On Sunday, September 26th, Germany voted for its new government. And for the first time after sixteen years for its new chancellor. This was the first time I could legally take part in a democratic decision-making process in my home country. What started off as an initial feeling of power, a sign of possible change, has left me and many others with more question marks than solutions. What does Sunday’s result predict for the future of Germany?
After having sent my bulletin via post a few weeks ago, the electoral campaign took on more and more speed, heat and competitiveness before reaching its final climax: Sunday’s election. The suspense this year was uniquely high, everyone was wondering: would the CDU elicit the same amount of popularity among German voters without Merkel as its unbreakable shield? As of 6pm, when the first estimates started coming in, I suddenly found myself both glued to my phone and my laptop, simultaneously refreshing my news app’s feed and watching politicians congratulate their parties – or deny their defeat. And the results could not have been closer together: 25.7% for the SPD ( Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland ) vs 24.1% for the Conservative Union ( CDU/CSU ), the two leading parties. Now most readers unfamiliar with German politics will probably stop and think: “Wait a minute. Isn’t a quarter of all votes too little to take over control of an entire country?” Exactly. And this is where the fun begins.
Who really holds the key to power
Naturally, in order to form a government, the parties who decide to work together need to make up more than 50% of seats in parliament. In this case, this means that both the Green party and the more conservative FDP as 3rdand 4thmost influential parties will be part of the new parliament. Up until this election, I was convinced that the math was quite easy: the candidate whose party wins the most votes provides the chancellor and starts negotiating with the smaller parties to form the new parliament. Indeed, one could argue, I should have been less naïve but I assume they are at least a few other German voters who shared my theory. However, as so often in reality, things took quite a different turn. Or to be precise, they have neither taken a definite turn right nor left yet – and yes by right and left I’m referring to the more liberal parties including the SPD and the conservative spectrum on the other hand. Apparently, both the SPD and the CDU/CSU interpret the results as the people having trusted them with the mission to govern over Germany. It is now up to the Green party and the FDP to reach an agreement on who they would like to work with- the former being closely linked to the SPD and the latter showing a general preference towards the Conservative Union.
How the CDU could possibly reach that conclusion after having lost over 8% of their voters compared to 2017, the highest loss compared to all other parties, remains a mystery yet to be solved. Amusingly enough, it seems like Armin Laschet, the CDU candidate, is not the first to misinterpret electoral results- at least we can get a little spark of Trump’s energy in Germany as well.
No matter which small party citizens chose to dedicate their voice to, one thing is clear: many did not want to see another government led by Merkel’s party.
Having voted green, I sure had hoped for a different outcome, one that symbolized a real shift in German politics. However, on a more positive note, the electoral turnout in Germany is on the rise: 76.6% of people voted. And this time it wasn’t only the xenophobic AFD which profited from people’s desire to vote for change. Instead, the Green party and the FDP, were the two parties who gained the most new voters compared to previous elections. What does this say about our country? No matter which small party citizens chose to dedicate their voice to, one thing is clear: many did not want to see another government led by Merkel’s party. She might have stirred the German ship steadily over the past few years but the amount of issues unresolved is overwhelming. Judging a government on the premise of the country’s fallbacks, the Merkel era looks fairly positive. She definitely did not make our country worse. But did she manage to improve our society?
To name a few examples: I went to a school where teachers still rely on VCRs and overhead projectors while children in other countries were using their own iPads. Instead of investing in the new generation`s education, money was spent elsewhere – take for example the 200.000.000 dollars for an airport that never saw the light of day.
Of course, no one saw the COVID 19 pandemic coming. But it might have been helpful if beforehand, we would have stabilized our health system by ensuring enough hospital capacities and even more importantly paying hard-working nurses for their relentless work.
And, yes, what would a list of fatal mistakes or broken promises be without everybody’s favourite topic: how we claimed to stop climate change- and never even started trying.
Dwelling in the past will neither help form a new government nor prevent future mistakes. However, one thing is clear: we need a new government as soon as possible. Negotiating over months, a déjà vu of the embarrassment of 2017 when the SPD strongly advocated to not govern together with the CDU only to give in after months of back and forth, would be both fatal and embarrassing.
If Armin Laschet wakes up and decides to make the right move, at least once in his questionable time as chancellor candidate, he should accept the people’s vote and thereby follow the fundamental idea of democracy which he must have forgotten- and declare his defeat. His newest statement showing his openness towards personal change in his party -perhaps a possible withdrawal from his part- gives rise to hope…
Edited by Rajal Monga