Germany’s leaders explain what happened and what’s next

Summary: Germany’s elections might force a change in Germany’s so-far rock solid political system. Its elites are determined to radically re-shape its society. This shift in the balance of power might signal the rise of German opposition to this project. See what the key party leaders say; it is more revealing than any analysis. With some surprises, things Americans will find shocking. AfD appears last on this list, as it is the most important.

Germany’s election campaign is a snooze—just the way Merkel likes it.
— Jill Petzinger at Quartz, 24 August. The ending was an unpleasant wake-up call for Merkel.

Germany Decides: Bundestag election results - seats per Party

Germany’s two largest parties agree that Germany should stand against many of the policies pursued by President Trump, especially on trade and immigration. Representing the center-right and center-left, their coalition ran Germany from 2005-2009 and from 2013 until now. Today voters repudiated both major parties. It was the worst election results for CDU since 1949 and the worst for the SPD since 1945. The AfD, founded in 2013, became the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag since 1961, projected to get of 13% of the seats in the Bundestag, according to polls by FORSA for the German public broadcaster ZDF {per CNN}.

Bundestag election results per CNN

The Left Party is the remnant of the former East German Communist Party, an outcast on the Left much like the AfD on the Right.

As with campaign 2016 in America, the issues were somewhat hidden. Like us, the non-weakness of the economy diarmed the opposition of its strongest weapon. There was some debate about the best response to Brexit and a resurgent Russia. The biggest issue was muted. After opening the borders to allow in over a million migrants, only one party spoke out against the determination of Germany’s elites to keep the borders open. That made them outcasts. So their large gains at the ballot box were an unwelcome shock. See Germany’s leaders share their reactions and plans for the next round of the great game.

The German election is boring – and that’s fine.
— Nick Ottens at the EU Observer, 11 September.

Sources of CDU losses - from DW.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

“I am the chancellor of Germany, and therefore I am always responsible, and I am not trying to escape this responsibility to any degree. …In recent weeks we have recapitulated what took place in Autumn 2015 and I will stick to my positions that were discussed – having water cannons on the German border was just not right. It is also however also right that we haven’t managed to fully get rid of the concerns that people have. There are concerns that people have about integration, illicit migration. These are things we need to sort out. External border protection isn’t where it needs to be and we cannot say that we’ve managed to combat all of the cause that lead to people fleeing their homes.

“And as I have said, there is still much that needs to be done. However all of the decisions made in September 2015, went through the European Court of Justice and conformed with all of the law, and the Supreme Constitutional Court has also looked at all of these decisions – so these accusations that we did not conform with the law are simply wrong.”  {The Express.}

“Of course we had hoped for a slightly better result. But we mustn’t forget that we have just completed 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 the mandate to build the next government – and there cannot be a coalition government built against us.”  {Per Reuters.}

Horst Seehofer, President of Bavaria, President of the CSU (Christian Social Union in Bavaria, the CDU’s partner).

“We had a vacuum on the right side that we need to close now. The best way to do that is with policies that ensure that Germany remains Germany and that we have the immigration and security questions under control.” {Interview with broadcaster ARD, per Reuters.}

Stunning Plot Twist in Germany’s Big Election: Wow, It’s Boring.
— By Bertrand Benoit in the WSJ. “It was expected to be the most contentious chancellor race since reunification, but Angela Merkel’s 15-point lead and tepid speeches have drained the drama.”

Sources of SPD losses - from DW.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

“Comrades good evening. Friends of social democracy, thank you for the courage, the strength that you have expressed just now. Today is a bitter day, a difficult day for social democracy. I don’t want to mince my words here, we did not achieve our electoral victory. But I want to thank you for the wonderful campaign that we’ve led here. There were so many who supported us and those who voted for us are less than we had hoped.  Rest assured that we will use the votes that we have had to fight for our principles, to fight for our values, tolerance and respect. …

“Mrs Merkel will make any concession to stay in power. …Somebody called her a ‘hoover of ideas’. She just sucks up the people’s ideas.  …I believe that our job in Germany is to ensure that there is that confrontation that this country needs desperately. Those on the right and on the left of democracy need to give citizens a plan for the future. …Mrs Merkel hasn’t done it. We have a plan. …

