23 Sep 2013

Angela Merkel triumphs in Germany

Angela Merkel is the undeniable victor of last night’s election. Her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), won the biggest slice of votes of any party since German unification (41.2 per cent) and yet the result has created a period of instability for which Europe is to blame.

Berlin’s response to the Euro crisis gave birth to a brand new party in April. The Alternative for Germany, founded by a motley grouping of Euro sceptic economists scored 4.7 per cent of the vote despite some very patchy, hasty campaigning. We wanted to attend its final rally here only to discover that it had been cancelled for lack of interest….amongst the candidates.



Their result was insufficient to secure any seats in the Bundestag but it stole enough votes from Frau Merkel’s traditional coalition partners, the Free Democrats, to ensure that they were kicked out of parliament for the first time since 1949.

In Germany a party has to cross a hurdle of 5 per cent of the vote to be able to occupy seats in the chamber. This means that Angela Merkel now needs to hunt for new collation partners in order to govern. Her Christian Democrats failed by a whisker to win an absolute majority.

The mere prospect that they might to do so made German brows glisten with trepidation last night. This country feels decidedly uncomfortable with absolute majorities in the hands of one party and hasn’t had one since 1957. It’s another anomaly you can blame on the Nazis.

The most likely scenario now is that Angela Merkel will woo the Social Democrats. This could take weeks, if not months. The last negotiations for a grand coalition lasted 65 days in 2005. And judging from theĀ  hostile glares and pinched smiles exchanged at last night’s post election talk show between Angela Merkel and the leading candidate of the SPD, Peer Steinbrueck, the coalition wrangling could be an unpleasant affair.

‘The elephant round’

By the way, I love the fact that the leaders of all the parties that made it into parliament are duty bound to appear on live TV – the program is commonly referred to as “the elephant round” – in the same studio, after the projections have been made public.

Imagine David Dimbleby gathering Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg in a studio as the votes are still being counted to air their views on triumph and defeat and to start haggling in front of millions of viewers over the terms of a new coalition.

When Mr Steinbrueck, the sharp tongued and hot tempered Social Democrat peered across the studio floor to remind Angela Merkel that he had served “constructively” in her cabinet during the last grand coalition as finance minister, she narrowed her eyes fleetingly.

For a split second Mutti’s beaming smile was replaced by the step-motherly features of a tough and sometimes ruthless negotiator.

Frau Merkel has been crowned the queen of Europe but her new throne is still being built as she tries to cobble together a coalition that can actually rule the continent’s most powerful nation.

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