The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

In Germany, Center-Right Rules Again (But For How Long?)

Posted by demkid on September 29, 2009

It was a result most saw coming from a long way out: Chancellor Angela Merkel (or Bush’s massage buddy) won a second term in Germany after her CDU garnered the highest percentage of the vote in Sunday’s federal election.  What was a little bit up in the air (especially after late polls showed things closing) was whether Chancellor Merkel would be able to establish a center-right government with the CDU’s traditional coalition partner, the Free Democrats (or FDP).  When the dust settled, the coalition got their majority, and this means that the CDU is able to break the bonds of the “Grand Coalition” it had with the Social Democrats over the past 4 years, after the previous election ended in a stalemate. 

While Chancellor Merkel is obviously a winner here, her party didn’t really do all that well in the larger scheme of things.  The combined CDU/CSU (the CSU is a sister party) popular vote percentage actually went down (just above the worst postwar performance ever), and they only managed to pick up about 13 extra seats from 4 years ago.  The Chancellor had to rely on her coalition partner to carry the day, as the FDP turned out to be the big winner in the election.  The FDP picked up 32 seats and will now be back in the government after an 11-year absence.  The party’s leader, Guido Westerwelle, is poised to become Germany’s new foreign minister.  (Who doesn’t like a guy named Guido?)  Other clear winners in the election were the other two “opposition parties,” the Greens and the Left, with their best results ever.  Both came in with over 10% of the popular vote, and picked up more seats than the CDU/CSU did.  Five parties with over 10% of the vote is an interesting dynamic, and one which is completely foreign to our own presidential, two-party system.  The other related aspect here is the distinct decline in attractiveness of the two major German political parties, as more and more people look for other options.  The Social Democrats suffered their worst result since World War II, dropping an astonishing 76 seats and garnering only 23% of the popular vote.  The SPD is back into opposition, a role they know extremely well, having been there in the Helmut Kohl days from 1982-1998.  The big question is: Will it be another 16 years (or more) out of power for the center-left, or will they be able to stop the bleeding primarily suffered from the rise of the lesser parties?  If Chancellor Merkel’s new government does well over the next several years, the SPD could itself be in danger of becoming a lesser party.

The map below (from Wikipedia) shows the parliamentary districts won by each party.  The CSU only operates in Bavaria and is the CDU’s sister party.  Notice that the Left won numerous districts in the former East Germany and the Greens won a district or two in the middle of Berlin.  The Free Democrats won no districts outright, but their overall percentages were good enough to get them 93 seats in the new Bundestag.

A Black (CDU) and Blue (CSU) Germany

A Black (CDU) and Blue (CSU) Germany


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