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Germany: popular parties in crisis, but German democracy remains solid

The outcome of the vote in Bavaria signaled a heavy loss for CSU, a traditional ally of Chancellor Merkel’s CDU. A strong decline was registered also by SPD. The Greens and the populist parties made electoral gains. However, democratic structures withstand even electoral earthquakes, as the “anchorage” to the European Union testifies to. Spotlight on the State elections in Hessen of October 28th

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

The Bavarian elections of October 14th have disrupted Germany’s political realm. The Christian-Social Union (CSU), which has ruled over the state of Bavaria uninterrupted for 70 years, dropped to its lowest share of the vote (37.5%) since 1950 and lost the absolute majority in the State. Its historical opponent, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), suffered a debacle: for the first time it fell below the ten percent threshold with 9.5%. It was outnumbered by the Greens (18%), by Bavaria’s regional Free Voters (11%) and by national-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) (10%), which has entered the Bavarian parliament for the first time.
Does this herald the end of the two ex major political party that form part of the “Great coalition” led by Angela Merkel in Berlin? Many political analysts explained the regional electoral outcomes of these two political currents and parties, whose contribution determined the successful development of the Federal Republic of Germany after WWII, with an extensive re-orientation of German voters, considering that CDU and CSU have been losing consensus also at national level. According to a representative survey, CDU / CSU are currently at 27%, SPD is at 14%. The combined share of the vote is below 50%. Without a third political force, they will not be able to form a coalition government in the future. This weakens the Government-in-office and sparks off debates on the end of Angela Merkel’s leadership. Given this situation, will Merkel run again for the presidency of the party in next December’s CDU congress? If not, who could be her successor? Would the “great coalition” survive to a change in CDU leadership? Naturally, the reasons for such a choice are also linked to the parties’ political decisions and to the ways in which their leaders present and communicate them. But over and beyond this, the surprising changes in individual voting behaviour are reflected especially in social and “structural” transformations. This result is confirmed also by the success of the Greens, whose style and politics greatly reflect young people’s understanding of life and that of urban, learned, informed, middle-class population segments.
The Greens are CDU or SPD governing coalition partners in most of Germany’s 16 States. In Baden-Wuerttemberg, where they hold a majority, the prime minister is a member of the Green Party. The election on Sunday October 28 in Hessen, where the (CDU)-Green coalition state government remained in power for the past four years, could herald further gains for the Greens, thereby overtaking SPD in its very homeland. Will the crisis afflicting the popular parties that have ensured Germany’s reconstruction as well as its growth, stability and prosperity through European integration, jeopardize that very stability? It has not been envisaged, since Germany’s constitutional law, which solidly reposes on the pillars of its institutions along with Germany’s participation in EU structures, supported by the German population, stand as a bulwark. Moreover, German federalism provides for many different ways to address changes, including sudden transformations, in a flexible way and averting the possibility of a disruptive impact on the political system.
It should be said that except for the far right and the far left, all political forces in Germany, and notably the emerging form of political party, the Greens, are guarantors of democratic order and European integration.

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