While the two great historic German parties – the CDU and the SPD – are neck and neck at the end of Sunday’s election evening, political scientist Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff assures us that the Germans first and foremost voted in the center during the this ballot. It also explains the main lessons for the other parties.
Two contenders for one throne. Olaf Scholz, the SDP Social Democrat candidate, and Armin Laschet, the CDU conservative candidate, both believe they can lead a coalition government after the general elections on Sunday 26 September.
And both are right. The first estimates of the vote of this historic poll without Angela Merkel indicate that the two main traditional parties are neck and neck (between 24 and 25% for the CDU and between 25 and 26% for the SPD). With the support of the Greens and the Liberals of the FDP, they can both hope to have a majority in the Bundestag (the equivalent of the National Assembly).
Admittedly, this result is a historic setback for Angela Merkel’s CDU, which had never obtained so few votes since the end of World War II. It is also a great success for the SPD of Olaf Scholz, which records an increase of 5 points of the votes compared to 2017. But in the end, “it is the first time in the history of Germany of post-war that the fight to appoint the next chancellor seems also open “, underlines Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, vice-president of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, contacted by France 24.
For this political scientist, the election gave birth to a big winner: the center. “The Germans voted for the moderate candidates despite the pandemic and the health crisis which, in other countries, have been beneficial to populist and extremist movements,” he said.
He goes even further since he believes “that in a sense, voters continued to vote Angela Merkel, even if she did not stand for re-election, since they mostly opted for a man – Olaf Scholz – who campaigned on his presence in the government and presented himself as the natural political successor of the Chancellor “, summarizes Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.
But this election, as uncertain as it is, was nonetheless rich in lessons for all parties.
The Social Democrats “are coming back from the dead,” says the deputy director of the German Marshall Fund. Their good score is all the more astonishing as the party has never done its political conscience examination after the poor scores of 2017.
The only thing that has changed is the champion that the SPD launched to storm the Chancellery. “The party now belongs to Olaf Scholz, who brought home the victory. The only question remaining is how long the left wing of the SPD will put up with a man who represents the pragmatic and centrist current to embody the party”, concludes Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.
>> To read also: “Olaf Scholz, the misunderstood favorite of the German general election”
- CDU / CSU: fight in perspective
This is one of the main contradictions of this election: Armin Laschet will go down in the history of the German right as the candidate who will have led the CDU to its worst electoral score, but he could very well become the next chancellor… s ‘he succeeds in convincing the Greens and the FDP to join him in a coalition.
The poor result of the CDU and its Bavarian ally, the CSU (which also achieved its worst score in history in Bavaria), also opens the door “to a great battle of clarification in the conservative camp”, underlines Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff .
The CSU, led by the very popular Markus Söder, will not fail to blame this failure on the center-left turn operated by Angela Merkel and assumed by Armin Laschet.
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The Greens: the change is not now
The score of the Greens, up sharply compared to 2017, must be analyzed in the light of their ambitions. Environmentalists believed for the first time to have a candidate for chancellor with Annalena Baerbock. In this regard, the party, which led the polls in June 2021, failed.
A disappointment all the more striking as “the Greens are the only ones to have campaigned on the theme of change while the other major formations called for continuity”, recalls Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.
Environmentalists have called for a disruption in climate policy, more investment in infrastructure and a digital revolution. And “obviously, the demand for this kind of program which really wants to change things is not as important as the Greens believed it”, summarizes Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.
The FDP: essential for a coalition
Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP liberals, has become the indisputable maker of chancellor. His party may not have done much better than in 2017, it is essential for any future coalition (whether with the SPD and the Greens or with the CDU and the Greens).
But where the Greens have clearly indicated that their hearts are beating more on the left, the FDP has been more tactically smart and has left more doors open.
It is also “the party which seems to have benefited the most from the defections of CDU voters, since the other alternative – the AfD – has fallen sharply,” notes Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff. A success which is partly due to the fact “that the liberals very intelligently succeeded in criticizing the health policy of Angela Merkel without appearing as ‘antivax’ or conspiracyists”, notes the political scientist.
The AfD: the fall of the extremists
The populists of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) “have absolutely not taken advantage of the health crisis”, assures Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff. For him, the failure of this far-right party illustrates one of the lessons of this vote: the Germans are “mostly satisfied with the way their leaders have managed the pandemic”.
And those who were disappointed with this health policy preferred to go to the FDP to see if the grass was greener there. Further proof that the German far right will have difficulty finding its new electoral path.
>> To read also: “Germany: isolated, divided … the extreme right in the dead end?”
Die Linke: out of the game?
The radical left party Die Linke is not even sure of exceeding the threshold of 5% of the votes necessary to be present in the Bundestag.
This shows if the evening was bad for a party which, a few days ago, was perceived as a possible partner for a government coalition with the SPD and the Greens.
This poor result can be explained, in part, by the rejection of extremes in this election. But it is also “the consequence of the good score of the SPD which leaves little space for another party on the left”, underlines Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.