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Blog Carsten Brzeski

Germany: Getting used to defeats

Yesterday’s elections in the city of Berlin presented another disappointing outcome for Chancellor Merkel.

Two weeks after the strong defeat in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Angela Merkel’s CDU suffered another electorate loss. This time it was in the city of Berlin. According to the latest results, both the currently governing parties in Berlin – SPD and CDU – suffered significant losses. The SPD still managed to gather most votes (22.8%, from 28.3% in 2011), while the CDU (17.8%, from 22.3%) dropped into a group of almost equally-sized parties with the Greens (16.4%) and the Left Party (16.2%). The AfD gained 12.2% of the votes. A three-party coalition with the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party looks like the most probable option.

As so often, it is hard to disentangle regional motives from federal motives in German state elections. Nevertheless, yesterday’s election in Berlin illustrates some interesting trends at the federal level. The AfD, even though yesterday’s result was less spectacular than in earlier elections, has made it into Germany’s political establishment and is now represented in ten out of sixteen state parliaments. Moreover, Merkel’s CDU continues its recent downward trend, having suffered defeats at the last five state elections. In fact, after the Berlin elections, the CDU will very likely only be governing in five out of the sixteen federal states. Except for the strong performance at the elections in Saxony-Anhalt earlier this year, the last convincing CDU victory at state elections dates back to 2014 (Saxony).

One year ahead of the next federal elections, it is clearly too early to give a decent prediction of the election results. There are simply too many open questions, like for example: will the AfD maintain its current momentum or will protest voters show their old reflex and vote much more coalition-oriented in federal elections? Will the SPD be able to use the tail wind from the state elections or weaken further? And, the most important one, could Angela Merkel simply decide not to run for a fourth term in office, as she could have had enough of the bickering in her own party? Generally speaking, unless the AfD dismantles itself in the coming twelve months, the likelihood of a three-party coalition will increase as two parties will find it hard to get more than 50 percent of all votes.

All in all, given the new – mildly put – challenging environment and increased unrest in Germany’s government, politics will remain at centre stage in the coming months. The only good news for Angela Merkel is that the next state elections are only scheduled for late-March next year.