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23 September 2013

Merkel wins German elections by wide margin

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Merkel's CDU/CSU were only 5 seats short of an absolute majority in parliament; however, the FDP, their former coalition partner did not win enough votes to get into parliament. The CDU is now expected to seek a grand coalition with the SPD, but talks will be complicated and drawn-out.

The official provisional results of the German elections confirm Angela Merkel as Chancellor. The results mean that there will be a four-party parliament with 630 seats:

Party percentage of votes seats in parliament
CDU/CSU 41.5 311
SPD 25.7 192
Die Linke 8.6 64
Greens 8.4 63

No longer in parliament are the Liberals (FDP), the former coalition partner of Angela Merkel's CDU, who at 4.8 per cent stayed under the 5 per cent needed to gain representation in parliament. Also not present are the eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) who nonetheless were able to attract 4.7 per cent of the votes. The Pirate party didn't get over 2.2 per cent.

Spiegel Online writes that it was a personal victory for Ms Merkel. Her CDU focused its campaign squarely on her, with election posters showing her with her trademark enigmatic style and bland slogans such as "Successful Together" and "Chancellor for Germany" - with overwhelming success.

Leading politicians of both FDP and the Greens have drawn the obvious conclusions from their respective parties' weak results: Philip Rösler announced his resignation from the FDP party chairmanship already in the morning, and the entire federal committee seems to face dissolution, reports Spiegel Online. Equally, their counterparts on the Green party's federal committee and party council announced their resignation, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Coalition calculations

The FT (subscription required) reports that Merkel will now have to begin her hunt for a coalition partner, as her CDU/CSU party, which achieved its best result since reunification over 20 years ago, was still 5 seats short of an absolute majority. The collapse of their former coalition parter FDP from 14.6 per cent in the last election to under 5 per cent now, will make this feat a callenging one.

Although the combined seats of the centre-left Social Democratic party, the Greens and the far-left Linke party would give them a notional majority, with 319 seats, both the SPD and Greens again ruled out any deal with Linke on national television.


The preference within the CDU is clearly for a "grand coalition" with the centre-left rather than the alternative alliance with the Green party. "It would certainly be very difficult with the Greens, considering the orgy of taxes that they proposed", said Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of the CDU/CSU group. "It wouldn’t be the first time we have had a grand coalition."

In a commentary during the election coverage, Elmar Theveßen, Deputy Chief Editor of the ZDF, called a possible CDU/CSU-Greens constellation a "new, creative and different" opportunity, "one in which both partners keep challenging each other" and would be able to preserve credibility.

With their 63 seats, the Greens could help Merkel to an ample majority, and party officals have not ruled out at least talking to the conservatives. At the same time, they have expressed scepticism about the prospects of finding enough common ground with the CDU/CSU to make a coalition government workable. The Bavaria-based CSU has also categorically ruled out working with the Greens, reports Deutsche Welle.

Grand Coalition might take time to negotiate

At SPD headquarters, senior party officials discouraged any rush to reach a decision. Manuela Schwesig, a deputy chairman of the party, said a grand coalition would be "very difficult…considering the issues we have taken up, and the CDU has taken up, or rather not done so". A grand coalition is met with resistance from grassroots members of the SPD, and could take many weeks to finalise. The last grand coalition took over two months to come to a coalition agreement in 2005.

Merkel and and her SPD-challenger, Peer Steinbrück, have said they do not rule out the eventuality of another grand coalition government, writes mni news. From 2005 to 2009, the CDU/CSU and the SPD governed together and steered the country quite successfully through the global financial turmoil. Steinbrück personally, however, has ruled out serving a second time in a Merkel-led cabinet, although in a speech on Sunday evening, he said he would like to continue to assume responsibility in the party, writes Spiegel.

While refusing to comment on possible coalition partners on Sunday night, Merkel told ARD public television that she intended to seek a "stable majority", something the SPD, with its 192 seats in the new parliament, would certainly be in a position to deliver, reports Deutsche Welle.

A grand coalition government would likely soften Germany's tough austerity stance in the eurozone crisis somewhat. The Social Democrats advocate more growth-stimulating policies in Germany and the eurozone, writes mni news. While the issue of the euro crisis played a minimal role in the election campaign, it is likely to take on more of a prominent role in Merkel's third term. The Guardian reported that Wolfgang Schäuble, finance minister and close Merkel ally, had told German television in an interview that the conservatives' win should reassure Europeans. "Europe doesn't need to worry about the German elections", he said. "We will remain reliable in the role of stability anchor and the growth motor of Europe … Germany continues to have an important leadership responsibility".

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