By Nitya Chakraborty
The German voters gave a decisive rebuff to the ruling centre right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the national elections on September 26 as the party of the present chancellor Angela Merkel got only 24.1 per cent of the votes as against 25.7 per cent by its rival Social Democratic Party (SPD).The CDU recorded its worst showing in the seventy years of the party’s history despite the high acceptability of Merkel as a popular leader during her sixteen year rule from 2005.
Though the SPD’s chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz declared immediately after the results were out that he intended to forge a social ecological liberal coalition and he would initiate the process immediately, his tasks would not be easy as his potential partners Greens have received 14.8 per cent of the votes. The liberal Free Democratic Party has got around 11.5 per cent votes and together with greens, their combined votes are more than the front runner SPD.
In fact Greens have already started talks with the FDP to move jointly as a combined group and a programme to bargain with both SPD and the CDU. The extreme right AFD has lost support by just getting only more than 10 per cent from the earlier 14.4 per cent and the left wing De Linke 4.9 per cent slightly less than 5 per cent ceiling but due to its Parliament seats being more than three, its 39 elected members will be sitting in the new Bundestag. But as of now trends indicate that both the combinations will avoid links with both the extreme right and left as any combination of the three of the four parties, will be in a position to form the Government headed by a new chancellor.
In the new Bundestag, the breakdown for the parties will be 206 for the SPD, 196 for the CDU/CSU, 118 for the Greens, 83 for the ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), and 39 for Die Linke (the Left Party).
The CDU may be at the backfoot after the elections as the advantage for post poll talks lies with SPD but the party leadership has indicated their willingness to form a coalition with both Greens and FDP. Greens have worked with CDU in coalitions and FDP also and FDP programme has much more commonalities with that of the ruling CDU in view of its pro big business agenda. At the same time, there are talks of a grand coalition again of SDP and the CDU, SDP leadership has ruled that out at the moment but the German big business is favouring such a national coalition.
The Greens can’t automatically be counted on to hook up with the Social Democrats in a coalition.. There are some sections of the party that can be characterized as solidly left-wing, but there are also sections on the right that have made alliances with big business in some parts of Germany. The Greens have worked in coalition with the Left also in some provinces. But their differences have widened in the recent months and now with improved results, the Greens will try to ignore De Linke which has lost its support base in the elections, despite commendable work for housing and social security in the provinces where they are in coalition with the SPD or the Greens.
CDU’s chancellor candidate Laschet is making all the noises to assert that Germany needs a stable government to sustain its growth momentum under Merkel but the German people do not take him as a good replacement of Merkel. The general mood in the press is also for a new coalition led by the SPD. In fact the SPD chancellor candidate is looking for support from the US President Joe Biden also in his bid for a new coalition. Political analysts say that the coalition government will take time, even a few weeks as many loose ends have to be tied up regarding common programme even after an agreement for coalition is arrived in principle. Till then Merkel will act as the caretaker chancellor as per the German constitution.
The De Linke leadership will be doing introspection about their losses in the elections .The Leadership expected to get between 6 to 7 per cent votes and the party administrators did good job at the provincial level. The party could not transfer its good work into votes.
Its biggest losses came in Berlin, ironically, where it had successfully spearheaded a campaign to freeze rents for five years and reportedly won a referendum on Sunday that expropriate thousands of apartments from big German real estate conglomerates like Deutsche Wohnen and turn them into social housing.
In Berlin, the Left Party is part of a ruling red-red-green coalition of the SPD, itself, and the Greens. The SPD, which leads that coalition, campaigned by bragging how it was responsible for winning the freeze, even though it was the Left Party that did most of the work to build public support and win it.
The German elections have certainly signalled a shift towards centre left as against the centre right and extreme right. That is a good sign. The extreme right AFD’s rise has been halted. In recent elections in Norway to Parliament this month, the left wing Labour has won and significantly, the hardcore Marxists of the Red Party improved their position in Parliament from one to eight. A significant outcome of the Norway elections was that the Red Party improved its position along with other left leaning parties including the Labour Party and there was no dilution in the anti- capitalist agenda. This should be a big lesson for the European Left.
In France, national elections are due next year. The political situation is very volatile in France and President Macron is facing big hurdles. Germany is the biggest economic power in European Union. The shape of the coalition government will have its impact on Europe which is now looking for an identity of its own. (IPA Service)