Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Merkel celebrates 'super result' in German vote

  • Merkel back in the driving seat in Germany and in Europe (Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler)

"We can all be happy tonight because we did great. This is a super result," a smiling Chancellor Angela Merkel told cheering supporters in Germany on Sunday (22 September) after the first exit polls came out in federal elections.

At one point, some pollsters indicated her Christian Democratic/Social Christian Union (CDU/CSU) may even get enough seats to govern alone.

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But after a long night of counting, the official result out early on Monday morning shows that Merkel will need coalition partner.

According to the election authority, the CDU/CSU got 41.5 percent of the vote, eight points more than in the 2009 elections.

It is the Union's best result since 1990, when voters gave Chancellor Helmut Kohl a strong mandate for his role in German reunification.

With 311 out of 630 parliament seats, Merkel's Union could govern either with the Social Democrats (192 seats) or the Greens (63 seats).

Her former coalition ally, the liberal Free Democratic Party failed to make it into the Bundestag for the first time since it was created, in 1949.

"This is the most bitter and sad moment in the history of the Free Democratic Party," the FDP leader and outgoing minister of economy, Philipp Roesler, said.

With just 4.8 percent of the vote, the Liberals got almost 10 points less than in 2009.

Some 2 million votes migrated to the CDU/CSU and almost half a million to the anti-euro Alternative fuer Deutschland party, which almost did make the Bundestag threshold.

AfD's unexpected scoop of 4.7 percent of the vote just a few months after it was launched it proof that a sizeable minority of German voters strongly oppose any more bailouts and would like to see countries like Greece booted out of the eurozone.

Meanwhile, another winner in Sunday's elections is the leftist Linke party (8.6%), which for the first time in its history became the third largest group in parliament, outnumbering the Greens.

Long coalition talks ahead

Leading Social-Democrats on Sunday night were quick in congratulating Merkel for her "impressive" result, but they stopped short of saying they would create another Grand Coalition.

"The ball is in Merkel's court now. She is the one who has to secure a majority," the SPD's lead candidate, Peer Steinbrueck, said.

Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD's likely coalition negotiator said his party "never rules out anything" and that just because the last Grand Coalition ended badly for his party, it does not mean they would not do it again.

"It [a potential coalition] will be about substance, political ideas, not about ministerial posts or alike," he said.

With a strong negotiating mandate, Merkel is unlikely to give up the post of finance minister, currently held by veteran CDU man Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Speaking to public broadcaster ARD on Sunday, the 71-year old Schaeuble said he is "grateful" he could serve as minister these past few years, but declined to speculate if he will stay on.

The post of foreign minister (currently held by Liberal Guido Westerwelle) is traditionally reserved for the coalition partner.

But over the past eight years of coalition governments, Merkel has strengthened her grip on foreign policy, with all the big foreign policy decisions being crafted in the chancellery rather than the foreign ministry.

If Merkel and the SPD fail to agree terms, the only other option is to team up with the Greens, as the Linke is taboo due to its Communist past in former east Germany.

Germans head to the polls in close election

Latest polls suggest a tight race in Germany between Merkel's coalition and the leftist-Green opposition led by Steinbrueck as voters come out on Sunday.

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