Germany: Three in a row for Angela Merkel

GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel has won an historic third term in power – the only European leader not to become a casualty of Europe’s seemingly unending financial crisis.
CDU members acclaim victory at party headquarters in Berlin. Picture: ReutersCDU members acclaim victory at party headquarters in Berlin. Picture: Reuters
CDU members acclaim victory at party headquarters in Berlin. Picture: Reuters

Last night, Chancellor Merkel hailed her victory in the national election but said it was too early to discuss plans for the next government.

“This is a super result,” Mrs Merkel told cheering supporters after television exit polls showed her Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) won 42 to 42.5 per cent of votes.

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She added: “We will do all we can in the next four years together to make them successful years for Germany. It is too early to say how we will proceed but today we should celebrate.”

But victory at the polls was tempered by a disastrous showing from the liberal FDP party, with which she has ruled in coalition for the past four years.

Mrs Merkel may now have to forge an uneasy alliance with the centre-left SPD – the main left-wing party – which is opposed to many of her conservative principles and policies.

Her CDU party scored 42.5 per cent of the vote from among the 62 million Germans who went to the polls yesterday.

But her junior coalition partner garnered just 4.5 per cent, less than the five per cent required to get into government.

The SPD won just over 26 per cent of the vote, meaning that it will almost certainly enter into a coalition with Mrs Merkel. The Alternative for Deutschland party scored just four per cent, one per cent less than the total needed to get into parliament.

The hard-left Linke Party won five per cent, and the Greens nine per cent, but neither have enough votes to form a government with the SPD, which is theoretically opposed to sharing power with Mr Merkel.

SPD leader Peer Steinbrueck said last night: “The ball is in Mrs Merkel’s court. She has to get herself a majority.”

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A relief for all in Germany was the poor showing of the NPS neo-Nazi party.

After shepherding Germany through the debt turmoil, Mrs Merkel went into the race more popular than ever, portraying herself as a safe pair of hands.

German media reports said Mr Steinbrueck was resigned to being Mrs Merkel’s understudy before voting started yesterday.

Fundamentally, not much will change in the day to day business of Germany. Both parties are committed to saving the euro, and both are committed to the ‘Mittelstand’ – small-to-medium-sized businesses which form the backbone of the export-led economy. But the devil lies in the detail. The SPD is a party of higher taxes, minimum wages and workers’ rights, limited military involvement abroad and a host of neo-liberal family policies certain to rub against Mrs Merkel’s avowed intent to carry on down the path of austerity.

“There are many within the SPD who oppose the idea of going into a grand coalition with Mrs Merkel’s bloc,” said Manfred Guellner, managing director of the pollster Forsa.

He said they want assurances they will not merely be a ‘Mummy’s Boys’, at her beck and call for the next four years.

But politicians crave power above all else. If it is a coalition or nothing, the SPD will underwrite Europe’s most powerful woman come what may.

A frantic round of negotiations between the CDU and the SPD is set to ensue as they carve up ministries and posts to satisfy all sides.