“We are a strong bastion against the enemies of democracy who now sit in the Bundestag, and I believe that Mrs Merkel ran an election that was scandalous – refusing to enter a confrontation with the democratic left party and right parties. This refusal to make a clear statement about her policies created a vacuum which was filled by the AfD. I believe that they’ve paid the price. They’re going to go away and think about what kind of future is possible.”  {The Express.}

“Especially depressing for all of us is the strength of the AfD, which for the first time brings a right-wing party into German parliament in such a strong position. This is a turning point. …The fact that we took in more than 1 million refugees in our country is still dividing in our country. What for some has been an act of humanity and charity is to others menacing, strange and filled with fear. We did not manage to persuade all of our voters that Germany is strong enough not to leave anyone behind. {Speech to supporters, per Reuters.}

“We cannot have an extreme right-wing party leading the opposition in Germany, therefore … we will go into opposition. …Our role is quite clear: we are the opposition party.” {Interview with ZDF, per Reuters.}

Schulz told ARD broadcaster: “I have the full backing of the party leadership to lead and renew the party… But I will not aim for (parliamentary) floor leadership but fully concentrate on the renewal of the party.” {Interview with ARD, per Reuters.}

Ms. Manuela Schwesig, deputy leader of the SPD, President of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

“That is a really bad result for the SPD. That is a heavy defeat… For us, the grand coalition ends today. For us it’s clear that we’ll go into opposition as demanded by voters.” {Interview with ZDF, per Reuters.}

Sources of FDP votes - per DW.

Christian Lindner, Chairman of the Free Democrat Party (FDP, center-right — pro-business liberals in American terms)

“We want to reverse the trend for our country and if it becomes apparent in talks that these goals can be achieved then of course we will be available (for a coalition) but if not, then it would be our task to go into opposition. …It’s about stability now, all parties have to take responsibility. We will not be pushed into a coalition just because the SPD makes a unilateral retreat into the opposition.” {Interview with ZDF, per Reuters.}

Wolfgang Kubicki, Vice chairman of the FDP.

“You cannot force the Greens and us into a coalition just because the SPD bows out.”  {Interview with ARD, per Reuters.}

Sources of Green votes - per DW.

Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of The Green Party.

He said the party would not take part in “anti-European populism” in a possible coalition with the conservatives and the FDP, and that climate change and social justice policies were requirements for the Greens to form a government.  {Per Reuters.}

Sources of AfD votes - from DW.

Ms. Frauke Petry, co-chair of the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Founded as an anti-euro party opposed to financial bailouts for Greece and other southern European nations, the AfD has re-focused on slowing the massive flood of immigrants into Germany.

“We really got the election results tonight. Now the voters have given us a mandate and we intend to use it with all due humility. …We are going to initiate an investigation committee for Angela Merkel, which will look into the legal crimes of this woman. …Millions of voters have given us their trust for constructive opposition in the Bundestag and we will deliver.” Prepare for a “change of government for 2021” and that the CDU had “lost drastically, but not enough when looking at the disastrously wrongly control of this country”.  {The Express.}

Note:  Under her leadership AfD has grown powerful. Today she announced she would be taking her seat in the Bundestag as an independent — not a member of AfD. Perhaps growing pains in the AfD?

Jörg Meuthen, co-chair of the AfD, member of the Bundestag, Professor of Economics at the Academy of Kehl.

“What is happening in our country is a gradual dissolution of our nation. Let us talk about that in a democratic discourse. I accept that some people have a different opinion.”  {Per Reuters.}

Alexander Gauland, co-founder of the AFD.

“The government, whatever it will look like, should get ready for tough times. We’ll chase them. We’ll take back our country and our people.” {Per Reuters.}

Note:  Afd is not like an American conservative party

As in America, conservative leaders are often not “conservative” in their domestic arrangements. Gauland’s “domestic partner” (aka life companion”) is Carola Hein, editor of the Märkische Allgemeine.

