Super Sunday Elections in Germany

Political Parties in Turmoil, but Merkel Firm in the Driving Seat

Strategic Communications

March 14, 2016

A political earthquake was predicted ahead of voting day in Germany, where regional elections were held in three of the 16 states. Now the dust has settled, and what’s become clear is that nothing much has changed: in all three states, the acting prime ministers are confirmed in office.

It’s hard to think of a surer sign of continued stability, but that’s what it is despite all the clamour of the media. True enough, though, underneath the surface, some tectonic rumble did indeed take place yesterday: in all three states the populist, xenophobic AfD or Alternative for Germany who managed to transform themselves within six months from an anti-euro party into an anti-migration party, reached double-digit results starting from scratch, thus posing serious questions to the political establishment of all traditional parties.

To all those who have predicted that after voting day, Angela Merkel and her grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats would be in serious trouble and the country in turmoil, the answer is: quite not so. Although Merkel’s CDU took a serious beating across the board (what’s most painful of course is that they lost the role as the leading party of Baden-Württemberg), no-one in the party leadership dares to challenge her: even when many have misgivings with the Chancellor’s stance on the refugee crisis, they realize that without her, their chances of success would be even slimmer. Plus, there’s also no serious contender for her job as party chairman of the Christian Democrats because potential candidates do not in fact offer an alternative solution to the refugee issue. So, while running Germany as Chancellor might very well be even less fun than it was before (which often shows in the Chancellor’s face), there’s no reason to think of instability in Germany: the grand coalition will continue until the end of their term in 2017, knowing full well that early elections would only serve the AfD.

As for the Social Democrats, they need to come to terms with the fact that in two states they came in even behind the AfD and find themselves in the role of a small party who need to look to others to take them along to form a majority – or worse, no function at all because their share of the vote just isn’t big enough to be decisive in forming a coalition. This causes a serious trauma in a party with a proud tradition of more than 150 years as a vanguard of social progress, and this trauma can’t even be consolidated by the fact that in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats were able to hold on to power with their down-to-earth and much respected Prime Minister Malu Dreyer.

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