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German election: first assessment – Germany shifts right

Rise in AfD and fall in support for establishment parties puts German stability in question

Though the final result has not yet been confirmed statements from German political leaders – including Merkel herself, who has spoken of a ‘disappointing’ result for the CDU/CSU – suggest that the final outcome will differ little from that suggested by the exit polls.

The final outcome of the election is therefore an end to the ‘grand coalition’ between Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the left wing SPD, which has suffered one of the worst electoral results in its history, but with the CDU/CSU almost certainly lacking enough support to form a majority coalition in the Bundestag with the FDP.

Since bringing either the right wing AfD or the left wing Left Party into the ruling coalition is categorically ruled out – and would be rejected by those parties if it were ever offered to them – that means that the only chance of a majority coalition is one which includes the Green Party.

Such a coalition would be difficult to achieve.  The Green Party emerged in the 1980s as an anti-establishment leftist party well to the left of the SPD.  Whilst it has long since put its origins behind it – today it is very much a part of the German establishment and is indeed by many measures the most pro-US, ‘liberal interventionist’ and anti-Russian party in Germany – much of its electoral support continues to be drawn on the basis of its old anti-establishment past.  How its supporters will react to it entering into a coalition with the arch-establishment CDU/CSU and FDP remains to be seen, and as of the time of writing it is not a foregone conclusion that this will happen.

Needless to say, if a coalition with the Greens cannot be patched up, Germany’s future CDU/CSU/FDP government will lack a majority in the Bundestag, making it even less stable that it would be with the Greens in the coalition, and even less likely to forge ahead with fundamental changes to Germany’s established positions.

The inescapable fact of the German election is that Germany has shifted decisively to the right.  The only two parties which have achieved gains in the election are the AfD, which by German standards is right wing, and the FDP, which is centre-right.

By contrast the traditional standard bearer of the left – the SPD – has fallen back, as has the CDU/CSU at the centre.

The right wing shift has however proved insufficient to dethrone the CDU/CSU from its position at the heart of German politics, increasing the sense of paralysis which is at the heart of Germany’s problems.

That means that some of the changes some people have been willing on Germany are now all but impossible.

With the ruling coalition lacking a stable majority even if the Greens can be induced to join it, and with a strong anti-EU party in the form of the AfD now in the Bundestag and threatening the CDU in its conservative heartlands, it beggars belief that Germany will for example agree to the sort of all-embracing changes to the EU institutions demanded by French President Macron.

Needless to say any prospect of a softening of the German line towards Britain with regard to Brexit, or towards Greece in relation to its bailout, can now be ruled out.

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