The other co-chair of AfD is Alice Weidel. Yesterday’s profile of her has the headline: “Meet the Lesbian Goldman Sachs Economist Who Just Led Germany’s Far Right to Victory” in Foreign Policy — “How Alice Weidel manages to be a globalist and nativist at the same time.” The conservative populist leader is neither socially conservative nor very populist — in American terms. Also — this shows how Goldman exercises power: its people are everywhere, on all sides (as with the KGB, “there is no such thing as an ex-Goldman partner.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and immigrant from Middle East
Angela Merkel visits a shelter for migrants in Berlin. SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images.

What comes next?

Why Does Germany Have Boring Politics? Good Institutions Thwart Radicalism.”
— By Claire Greenstein and Brandon Tensley at Foreign Affairs, 17 May 2017.

This is the most fragmented Bundestag in Germany’s post-WWII history. Without the SPD, Ms Merkel’s only straightforward path to a majority in Parliament would be a three-way tie-up with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens. A ‘Jamaica’ coalition — the black, yellow and green colours of the three parties match those of the Jamaican flag. It is would be a new probably inherently unstable team. The FDP and Greens hate each other, and have contradictory policy goals (see details here).

As seen in the quotes above, the CDU might find that forming a coalition to be long and difficult. The SPD has refused. The FDP seems unenthusiastic. The Greens are unlikely and somewhat incompatible partners. The CDU refuses to ally with The Left and the AfD. I’ll bet the CDU will find a solution. Whether it works for long is another question.

The big lesson: the German people should expect no changes. Much like America and Weimar Germany, its elites remain determined to flood Germany with low-skill immigrants from radically different cultures. We can only guess why, but breaking the strong position of German workers seems the most likely goal. Job security, good wages and benefits — these are an anathema to the global 1%. The 2002 Hartz Reforms succeeded in rolling these back slightly. But their transcendent power encourages bolder goals — such as breaking and remaking German society into a more pleasing form.

These elections how rising resistance to their project. I doubt German’s 1% is worried, especially with their victories in the UK, US, and France. They are on a roll.

Logo for Alternative for Deutschland party

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about immigration, about Germany, and especially these…

Useful reading to understand the effects of immigration.

We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative
Available at Amazon.

See We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative by George J. Borjas (Professor of Economics at Harvard). From the publisher…

“To many modern economists, immigrants are a trove of much-needed workers who can fill predetermined slots along the proverbial assembly line. But this view of immigration’s impact is overly simplified, explains George J. Borjas, a Cuban-American, Harvard labor economist. Immigrants are more than just workers ― they’re people who have lives outside of the factory gates and who may or may not fit the ideal of the country to which they’ve come to live and work. Like the rest of us, they’re protected by social insurance programs, and the choices they make are affected by their social environments.

“In We Wanted Workers, Borjas pulls back the curtain of political bluster to show that, in the grand scheme, immigration has not affected the average American all that much. But it has created winners and losers. The losers tend to be nonmigrant workers who compete for the same jobs as immigrants. And somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit, so those who employ immigrants benefit handsomely. In the end, immigration is mainly just another government redistribution program.

“’I am an immigrant,’ writes Borjas, ‘and yet I do not buy into the notion that immigration is universally beneficial. …But I still feel that it is a good thing to give some of the poor and huddled masses, people who face so many hardships, a chance to experience the incredible opportunities that our exceptional country has to offer.’ Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, We Wanted Workers is essential reading for anyone interested in the issue of immigration in America today.”

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7 thoughts on “Germany’s leaders explain what happened and what’s next

  1. My guess, and it is only a guess, about why the German elites have been bringing in so many immigrants is that the German elites are very concerned about keeping the workforce size stable. This guess does not address very logical concerns about the quality of the workforce or why they think they would need to keep the workforce at a certain size when automation is reducing the number of required workers so I would not be surprised if my guess is wrong.

    As FM has said before, we live in the crazy times.

