25th Mar 2023

No clear winner to succeed Merkel in Germany

  • Sunrise over the Bundestag building in Berlin (Photo: Amire Appel)
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The centre-left and centre-right candidates to replace Angela Merkel as German chancellor have both claimed the right to go ahead after inconclusive election results.

"We have a mandate to say we want to form the next government ... citizens want change," the centre-left SPD party's Olaf Scholz said on Sunday (26 September).

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He promised a "good, pragmatic government for Germany".

The SPD narrowly won with 25.9 percent of the vote, according to projections on Monday morning.

But the centre-right CDU party's Armin Laschet said it was not all about getting "an arithmetic majority" in the vote-count.

"We will do everything in our power to form a federal government under the leadership of the CDU-CSU, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that will modernise Germany," he also said.

The CDU came second on 24.1 percent, but this amounted to a historic low, which even saw it lose in Merkel's traditionally safe home district.

Its Bavaria-region sister party, the CSU, also got its worst result since 1949 - just 37.1 percent.

"It's still significantly higher than the country-wide [CDU] result", CSU chief Markus Söder noted.

By contrast, the Greens, headed by Annalena Baerbock, did better than ever, with 14.6 percent.

The liberal FDP party of Christian Lindner came fourth on 11.5 percent.

The far-right AfD won 10.5 percent and became the biggest party in two districts.

But the far-left Die Linke was struggling to make it over the five-percent threshold to retain any Bundestag seats.

The election was marked by the entry of two transgender women into parliament for the first time - the Greens' Nyke Slawik and Tessa Ganserer.

"We will today open a new chapter of self-determination in politics and ... end the years-long patronising of queer people," Slawik said.

The vote was also marked by another Russian cyber-attack on German politicians.

"We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace," the EU's foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Friday.

The leading parties will now enter 'exploratory talks' to form a coalition.

And talks could last beyond Christmas, leaving Merkel in office in an appendage to her 16-year career as head of the EU's most powerful country.

One likely outcome is a 'traffic-light' coalition, so called after the main parties' colours, of SPD, FDP, and Greens. Another one is a 'Jamaica' (flag-colour) coalition of CDU, FDP, and Greens.

The next chancellor is voted by parliament once a government is in place.

And "it hasn't always been the case that the party in first place provides the chancellor," the CDU's Laschet said on Sunday, amid the rising popularity of the Greens' Baerbock.

Meanwhile, Merkel herself is poised to exit the political arena with a whopping 64-percent approval rating.

Germany's economy is strong and it has one of the lowest Covid-19 death rates in Europe.

She will also be remembered for her handling of the 2015 refugee crisis, when over 1 million refugees entered Germany, many of whom still do not have jobs or speak German.

And she will be remembered for a mixed policy on Russia by her allies in central and eastern Europe.

On one hand, she helped build and keep EU economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but on the other Merkel completed a new Russian gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which posed a strategic threat to the Baltic states and Poland.

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