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Monday, 25 September 2017

Angela Merkel Wins Fourth Term as German Chancellor

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives secured a fourth consecutive term in office on Sunday in an election that brought a far-right party into the German parliament for the first time in more than half a century, exit polls indicated.

After shock results last year, from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, many look to Merkel to rally a bruised liberal Western order and lead a post-Brexit Europe. 
Merkel’s conservative bloc - her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) - won 32.5 percent of the vote, making them by far the largest parliamentary group, according to an exit poll for the broadcaster ARD. 

Their closest rivals, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), slumped to 20.0 percent - a new post-war low. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) stunned the establishment by finishing third and entering parliament for the first time with 13.5 percent. 

Merkel, Europe’s longest-serving leader, joins the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany’s rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections. 

She must now form a coalition government - an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with her. 

Germany’s Angela Merkel began the tough task of trying to build a government on Monday after securing a fourth term as chancellor, urging the center-left Social Democrats not the shut the door on a re-run of their “grand coalition”. 

Damaged by her decision two years ago to allow more than one million migrants into Germany, Merkel’s conservative bloc secured 33 percent of the vote, losing 8.5 points -- its lowest level since 1949. Her coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats, also slumped and said they would go into opposition.
Voters flocked to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in more than half a century. However, the AfD hardly had time to savor its third-place showing before it fell into internal bickering.

Many Germans see the rise of the AfD as a similar rejection of the status quo as votes for Brexit and Donald Trump last year. But Germany’s political center held up better than in Britain and the United States as more voters have benefited from globalization and most shun the country’s extremist past.

Merkel’s party remained the biggest parliamentary bloc and Europe’s most powerful leader sought to keep her coalition options open on Monday, saying she would start talks with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens as well as the SPD.

SPD leader Martin Schulz said earlier his party had no choice but to go into opposition “to defend democracy against those who question it and attack it,” after dropping to a post-war low of 20.5 percent.
“I heard the SPD’s words, nevertheless we should remain in contact,” Merkel told a news conference. “I think all parties have a responsibility to ensure that there will be a stable government.”

Merkel made clear she still intended to serve a full four years as chancellor. But her next coalition could be her toughest yet with her only remaining potential partners, the business-friendly FDP and the pro-regulation Greens, at odds on issues from migrants to tax, the environment and Europe.

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