After 16 years of Merkel in power, what should we expect from Germany going forward?
What are Germany's parties?
Germany has a parliamentary system that consists of mainly 6 parties: the CDU, the SPD, the Greens, the FDP, the AfD and Die Linke. The CDU is a centre-right conservative party of which most post-war chancellors were part of, such as Angela Merkel, Helmut Kohl, and Konrad Adenauer. The SPD is a centre-left party focused on a strong welfare state. The Greens are also a centre-left party, but their main focus is climate change. The FDP follows liberalist views. Die Linke translates to “the left”; they were the party of the dictatorship of East Germany, they follow socialist beliefs. Finally, there is the AfD which is a right-wing populist and nationalist party. It is the main party that has grown immensely because of the refugee crisis. The AfD is largely excluded from the rest due to its extremist views.
How do their elections work?
Germans cast two votes: one for a member of parliament, and another for a political party. The Bundestag (the parliament) is made up of 598 seats, out of which 299 seats are reserved for the elected members of parliament, and the rest are selected based on the party vote. From this, a majority coalition will be formed and they will decide the new chancellor.
The election results
Raised in East Germany, Angela Merkel is a physicist, she joined politics soon after the berlin wall fell in 1990 and in 2006 she became the first woman chancellor of Germany. As chancellor, she is known for her factual decisions and moderate stance which created great trust with foreign leaders. As chancellor, she has faced various challenges which cemented her legacy into German history, However, there are 5 pivotal moments that can help us understand her impact on the country.
Phase-out from nuclear energy into renewable energy
After the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl catastrophe, and severe pressure from anti-nuclear movements, Merkel decided to phase out of the country’s nuclear power stations by 2022, something she had previously been against. This effectively reduced the country’s electric output by nuclear power from about 25% in 2010 to 11.4% in 2020. The phase-out, nevertheless, brought a coal-burning reliance, something Merkel’s government promised to fully end by 2038. Still, Merkel has made an aggressive push for renewable energy such as biomass, wind, hydroelectric and solar energy which together makes 46.3% of electricity in Germany. Despite this, Germans still are unsatisfied with the measures taken in combating climate change, with many believing there should be more done to prevent it.
An ongoing civil war in Syria and in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa caused a massive refugee crisis, which affected Europe with more than 1 million refugees entering the continent. Differently from the moderate stance she generally takes, Angela Merkel opened its borders and received nearly half a million asylum applications, more than any other country during the crisis. This decision was heavily criticized, with critics arguing that flexible border laws allowed nationalist right-wing parties to grow.
2008 financial crisis and the Euro crisis
The ‘08 financial crisis was one of the worst economic recessions the world has ever seen. It was an alarming time for Germany; many banks needed bailouts from the Bundesbank (German Federal Bank) to not go bankrupt. However, Merkel ensured that German money would be safe, preventing a possible bank run. She later on regulations on banks to reduce the chance of a similar situation happening again.
Soon after, in 2010, Germany faced another financial crisis that challenged the EU and its currency, the Euro. Due to Germany’s strong economy, the country became key to solving the crisis, doing so by bailing out countries in debt as long as they agreed to austerity measures. The role played by Germany in the crisis elevated Merkel’s status as a prominent world leader and the face of the EU.
Since the start of the pandemic, Merkel has pressured for a lockdown and social distancing rules, stating the pandemic was the most serious issue in German history since WW2. With this, her approval rating jumped to 90% earlier this year, an unimaginable number to any politician.
What to expect from Germany without Merkel?
The future is still uncertain in Germany since the coalition government hasn’t been formed yet, and Merkel might still have a few more weeks in power (albeit unable to do much). There are some speculations of what the coalition would look like.
Traffic light would be a coalition formed by the SPD (red), the Greens (green) and the FDP (yellow), and it would be led by Scholz. The SPD and the Greens are allies with a common environmental policy and beliefs on raising taxes and social spending, so it would be feasible to convince the Greens to join. The problem rises with the FDP, which has very different views from both parties. This is the favorable coalition for the SPD, avoiding the Die Linke (a party disliked by many of its followers) and another grand coalition with the CDU.
Jamaica would be the coalition between the CDU (black), the Greens (green) and the FDP (yellow). This is a similar situation to the traffic light coalition; the CDU and FDP are both allies that need to convince the Greens. To do so, they might need to compromise on their main differences: environmental policy and defense spending. This coalition was attempted in the previous election in 2017, but it did not work due to the FDP not agreeing to the compromises they would need to take.