This past Sunday, Angela Merkel won her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, though the celebrations felt a little hollow.
While Merkel was victorious over rival Martin Schulz, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) failed to win a majority of seats in Germany’s Bundestag, the national parliament.
The CDU won 246 of a total 709 seats, and 33 percent of the total vote, according to Bloomberg reports.
Schulz’s SPD came in at a close second, with 20 percent of the vote and 153 seats. This may prove to be a problem for Merkel, as she will now have to work with the rival party to pass anything through the legislative body.
In addition to domestic matters, Germany will be one of the main players in the ongoing removal of Britain from the European Union. Evidenced by British PM Theresa May’s speech this past weekend in Florence, Italy, Brexit is proving to be a hard sell with Brits who fear the ramifications of leaving the European Single Market, among other uncertainties. As one of the major economic powers in the EU, Germany will certainly feel the loss of British trade and free travel.
Brexit is just one of the many international issues facing the administration, adding to the pressure already present from the rising threat of North Korea’s nuclear program, and President Trump’s oft-controversial ‘America First’ platform, which has alienated many of the U.S.’s allies.
The most telling outcome of the German election, though, is the rise of nationalist feelings within the country.
Far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) came in at a solid third, with 12.6 percent of the national vote and winning 94 seats. This percent is up from the 4.7 percent they had won in the 2013 election, showing a definite rise in popularity. AfD stands largely on a platform of anti-immigration, and criticizes Merkel for her ‘open door’ policy of 2015, which she championed with then-French President François Hollande. Merkel still stands behind her policy, as reported by CNN.
Though the CDU is billed as a conservative-leaning party, it is centrist in many respects, and has adapted the immigration policy in the past few years, after Germany’s borders were overwhelmed by migrants seeking asylum. The majority of the party is open to allowing skilled laborers entrance, while opponents are much more in favor of cutting off the flow of immigrants entirely.
This is just the newest case of the far-right, nationalist movement sweeping across Europe, one that has made its presence known in recent elections.
In Merkel’s post-election press conference, she seemed determined to look toward the future and address what caused a portion of voters to switch parties.
“We have of course analyzed, to the extent that one can, the migration of voters to other parties,” Merkel said, announcing that further investigation was to come.
But, ultimately, she was confident in the ability of her party to unite Germany and in the CDU’s willingness to work with other parties to strengthen the nation.
“We are certainly the strongest party. We have emerged from the election the strongest.”