You might not have been aware of it with all of the partisan bickering going on in the U. S. but today the Germans went to the polls to elect a new chancellor. For the first time in sixteen years Angela Merkel is not on the ballot. NPR reports:
Early exit polls from Germany show an extremely close race between the center-left Social Democratic Party and the center-right Christian Democratic Union, in an election that will decide the next chancellor of the country after 16 years of Angela Merkel in office.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Christian Social Union, have 25% of the vote, placing them in a tie with the Social Democratic Party. Following behind is the Greens with 15%.
Additional context if provided by Reuters:
BERLIN, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Leaders of Alternative for Germany (AfD) put on a brave face after projected election results showed support for the far-right party dropping and said they rejoiced in seeing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives slump to their worst-ever result.
The mood was subdued at a restaurant in Berlin where party leaders and a few dozen members had gathered after the party failed to improve on the 12.6% it secured four years ago, settling instead on 10-11%.
“Should this result stand this would mean that Merkel has ruined my former party,” said AfD honorary leader Alexander Gauland, who was a member of the outgoing chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) before joining the far-right party.
“Despite our relatively weaker result we have accomplished our mission: Merkel is out,” added Gauland, drawing applause.
Although only the election for chancellor is on the ballot there are actually two questions: who will be elected chancellor and will Germany move farther to the right or to the left? Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is generally described as “far-right”. A better description would be nationalist, Eurosceptic, and anti-immigration. I will be interested in seeing the election returns in Bavaria and Saxony, where AfD is particularly strong.
I do wish that Americans would stop trying to understand foreign political parties through the prism of our own politics. None of the parties above is much like either of our major political parties. In particular both the SDP and CDU are farther to the left than our Democratic Party while AfD is in some ways farther to the right than our Republican Party and in some ways farther to the left. There’s just no comparison.
It’s pretty much the same with all political parties in other countries. Britain’s Tories are more like our Democrats and more like our Republicans than than Labour is like either.
A German chancellor who is not Angela Merkel will unquestionably provide important challenges for Europe, the United States, and the world. We’ll need to see how it all turns out before making any predictions.