Unsurprisingly, Angela Merkel cruised to victory in Sunday’s election for the German Chancellorship for a fourth term. Election and referendum results over the past two years have been notorious for defying polling pandits, however, Merkel’s double-digit lead heading into the polls made these elections slightly less nerve-wracking. But with a surge of voting for the far-right what does her victory mean for Europe’s migration crisis?
Migration was a big issue in the run-up to the polls. Merkel’s August 2015 “humanitarian move” to open borders to migrants saw her approval ratings drop. This move has seen the influx of 1.3 million undocumented refugees to Germany over the past two years. This is suggested to be the reason for the election outcome.
Despite a victory for the coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Socialist Union (CSU), the percentage of votes won fell from 42 per cent to 32 per cent – it’s worst result in almost 70 years. While their outgoing coalition partner the Social Democratic Partner (SPD) crashed to just over 20 per cent of the vote. The biggest gain was made by the Alternative for Germany party (AFD) who could secure 13.5 percent of the vote and become the first overtly nationalist party to sit in the Bundestag in nearly 60 years.
The results show that six parties will now be in German parliament for the first time since the 1950s ushering newer levels of coalition governance which could severely restrict Merkel. With the SPD withdrawing coalition support the most likely option is for the formation of a “Jamaican” coalition (Black, yellow and green) with the FDP who are business friendly and with the Greens. While the SPD will form the opposition. None of the parties have agreed to partner with the AFD.
Merkel has defended her 2015 decision saying that the circumstances were “extraordinary” and she would “make all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again”. However, she has admitted that there wasn’t enough control. Merkel promised to listen to the “concerns, worries and anxieties” of those who voted for the AFD but is unlikely to concede to their demands which include closing the borders and disbanding the asylum system rooted in Germany’s Basic Law.
What is more likely to happen is that we will witness a more active effort by Merkel to encourage other European countries such as Poland and Hungary to play their part in taking in refugees. She has also promised to play a more proactive role in stopping the crisis at its roots. Her 2016 visit to Turkey and the resulting EU- Turkey deal on stemming migration is evidence of this.
However, all this will not be easy given the circumstances of the results. Uncertain about the compromises she will have to make with her coalition partners and increased number of parties in parliament will surely act as a constraint on her power. Internationally, Merkel is pro-EU and wants to take a strong stand in Brexit negotiations. The inexperienced and anti-EU AFD may be a factor of worry for her. Additionally, she finds herself in a difficult position regarding Turkey. While she has concerns over Turkey’s ascension to the EU based on their human rights record she must also consider their role in easing the migration crisis.
Merkel has difficult and important few years ahead of her. While she can celebrate her fourth victory and the ability to project stability for Germany, she must realize that the rapidly changing political order in Germany might challenge her own stability.
Image Credit: CC by Angela Merkel/ Flickr