Merkel retains power but falls short of majority in Germany

RSTV Bureau
Lauterbach: German chancellor Angela Merkel poses for photos with her supporters during the harvest celebration at her electoral district on the island of Ruegen in Lauterbach, German, 23 September 2017. DPA/PTI

Lauterbach: German chancellor Angela Merkel poses for photos with her supporters during the harvest celebration at her electoral district on the island of Ruegen in Lauterbach, German, 23 September 2017. DPA/PTI

Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term as Germany’s Chancellor on Monday.

According to latest reports, Merkel won around 33 per cent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc.

Her nearest rivals, the Social Democrats and their candidate Martin Schulz, came in a distant second, with a post-war record low 20-21 per cent.

The hard right AfD, made an entry into parliament winning about 13 % of votes so far, its best showing for a nationalist force since World War II. The anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) catapulted itself to become the country’s third biggest political force. Experts called the AfD’s strong performance a “watershed moment” in the history of the German republic.

Merkel, who has been in power for the past 12 years, basked in her win but admitted that she had fallen far short of the 40-per cent goal her party set.

“There’s a big new challenge for us, and that is the entry of the AfD in the Bundestag,” said Merkel, adding: “We want to win back AfD voters.”

As Merkel failed to secure a ruling majority on her own and with the dejected SPD ruling out another right-left “grand coalition” with her, the process of coalition building was shaping up to be a thorny, months-long process.

The splintered vote in German parliament, reflected an electorate torn between a relatively high degree of satisfaction with Merkel and a desire for change after more than a decade of her leadership.

Experts said Merkel’s reassuring message of stability and prosperity resonated in greying Germany, where more than half of the 61 million voters are aged 52 or older.

Her popularity had largely recovered from the influx since 2015 of more than one million mostly Muslim migrants and refugees, half of them from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Berlin: German chancellor Angela Merkel casts her Vote for the German Federal Election in Berlin, Germany, 24 September 2017. DPA/PTI

Berlin: German chancellor Angela Merkel casts her Vote for the German Federal Election in Berlin, Germany, 24 September 2017. DPA/PTI

The real story of the German elections remained that of AfD, whose supporters gathered at its headquarters in Berlin, cheering with joy. The four-year-old nationalist party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP has been shunned by Germany’s mainstream but was able to build on particularly strong support in ex-communist eastern Germany. It is now headed for the opposition benches of the Bundestag lower house, dramatically boosting its visibility and state financing.

(With inputs from agencies)