The German Federal Election occurred Sept. 24, 2017. The incumbent German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reelected to a fourth and final term after her party, the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU/CSU), emerged with a majority of seats obtained but not a majority in Parliament. Merkel was projected to retain her office as Chancellor. CDU/CSU won 32.9 percent of the vote and 218 seats. Overall Merkel’s party took 33 percent of seats while the far-right populist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), won 13 percent of the vote. This marked the first time since World War II that a far-right party emerged in the German Parliament.
Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) lead candidate, declared that the party would not form the Grand Coalition with the Conservatives, which will leave Merkel in an unfortunate position attempting to establish a majority to combat the AfD. Merkel’s only option to establish a majority apart from the SDP is to form a coalition with the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) (the pro-business) to reach a majority. Merkel is forced to form a coalition with the two ideologically different parties. This coalition could lose voter support. Merkel’s only other alternative is to form a minority government. The Jamaica Coalition between the three parties has evoked skepticism on all sides.
This election was meant to revive the European Union (EU) as was Emmanuel Macron’s, the President of France, who won with over 60 percent of the vote. Merkel’s last election will create more uncertainty as many envisioned that Germany and France would revitalize the EU. Germany’s election will create lasting consequences for Europe as a whole, such as attempts to negotiate Brexit with Great Britain.
Additional European consequences include the negotiations of Europe’s banking systems to revitalize and increase political and economic unity in the Eurozone. Merkel will not be in a strong position to work with Macron due to far right factions of her party as well as opposition from the AfD.
The German election’s outcome has global consequences as it will impact Germany’s standing in Europe as well as its relationship with the U.S. Merkel’s attempts to form a successful coalition could influence her ability to persuade President Trump to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and maintain transatlantic trade and investments. She will attempt to work with the U.S. despite opposition from the AfD, and her goals for Germany’s economic and foreign policy will likely remain the same as before the election. Merkel’s foreign policy will contrast Trump’s “America First” worldview. Despite Trump’s criticism, Germany and the U.S. need each other to continue to remain major players on the global stage. The rise of populism will strain relations between the two nations beyond ideological differences but Merkel will continue to encourage immigration as well as pursue her policy to revitalize the EU.