Merkel Victory a Blow to Europe Reeling Under Austerity's Thumb

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Common Dreams

Merkel Victory a Blow to Europe Reeling Under Austerity's Thumb

A third term for the chancellor gives conservatives epic win; Coalition not clear as rival parties lose ground

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union ( CDU) Angela Merkel gestures before a CDU party board meeting in Berlin September 23, 2013, the day after the German general election. (Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a historic third term to office on Sunday, leading the conservative parties most closely aligned with her to their best election results in more than two decades while rivals—both further to the right and those on the left—suffered lost ground at the polls.

As The Guardian reports:

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its sister party, the Christian Social Union, won 41.5% of the vote, with analysts calling the win a personal victory for the 59-year-old. Merkel is on track to overtake Margaret Thatcher as Europe's longest-serving female leader. [...]

Final results gave the CDU/CSU 311 seats, the Social Democratic party (SPD) 192, the Left party 64 and the Greens 63.

The historical dimensions of the election were clear, with Merkel set to become just the third [post-WWII] chancellor to secure three election wins.

Though Merkel's victory appears complete, the coalition dynamics going forward remain unclear. Despite their name, the Social Democrats represent the centrist political view in Germany and neither the Left party or the Greens are likely to strike a deal with Merkel with whom they strongly disagree on issues both foreign and domestic.

"The fact that Merkel is set to stay in office is bad news for Europe." -Die Tageszeitung

According to Reuters:

The Social Democrats (SPD), with whom Merkel ruled in a largely successful 'grand coalition' in her first term from 2005 to 2009, finished second with 25.7 percent, little improved on their worst post-war result of 2009.

"We have the mandate to lead the government under Angela Merkel for the next few years," Environment Minister Peter Altmaier, a close Merkel ally, said on television.

"What is important is that we get a stable majority," he said, adding that the SPD and their Greens allies needed time to digest the results of their "painful defeat" before embarking on exploratory coalition talks.

The Greens secured 8.4 percent, down sharply from 2009. The only other party in the new Bundestag will be the hardline Left party, on 8.6 percent, after Merkel's current coalition partner, the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), failed to clear the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.

In terms of perspective, Germany's left-wing Die Tageszeitung newspaper offered this editorial on the election results:

And so, the worst chancellor in the country's postwar history is set to stay in office. Though her conservatives will be forced to enter into a new coalition government -- probably with the Social Democrats -- not much is likely to change as a result. The key questions of our time have been left undiscussed. The fact that Merkel's euro-zone policies benefit only the banks and investors in rich member states, and the fact that people in the troubled economies and taxpayers in the relatively stable economies are the ones to foot the bill were barely touched upon by the Social Democrats and the Greens during this campaign.

The fact that Merkel is set to stay in office is bad news for Europe. The possibility that she might govern alongside the Social Democrats in a grand coalition hardly softens the blow. The SPD does have remnants of a Keynesian approach -- they know that debts cannot be reduced through austerity. They are familiar with simple mathematics -- they understand that without a debt haircut, Greece will never get back on its feet. So there is a possibility the SPD will push through the occasional amendment to Merkel's euro-zone policies. But a fundamentally different political approach -- a totally new direction -- is not to be expected.

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