German chancellor Angela Merkel has paid a steep price for her controversial 2015 decision to let in millions of people fleeing Middle Eastern and African countries. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, came in first in Sunday’s elections, but its 33 percent haul was its worst result since the party’s founding in 1945, at the end of WWII. (The opposition Social Democrats also turned in their worst post-war result.)
Merkel’s policies on refugees and, in particular, her poor record on assimilation of migrants led 1.1 million of her party’s 2013 voters to flee to the nationalist Alternative for Germany, which won a stunning 13 percent of the vote. Merkel’s failure to stand up for free-market policies caused an additional 1.3 million of her party’s previous voters to plump for the pro-market Free Democrats, who doubled their 2013 vote and reentered parliament. The big news out of the election is that Merkel is now weakened and will probably have to take on the odd couple of the Free Democrats and the left-wing Greens to form a government. She has ruled out having any alliance with Alternative for Germany, which polite society in Germany brands as anti-democratic, racist, and xenophobic. Its political opponents tar it with even worse names. Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Cem Özdemir, co-leaders of the Green party, used their post-election speeches to tell supporters that there were “again Nazis in parliament.”
That sort of name-calling obscures the real reasons for the rise of the Alternative for Germany party. More than 80 percent of Germans are satisfied with their economic condition, but in the formerly Communist eastern states that reunited with Germany in 1990, life has been tough and employment prospects limited. In those areas, the Alternative party won 22 percent of the vote (it placed first with male voters at 27 percent). Similarly, many Germans believed that the “grand coalition” of Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the left-wing Social Democrats had suffocated political debate in Germany, closing out real discussion over the migrant problem, crime, bailouts of countries hurt by the faltering euro, and the loss of German sovereignty.
Read the rest at: German Voters