The preliminary results of Germany’s legislative elections show the centre-left Social Democrats won the highest number of votes in the election that will determine Germany’s future after Chancellor Angela Merkel resigned after 16 years in power.
Germany has embarked on a bid to form a new government, which could take a long time, after the centre-left Social Democrats narrowly won over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party bloc, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in a legislative election that failed to clearly define the future direction of Europe’s largest economy under a new leader.
The Social Democrats got 25.7% of the vote on Sunday (26/9), followed by Merkel’s party bloc with 24.1% of the vote.
The result marked the rise of the Social Democratic Party, which in the 2017 election garnered only 20.5% of the vote and has slipped further in recent years.
German Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz, leader of the Social Democratic Party and candidate for chancellor, told cheering supporters on the night after the vote (27/9) that the election results showed many people wanted a “change of government.”
“The Social Democratic Party has a lot of support from the people and it is a mandate to ensure that everything that has been discussed during this election campaign will be implemented and that we will fight for it with all our might,” he promised.
Scholz and Governor Armin Laschet, who is also chairman of the CDU party bloc, were both eyeing the position of chancellor of Germany when Merkel stepped down after 16 years in charge of Europe’s biggest economy.
Both also intend to approach smaller parties to form a new governing coalition before the end of the year.
Scholz is targeting a deal to form a coalition government with the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) before Christmas.
Likewise with Laschet, although his party occupies the second position. Laschet said, “Those in second place have no right to make decisions, but we are in a situation where one party gets 25% of the vote, the other gets 24%, and the two smaller parties have also said, ( it) does not necessarily mean that whichever party gets the most votes has the right to say which party they will talk to. The Free Democrats and the Greens yesterday confirmed that they want to talk to each other first, which I think is OK.”
The Green Party which carries environmental issues is in third place with 14.8%, while the pro-business party, FDP, finished in fourth place with 11.5%.
Meanwhile, Germans bid farewell to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s first female chancellor and the first chancellor who had previously been raised in the territory of the former East Germany.
With her determination and pragmatic attitude, her supporters say Merkel has saved Germany from various crises and created stability for Europe and the Western world.
Merkel led Germany through the 2008 global financial crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the 2015 refugee crisis, and strained transatlantic relations following the Brexit announcement and the 2016 inauguration of US President Donald Trump.
Nico Friedl, parliamentary correspondent for one of Germany’s largest dailies, Süddeutsche Zeitung, said, “Merkel is known as the ‘crisis chancellor’ because she had to overcome several global crises during her tenure. Not only for Germany, but also within the European Union, with transatlantic partners as well as China and Russia.”
Merkel will remain Germany’s leader, on a board basis, until a new chancellor is elected. [rd/jm]