    Like

  2. Hi FM,

    The German parliamentary system with its rank-order, instant run-off voting and the (usual) requirement of having to build coalitions to govern is compelling. Anathema, of course, to the tweedledee and tweedledum system we “enjoy” here in the US. One profound advantage is that it gives voice to issues that the big boys would rather ignore. The Greens have been popping up since the 80s (the German political movement started in the late 70s if not earlier). How much of AfD is simply open border skepticism and wondering how long the give Greece a billion so they can owe you two can last? Folks aren’t ready to live under the New World Order (real, imaginary, whatever), but primarily because the NWO set is so observably hypocritical, corrupt, and of questionable competence (cf. Al Gore’s carbon footprint, US “comprehensive immigration reform” or healthcare system, the hot mess that is EU Brussels, etc.).

    The question is, what will they do about immigration and assimilation? The Greens have been moving Germany steadily toward “environmental friendliness” for decades without ever having run the government. Can AfD do the same with immigration and social issues?

    Regards,

    Bill

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    1. Bill,

      “(usual) requirement of having to build coalitions to govern is compelling. Anathema, of course, to the tweedledee and tweedledum system we “enjoy” here in the US”

      That’s a ridiculous characterization of the US system. It’s impossible to say which system is “better” under all circumstances, for all people. But simplistic analysis has no utility.

      The two-party system forces politicians to create their coalitions before the election, with the necessary trade-offs — so that voters can choose between them. The multi-party system lets people elect the exact kind of representative they like, but gives them little control over the actual government that emerges from the back-room negotiations.

      Personally I believe the US-UK system if far superior. When some multi-party systems in large nations have multi-century histories, then we can draw comparisons.

      “Can AfD do the same with immigration and social issues?”

      Almost certainly not under the current political breakdown. They are opposed by all the other parties, reflecting the strong consensus among voters about the benefits of more or less open borders. When that political consensus changes, then we will see how politics changes. That might not help AfD, if other parties shift their views on immigration and gain votes.

      Like

    2. Dear Mr Kummer,

      LK: That’s a ridiculous characterization of the US system. It’s impossible to say which system is “better” under all circumstances, for all people. But simplistic analysis has no utility.

      My analysis may be simplistic, but instant run-off allows individuals to vote for what they believe, and “democracy” filters out what makes it to parliament. It would be fun to be discussing this over beers because you’re making a case for federalism, at least in my mind. ;)

      The US system is pretty amazing, but less in how it doesn’t do things via its electoral system (a certain genius in its own right!) but more in Constitutional rule of law. No country has created more wealth and freedom for more people than any in history. We’re horribly imperfect, but the beauty is the recognition of the imperfection built into the system and the requisite perfectibility demanded by the earlier generations. My dear sir, we’re quibbling about Tom Brady versus Joe Montana. Mike Singletary versus Dick Butkus. Jim Brown versus Emmitt Smith. OK. With my first pick, I take, Jim Brown… did you ever see him play? Man among boys, but those boys were men.

      AfD isn’t going to accomplish anything. I struggled with that passage in my post. It’s related, but not the same, as the MAGA stuff in the US. It’s worrying that in Germany, where you can actually find an outlet for your big-issue angst, that there is nowhere to go except AfD.

      LK: reflecting the strong consensus among voters about the benefits of more or less open borders

      Please forgive me about the inability to make a good contextual quote. But I think this is the nut graf. In the US, the “establishment” from 20000 feet cannot be distinguished between the Hillary Clinton set from the John McCain set, all, *all* feel that there should be a permissive take on illegal immigration. They *want* the underclass, and they justify it on human rights reasons. If they believe in human rights, then why not extend the rule of law? It would cost too much. I am not the cynical one here — I’ve been in Okeechobee and in Peach county (Fort Valley!). People should come and go as they please and they should do as they please, but when they enter a community, they must opt in or out. Globetrotting taught me this, and all the places I opted out of, I bear no ill will, though I despise some of the opt out reasons (female genital mutilation top among them).

      Nope. Sir. I disagree. The HRC v. DJT “choice” is my evidence I use against your argument of the superiority of our system over others. Give me IRV at the federal level and delegation of responsibility to as close as those who need it (subsidiarity is a fine word).

      Thank you, sir, for keeping me honest.

      With genuinely fond regards,

      Bill

      Like

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