What’s more, Berlin’s uber stable political system has splintered which means we now enter territory unchartered for a lifetime. Because the swing to the Free Democrats (FDP) and AfD is over fourteen percentage points and almost all these gains are at the expense of the outgoing “grand coalition” of the centrist CDU/CSU and SPD parties. Both of whom have dominated Germany’s democratic parliaments since the Second World War.
For instance, in 1980, the pair controlled 87 percent of the vote in the old Federal Republic, and now they can barely manage a majority, between them, with only 53 percent of preferences. Furthermore, for the first time since 1924, six parties have achieved more than five percent of the vote. And this serves to highlight just how fragmented German politics has become.
Of course, it hardly signals a return to the Weimar days, but the relative chaos exposes how a large number of Germans have become disillusioned with the status quo. The grievances range from growing inequality and rising levels of immigration to a feeling that the political class is out of touch. The latter two concerns are often combined when voters react to Merkel’s unilateral decision to open Germany’s borders to large numbers of migrants in 2015.
A winner, of sorts
However, we must remember that Merkel has actually won the election. Even if it may ultimately amount to a Pyrrhic victory. Also, don’t forget how she’s now emulated her erstwhile mentor, Helmut Kohl, by winning four campaigns. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely, right now, that “Mutti” (as he is affectionately known to supporters) will match his 16 years in office. Because, even at the fourth attempt in 1994, Kohl still brought the CDU/CSU alliance 294 seats from 672, whereas Merkel has managed only 246 out of an available 709. And this also represents a 65 berth drop compared to the 2013 renewal.
Thus, the knives will now be out for Merkel, and it’s only a matter of time before disgruntled backbenchers plot her ousting. Not to mention how the Bavarian CSU wing of her union has endured an eleven percent vote collapse (49percent to 38 percent), which its leader, Horst Seehofer will surely blame on blowback from the Chancellor’s open door to migrants.
This is the elephant in the room. Because before Merkel permitted millions of newcomers to freely enter Germany, the polling situation was radically different. In the last survey of August 2015, INSA put the CDU/CSU on 41 percent, the SPD on 23 percent, the FDP, and AfD both on 4 percent. Since then, the two centrist groupings have dropped eleven points, and the pair which demand the control of migration flows gained a fourteen percent increase in support.
The reason for this change is hardly a secret. On the 4th of September that year, Merkel announced how immigrants would be allowed to cross the border from Hungary into Austria and onward to Germany. Since then, over a million newcomers, mostly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi in origin, have entered the country. And the fallout has undermined Berlin’s, much envied, political steadiness.