Socialist Worker

No clear winner in German election shows crisis of mainstream

Issue No. 2774

German chancellor Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel (Pic: European Parliament on Flickr )

The results of the German election were still too close to call on Sunday night, but it was already clear that it had been a bad day for the right.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU conservatives were reported to have grabbed just 24.2 percent of the vote—their worst result since the Second World War.

In the 2017 election the CDU/CSU won 32.9 percent and was the biggest single group in the parliament. It went on to lead the coalition government.

The right were hit in the election by their profit-first policies during the pandemic and the anger at the growing gap between rich and poor in Germany.

A stern-faced CDU secretary general, Paul Ziemiak, commented on the result, saying it will be “a long election night” and a “neck-and-neck race”

The CDU’s main rival is the Labour-type SPD, which was a junior partner in the previous government.

According to polling by ZDF television news, it has marginally improved its scores and is expected to be the biggest party by a whisker.

It took 25.8 percent of the vote, a rise of more than five percentage points.

The SPD presented itself as both an heir to the retiring chancellor Merkel, and a force for change on workers’ rights.

There will now be a scramble to form a new coalition government involving some of the smaller parties.


Chief among them will be the Green party—which received 14.6 percent—and will be the third largest party in the new parliament. Its vote leapt up from 8.9 percent, reflecting the wave of anger and fear about climate change.

The CDU’s Ziemiak said there’s a chance of a “coalition of the future”, consisting of his party, the Greens and the liberal FDP party.

Green party leaders are desperate to be seen “in power” and may well grab such an opportunity. That’s despite the fact that many of their voters would be more comfortable sitting with the SPD.

The far right AfD party suffered a setback as its vote felt to 11.1 percent. Now only the fifth biggest party in parliament, it will no longer be able to claim to be the main opposition.

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Unfortunately, it was a terrible day for the left Die Linke party.

As results came in on Sunday night, the party is predicted to scrape into parliament with just 5 percent of the vote—down from 9.2 percent in 2017.

Die Linke will likely have lost some of its vote to the SPD as it battled with the right to be the largest party.

But that was not inevitable.

Too often the Die Linke leadership presented the party as part of the governing mainstream. That made it indistinguishable from the SPD in the eyes of many people.

Instead of casting the party as an anti-capitalist and anti-racist, insurgent force, its leaders became completely fixated on elections and parliamentary politics.

And, in every regional state where Die Linke has been part of the government, it has supported decisions that are completely opposed to the party’s stated goals. This included on privatisation, support for coal, and even deportation of migrants.

Those concessions to the right have cost the party dearly and must be corrected if it is to fight on in the future.

It may take weeks to form a viable coalition government, but when one emerges it will likely attempt to make workers pay for the costs of the pandemic.

It is vital that there is a strong left on the streets and in the workplaces to take up that challenge.

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