germany and Berlin are not expected. The outcome of the government coalition negotiations will play a much greater role. Already announced substantial investments (in this case, talks are about some 300 billion Euro) in structural reforms, infrastructure, digitization, education, social affairs and the upcoming integration process are likely to be implemented even under the expected Jamaica coalition.

Impact on domestic policy
There are two significant fields: First, the coalition negotiations between the CDU, CSU, the Greens and the FDP need to succeed. If this won’t happen, a majority of more than 65% of Germans would be in favor of new elections, which would have to take place very promptly in the light of national and international requirements and challenges. The second field is the divide in society, which has deepened both East and West, as well as between nationalists and internationalists as a whole. Although it is actually the task of the President of Germany to work on this challenges, the future government coalition will have to spend some time on this topics as well, even if it seems at least questionable whether people, who have established themselves a niche at the outer edges, can be persuaded for constructive contributions to the majority society.

Impact on foreign policy
In particular, the still open coalition negotiations will delay the urgently needed EU reforms, which should be launched at the end of the year. Delays that neither the EU nor Germany can afford, especially since the time window, which is currently open, will not remain open forever. In terms of content, the reforms of the democratic, social and economic realignment of the EU are too significant (European Commission on 13 September 2017: President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union Address 2017 and France24 on 26 September 2017: French President Macron presents vision of post-Brexit Europe) to be sacrificed to German parties. The “Common Security and Defense” block has already been launched in parts. Over all, the German government will continue to remain a stable, democratic, EU friendly, cosmopolitan and reliable national and international partner after the Bundestag elections, which will fully fulfill its commitments and obligations. However, changes in the policies of the former federal government can be given under the new government coalition in details.

Addition: After numerous twists and turns and 171 days (six months), the longest periode of time ever to form a government, a new coalition agreement between CDU/CSU and SPD was finally closed. The German Chancellor addressed the most important issues during her policy statement on 21 March 2018 and concluded her speech with the words “Germany – that’s all of us”. In the English-speaking world, the answer to her remark would be “Thank you, Captain Obvious”.


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