Germany slides right
One of the main results of the 2017 German federal elections is that the four party legislature became a six party legislature. The two new parties come from the right. They are the moderate, liberal Free Democratic Party and the nationalist, anti immigration ultra right party called the Alternative for Germany.
That puts Merkel’s right wing Christian Democrats in the middle of the right.
When the world press says that Merkel “won” this election what they mean is that her party got more votes than any other. That is 33%, down 8.6% from the last election. She also “won” because she will probably be able to form a governing coalition.
Almost all the government's we have known of West Germany and all of the governments of the united Germany have been coalitions. The only reason that I say “almost” is because I don’t know the post war history enough to be sure. I can not think of a post WW2 German government that was not a coalition in the west. The east was a mono party state.
In order of size, those the reaching the minimum of 5% of the votes required to hold proportionally allocated seats in Bundestag, the main house of the German legislature whose majority elects the Federal Chancelor, are as follows:
Christian Democrats 32.9, down 8.6
Social Democrats 20.8, down 4.9
Alternative for Germany 13, up 8.3 first time qualifying
Free Democrats 10, up 5.6 and coming back into office
Left 9, up .4
Green 9, up .6
Source Spiegle on line
The two main political parties that have usually held the office of Federal Chanclelor and have always been part of the ruling coalition both lost ground.
One of the two new right wing groups to qualify for representation, the Free Democrats, is an old traditional party that has held many posts and been part of many coalitions in the past. It is no surprise that they are back in. The poor results last time that lost their representation have been recovered and they return to their normal size and place.
The other one, the Alternative for Germany, is the big part of the slide to the right coming into the system for the first time with a strong showing and taking the third largest share of the votes. This group is correctly indentified with our own alt-right, the National Front in France and other ultra right wing movements that have been making gains across Europe.
With a combined left vote of 40% between Social Democrats, Left and Greens, the German left does not have enough votes to govern by themselves in a Red-Red-Green Coaltion, but they are still a mainstream part of German politics. Note that they form many a local Land government in different coalitions.
This election represents dissatisfaction with the status quo. The two parties that lost votes are the two parties that form the current government coalition.
The harder left did not gain much, but it did not lose votes either.
So the big move was from the two main, traditional government parties, to the liberal center right and the hard line far right. The vote for the liberal Free Democrats was not much of a surprise and is more in keeping with their normal share of the electorate. That leaves us with the biggest news being that the hard right comes in taking votes from the status quo movement.
So, who is this new Alternative for Germany? It would be fair to refer to them as being more of an anti-immigrant party than a typical far right party with a strong anti socialist bias and hard line right wing politics on a series of subjects. Inside their movement there are more and less hard line members and divisions strong engough to have one of their founders leave the movement before they have even been sworn in.
So who are the 13% of Germans who voted for the hard right Alternative for Germany?
Mostly Social Christians, but also significant numbers from the Social Democrats and minor numbers from the other movements.
Many from the former East Germany and from Bavaria, but really getting significant votes from most of the the country.
More men than women, but many women voted for them and their main leaders are women.
More workers than professionals, but again, the numbers are a tendency that does not define their whole electorate. All social classes and education levels had a perscentage of hard right voters.
And what should we expect?
In Germany we should expect all the other parties represented to shun and isolate the ultra right.
The Social Democrats have decided not to stay in the government, taking themselves out of the conversations to form the next coalition. They have good internal reasons to do so, but they also have a national reason. As the second largest party they will now form the official opposition. If they had joined the government, the ultra right would have held that official role.
The Christian Democrats will probably form a government with the Free Democrats and the Greens, what the Germans call a Jamaica Coaltion for the party colors Black-Yellow-Green. Remember that the German Greens are not so far left and have served in government before.
It is noticeable that the news graphics assign the color light blue to the Alternative for Germany and I have not seen the traditional color for fascists in Germany, brown.
Germany’s support for more refugees coming and their participation in the French government initiative for a stronger, more federal Europe will both be in a bit of trouble. While the mainstream German parties will not accommodate the hard right movement, they will not miss the message either. The anti Europe and anti immigrant feelings in Germany extend way past those who feel so strong about it that they are willing for vote for the ultra right. We have already seen a shift in positions from inside of the Christian Democrats.
And a lot will not change. Merkel will go on to be the longest serving federal Chancelor. German politics will be plural, colorful and peppered with some new drama, but in the end their system of political pluralism and proportional representation is inherently stable.
Note: In earlier blogs I predicted this outcome with smaller numbers for the hard right based on Land elections earlier in the year. Between then and now the main change was Merkel’s and her Christian Demorcrats decline in popularity, especially over the issue of the one million refugees Merkel accepted last year.