Merkel set for fourth term, far right to enter parliament for first time in post-war era
Sunday - 24/09/2017 15:58
German Chancellor Angela Merkel secured a fourth consecutive term on Sunday after her Christian Democrats (CDU) and the allied Christian Social Union (CSU) won the largest parliamentary bloc with 32.5 percent of the vote, exit polls showed.
Merkel’s conservative bloc will be by far the largest parliamentary group, according to an exit poll for the ARD broadcaster.
Their closest rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), slumped to 20 percent – a new post-war low – while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) finished in third place with 13.5 percent of the vote, securing its first seats in the Bundestag.
The anti-immigrant AfD's strong showing marks the first time a far-right party has entered the German parliament since the end of World War II.
Merkel must now form a coalition government – an arduous process that could take months as potential partners weigh whether they want to share power with her.
She struck a pragmatic tone when she spoke to supporters in Berlin shortly after initial results were announced. “Of course we had hoped for a slightly better result," Merkel said. "But we mustn’t forget that we have just finished an extraordinarily challenging legislative period, so I am happy that we reached the strategic goals of our election campaign."
“We are the strongest party; we have a mandate to build the next government – and there cannot be a coalition government built against us,” she added.
Her erstwhile partner, the SPD, announced that it was not interested in joining a coalition soon after exit poll results were released. Merkel's CDU has ruled with the SPD as its junior partner in a "grand coalition" marked by broad agreement on major topics, from foreign policy to migration.
Martin Schulz, SPD party leader and Merkel's main challenger, told the ZDF broadcaster: “We cannot have an extreme right-wing party leading the opposition in Germany, therefore ... we will go into opposition,” he said, adding: “Our role is quite clear: We are the opposition party.”
Merkel must therefore look to the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), which staged a comeback to take 10.5 percent of the vote, as well as the Greens with their 9.5 percent.
As Europe’s longest-serving leader, Merkel now joins the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany’s rebirth after World War II, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections. The woman dubbed the "eternal chancellor" is now on track to match Kohl's impressive 16-year reign.
But the AfD's record election result is sure to bring a new set of challenges, as Germany and other Western nations struggle with a resurgent right wing.
"We may have many challenges to address, notably the arrival of the far right in parliament," Merkel said Sunday evening. "We will conduct a detailed analysis, because we want to win back the far-right vote by responding to their questions with appropriate policies."