Merkel’s bloc stumbles badly in Germany; horse-trading ahead

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BERLIN – Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right bloc both staked claim to lead the country’s next government on Sunday as projections showed the longtime leader’s party was at its best in a national election. Leading to bad results. .

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The results appear to show Europe’s largest economy is in long-delaying negotiations to form a new government, while Merkel remains in caretaker until a successor is sworn in. A three-party governing coalition, in which there have traditionally been two opposition parties. Rival ideological camps – the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats – would provide potential routes to power for both leading candidates.

Of the three candidates to succeed Merkel, only one, who opted not to run for a fifth term, looked happy after Sunday’s vote: the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz, the outgoing chancellor and finance minister who voted his party a year-long. time dragged down

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Scholz said the projected outcome “now has a very clear mandate to ensure that we put together a good, workable government for Germany.”

The Greens made their first bid for chancellor with co-leader Annalena Berbock following a gaffe-shattering campaign that fell far short of sweeping Germany’s two traditional big parties. North Rhine-Westphalia state governor Armin Laschet, who overcame a more popular rival to secure the nomination of Merkel’s union bloc, struggled to inspire the party’s base and made missteps of his own.

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ARD public television estimates based on exit polls and early vote counting put voter support at 25.7% for the Social Democrats and 24.5% for the Union. The Social Democrats were ahead of 26% to 24.5% in separate estimates for ZDF public television. No winning party had previously taken less than 31% of the vote in the German national election.

Both estimates gave the Greens about 14% and the Free Democrats 12%.

“Of course, it’s the loss of votes that isn’t pretty,” Lachette said of the results, which were less than the union’s previous worst performance of 31% in 1949. But with Merkel going into power after 16 years, she said, “no one had any current bonuses in this election.”

Lachette previously told ardent supporters that “we will do everything possible to form a federal-led government, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that will modernize our country.”

Now it looks like both Lachette and Scholz may be dating the same two parties. The Greens traditionally lean toward the Social Democrats and the Union toward the Free Democrats, but neither refuses to go the other way.

The other option was a repeat of the outgoing “grand coalition” of the Union and the Social Democrats, which has led Germany to 12 years in power over Merkel’s 16 years but had little appetite for it after years of struggle for government.

“Everybody thinks that … this ‘grand alliance’ is not promising for the future, no matter what No. 1 and No. 2 are,” Lasquet said. “We need a real fresh start.”

The leader of the Free Democrats, Christian Lindner, also appeared willing to rule, leading to a motion on the side of the Greens.

“About 75% of Germans did not vote for the next chancellor’s party,” Lindner said in a discussion with leaders of all parties on ZDF television. “So it may be advisable … that the Greens and the Free Democrats talk to each other first to structure everything that comes later.”

Burbock stressed that “the climate crisis … is the key issue of the next government, and it is the basis for any dialogue for us … even if we are not completely satisfied with our outcome.”

While the Greens improved their support from the last election in 2017, they had high hopes for Sunday’s vote.

The two parties were not in contention to join Germany’s next government. The Left was projected to win only 5%, the minimum required to remain in Parliament. The far-right option for Germany – which no one else wants to work with – was seen winning around 11%, down from 12.6% indicating it was allowed to enter parliament for the first time in 2017.

Merkel, who has won praise for propelling Germany through several major crises, will not be an easy leader to follow. His successor will have to oversee the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which Germany has so far weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programs.

Laschet insisted there should be no tax increase as Germany exits the pandemic. Scholz and Baerbock support tax increases for the richest Germans and also support an increase in the minimum wage.

There are significant differences between Germany’s major parties in their proposals to tackle climate change. Lachette’s union bloc is pinning its hopes on technological solutions and a market-driven approach, while the Greens want to hike carbon prices and end coal use earlier than planned. Scholz has emphasized the need to protect jobs as Germany transitions to green energy.

There was not much foreign policy in the campaign, although the Greens favor a tough stance towards China and Russia.

Whichever party forms the next German government, the Free Democrats Lindner said it was “good news” that it would have a majority with centrist parties.

“All those in Europe and beyond who were concerned about the stability of Germany can now see: Germany will remain stable in any case,” he said.

In two regional elections also held on Sunday, the Greens were vying with the Social Democrats for the post of mayor of Berlin, which the Social Democrats have held for two decades. The Social Democrats were poised for a strong victory in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg West-Pomerania.

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Kirsten Grishber and Karin Laub contributed to this report.

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