As many of you will be aware, a federal election in Germany is due to take place on Sunday 24th September 2017, an election bitterly contested against the backdrop of the Merkel regime’s failings over the ‘migrant crisis’, as well as a number of developing domestic situations. The current government consists of a ‘grand coalition’, in which the two largest parties – the Social Democrats (SPD) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – govern together with Chancellor Merkel at the helm.
However, the coalition partners have become engaged in an increasingly bitter rivalry in an attempt to convince voters ahead of the Autumn poll, supposedly exposing some deep fractures in the relationship. This appears to be mere showmanship, as the two parties agree on all the major issues; immigration, same-sex marriage, censorship, European integration and so on. They perhaps feel it’s time they gave the German people at least the illusion of democracy, given they are being invited to express their democratic rights in the very near future.
Whilst there is clearly no genuine opposition to the Merkel regime, superficial changes might be made to the composition of the next coalition that are worth discussing. It also goes without saying that we have a duty to discuss the progress – or lack thereof – of nationalist parties and movements in Germany ahead of the election, if only to reflect on the pitiful situation in which we find ourselves.
Merkel’s CDU Stays Strong
Despite a wobble in the polls back in March of this year, Merkel and her CDU – the largest party in the Bundestag – are riding high in the polls. Back in the springtime, there was parity between the CDU and Martin Schulz’s SPD, with both parties hovering marginally above the 30% mark. At one point, there was mass media hysteria as the SPD took the lead, only to lost it just as swiftly once the campaigning season officially began.
Many people, particularly those on the right in the British press, whipped up quite the hysteria over Merkel’s invincibility seemingly slipping. This was in no small part down to Merkel’s handling of the ‘migrant crisis’, which the foreign press was very critical of. However, cheer Merkel’s demise at your peril, for it is commonly accepted that Schulz and his Social Democrats support Merkel’s migrant policy even more than her own party do.
Considering the SPD has also signified that it will make it even more difficult for the authorities to remove bogus and/or criminal asylum seekers, as well as their refusal to cap the number of arrivals, their victory in any election is a price to high for Merkel’s downfall. Thus it is a blessing of sorts that Merkel’s CDU has regained its place at the top of the polls. They’re currently polling at around 39-41% of the vote, which would be only a minor slip in comparison to their 41.5% election winning figure of 4 years’ ago.
FDP Making a Comeback?
The only party in Germany that’s more right-wing than Merkel’s CDU and still retains an air of respectability is the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). 4 years ago they had an unmitigated disaster, losing all of their 93 seats in the Bundestag, failing even to reach the 5% threshold set at which a party can sit in parliament. They dropped from 14.6% to 4.8% of the popular vote, with their support transferring equally to the CDU and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
However, the demise of AfD in recent months appears to have sparked a revival in the FDP camp. They’re currently sitting on 9%, a figure which if replicated in the federal election will give them reasonable representation in parliament, especially as their support is concentrated in certain parts of the country such as Bavaria. This is significant as it may open up the possibility for a coalition between the CDU and FDP, who, on paper at least, are natural allies.
It must be stated that this won’t mean very much in practise for the direction of future policy. The FDP mostly campaign on economic issues, such as lower taxation and fossil fuel advocacy. They rarely stray into the realms of the immigration debate, despite many of their senior representatives being critical of Merkel’s open borders policies.
AfD Gone AWOL
At a time when Germany is crying out for an alternative, the party who threatened to offer just that in recent years has pressed the self-destruct button. As is to be expected, the media has had a prominent role in the anti-immigration party’s decline. Their leaders have been scrutinised beyond what is decent even for politicians, with every unguarded comment or gesture held up as an example of prejudice and bigotry. This has caused infighting within the party, resulting in the once-promising alternative facing the very real possibility of not meeting the 5% Bundestag threshold.
Back in 2016 and at the height of the ‘migrant crisis’, Alternative für Deutschland threatened a genuine electoral breakthrough. Not only were they achieving a regular poll rating of 15% or more, they inflicted a crushing defeat on Merkel’s CDU in her home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania winning over 20% of the vote. Many at the time began to ask if this was the beginning of the end of Merkel’s Chancellorship, but what happened in practise was the mobilisation of the establishment’s media apparatus for a large scale smear campaign against the insurgent party.
A “Progressive Alliance”?
German politics appears to follow a similar pattern as British politics, in that the largest party tends to be mildly conservative, whilst the main opposition and the smaller parties with representation veer more towards the left of the political spectrum. In the United Kingdom, there has been much discussion over the viability of a “progressive alliance”, whereby the Labour Party would join forces with the smaller left-wing parties such as the Liberals, Greens and minor regional parties to make up enough seats to form a coalition.
There is a possibility, if only a vague one at this point, that a progressive alliance could become a reality in Germany. As it stands, the Social Democrats are on 22% in the polls, but if you add Die Linke’s (The Left) 9% and the Green Party’s 8% then there is a chance – within a margin of error – that this sort of coalition could meet the 316 seats required to hold an absolute majority in the Bundestag. However, with the FDP resurgent, a centre-right conservative coalition would produce an overall majority of the popular vote that would make any sort of left-wing alliance impossible. Nevertheless, this should not be discounted. A loss of 4 percentage points for the FDP, coupled with a slight gain for the SDP or Die Linke, could sway the numbers against Angela Merkel’s CDU.
Any Options for Nationalists?
Let’s not attempt to dress the situation up; the options for nationalists are scarce indeed. With Alternative für Deutschland experiencing spontaneous combustion with every media attack, the viable options for real change in Germany are severely limited. There is a nationwide nationalistic group in the form of the National Democratic Party (NPD) who have representation in the European Parliament in the form of Udo Voigt, but their chances of reaching the 5% threshold to enter the Bundestag are slim at best. That said, they are the natural ideological choice for nationalists, thus we would never discourage our readers from putting a cross next to their candidate come polling day.
Alternatively, there’s a promising Strasserite group emerging as part of a split from the NPD called Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way). This party is only campaigning regionally as of now, with its main base in Munich and further small groups of supporters in Saxony and the old East German territories. They stand against capitalism and communism, drawing heavily on the influences of German socialism that came to prominence in the aftermath of the First World War. However, they’re unlikely to field more than a handful of candidates so their prospects of enacting change are minimal – regardless, as with the NPD we would not discourage anybody from offering Der Dritte Weg their support.