It was a tight-rope election night, with Germany’s two main political parties vying for leadership. Sometimes with only a fraction of a percent between them. Now both the Social Democrats (who seem to have narrowly won the vote) and the conservative CDU / CSU (which narrowly lost it) have claimed the right to try to form a government. The two rivals are also suing the same coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberals of the FDP, so it will likely be a long and complex process. And in the meantime, there will be no Auf Wiedersehen for Angela Merkel.
He will remain Acting Chancellor of Germany. His retirement plans are now expected to be frozen until Christmas. So far so politically messy and not German. Or is it true? Prior to these elections, there was an incredible amount of talk about how Germany would now change, perhaps dramatically, after 16 years as Chancellor Merkel. However, during the election campaign, the respective leaders of the Conservative and Social Democratic parties each tried to present themselves as candidates for continuity. Not much different, but visibly similar to Merkel in many ways. Germans talk about change, but most want stability. None of the parties wishing to form a new coalition government can be called radical. What we are likely to see after this election is limited change.
Let’s call it the change with the little “c”. The real change I see in Germany is that it is now more like other European countries when it comes to voting habits. People expect to be won over by applicants. They no longer automatically vote for a party out of “loyalty”, because that is always how they or their families vote. Angela Merkel’s conservatives risked losing voters as soon as she announced her intention to step down.The majority of CDU supporters in the last two elections were women. Others who normally avoided Merkel’s party also claimed to have voted solely because of her.
These supporters were ripe for selection by other parties. The political research firm Infratest Dimap suggests that the CDU / CSU union lost more than two million votes in this election in favor of the Greens and the Social Democrats. The richest and most powerful country in the EU. Her important role on the world stage will not suddenly diminish with the departure of Angela Merkel. Or why the voting models suddenly became more fragmented.
Germany’s allies and trading partners value its political stability. Changing to a small “c” will not remove it.