German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to form a three-way coalition to stabilise the German government as well as to secure her position as German Chancellor failed.
The failure of coalition talks between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green party led to their being a great deal of uncertainty as to what is in store for the German government – will there be re-elections? Or will Merkel form a minority government with the Greens? It’s unclear what the future of the German government will look like.
However, it is clear that this will lead to instability in decision making processes within Europe, as Germany is currently the European Union’s greatest asset and it will definitely influence Britain’s talks with the EU to secure a decent post-Brexit deal.
Germany’s national elections were held on the 24th of September 2017, and although the CDU/CSU received most of the votes (32.9%) it was insufficient for them to form a majority government. They looked to the FDP (10.7%) and the Greens (8.9%) to represent 50% of the votes in order to consolidate their power in what’s called a ‘Jamaica coalition’ because the parties colours match that of the Jamaican flag.
However, the parties couldn’t come to a common consensus on issues such as migration as they had polarised views. They couldn’t find a common ground when it came to climate change either, as the Green party posed for a reduction of coal generated energy plants in Germany whilst the other coalition parties disagreed based on the loss of jobs that could be caused by this.
This is what the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had to say after talks to form a German government collapsed: “We are facing a situation which [we] did not face in the Federal Republic of Germany for almost 70 years.”
Why does this matter to Britain?
Britain relies on Germany to help them gain a ‘free trade’ deal with the EU as oppose to a ‘no deal’. Britain’s argument being that, Germany is a highly industrialised state and as the two states heavily rely on each other’s imports and exports, it would only make sense that Germany wouldn’t want tariffs imposed on their goods by the UK. One could argue that Britain is being quite ambitious in believing that Germany will secure a ‘free trade’ deal for them based on Germany being the strongest country in the EU.
However, the failure of the coalition talks has meant that Germany is likely to have an unstable government for months, which is not in Britain’s favour as this will affect Berlin’s decisions making processes within the EU as well as Germany’s own foreign policy. Britain has potentially lost an ally in fighting for a free trade deal with the EU as well as fighting its protectionist views, as the EU has more to lose and little to gain by allowing a free trade deal to go ahead.
Return of the far right in Germany?
In the national elections that occurred this September, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won 13.5% of the vote. The AfD is Germany’s far-right anti-immigration political party which has quite an interesting and alarming manifesto which called for a change in the way Germany looks at its historic crimes in the second world war. Its manifesto also calls for a ban of all mosques and minarets in Germany as well as people wearing the veil to be criminalised amongst many of its other manifesto points.
The AfD is the first explicitly nationalist party to sit in the Bundestag in 60 years. This has marked a major shift in the politics of Germany’s post war era.
Merkel’s failure to form a government has only boosted the confidence of the AfD, as if there were to be another election, it is difficult to predict whether the AfD’s popularity will increase or weaken given the current political climate in Germany.
AfD strongly opposes Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees, and it is assumed that it is this that keeps the party together. AfD is seen to cater to the concerns of the German people whereas it is argued that Merkel isn’t taking in to consideration the opinion of her people when it comes to her policy towards refugees and this could cost her political career. Nevertheless, Merkel’s policies present a sense of humanity and hospitality – more of what the world needs today. Very similar to Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn.
It could be argued that the AfD, the National Front in France and other hard-right actors across Europe have similar characteristics. This allows us to question what the European identity really is, because we’ve got the civil society split between several parties, and the rise of the far right has been significant and alarming, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the international community.
The spread of radical ideas and misinformation owing to the refugee crisis as well as extremist attacks, has penetrated through European communities allowing for there to be a change in how politics works today than it had a couple of decades ago. It would be quite peculiar to state that Europe’s politics is echoing that of the 1930s, however, the instability in the region can’t go unquestioned.
Key actors, like Angela Merkel, hold a different story for the future of Europe. One that appears increasingly difficult to tell.
Ashfath Ifham is a Sri Lankan undergraduate student at Cardiff University studying Economics and Politics and regularly participates in grassroots charity work and fundraising.