On Sunday, Sept. 24, a federal election took place in Germany to determine the role of chancellor and parliamentary positions. Germans had the opportunity to cast two votes: one for a a candidate in their home region, and another for a political party. Both votes determined the allocation of seats in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.
Although center-right leader Angela Merkel won her fourth term as chancellor, the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), received thirteen percent of the vote as well. Four years ago, AfD received only 4.7 percent of the vote; this increase in support largely stems from German nationalists who are unsatisfied with the long-ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party and hold anger over the increasing presence of immigrants in the country. The CDU won 32.9 percent of the vote, about 9 percent less than the last election. The Social Democrats, Germany’s second-most popular political party, won nearly 21 percent of votes, down about 5 percent from four years ago.
Over the past decade, Merkel has pushed several political reform efforts involving immigration. But in a recent compromise with the Christian Social Union (CSU) Party, which opposes her own CDU party, she agreed to cap the number of refugees Germany accepts each year to 200,000. This was in response to Merkel’s past open-door policy on immigration, which allowed for over a million people to enter the country in 2015, mainly coming from Turkey and other parts of the Middle East. The CDU and CSU parties released a joint statement on Oct. 9, which said: “We will continue our efforts to reduce, sustainably and permanently, the number of people who flee to Germany and Europe, so that a situation like that of 2015 will not and cannot be repeated.”
Now, political experts predict that it will be much harder for Merkel to form unity and communicate among the conservative bloc to make political progress. She will have to cooperate with the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentally-minded Greens, parties which have varied political agendas. Merkel also faces a more powerful opposition from the AfD, which is determined to make its presence heard in Germany. In a post-election speech, one of the party’s leaders stated: “Dear friends, now that we’re obviously the third-biggest power … the government has to buckle up. We will hunt them. We will hunt Frau Merkel, and we will reclaim our country and our people.”
Political tensions persist in Germany as parties come into conflict over the country’s future.
(Sources: CNN, NBC, NY Times, The Atlantic)