(European elections) Germany's social democrats on their last legs

World | 27 May 2019 2:32 pm

In Germany, at least, Europe-friendly parties are the winners of the European Union vote. However, defeat of the junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is so devastating that it puts Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in danger, writes Ines Phol, the Editor-in-Chief, of Deutsche Welle.

The fear was that anti-European right-wing populists would triumph in the European elections. In Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, at least, this hasn't happened.

That's the positive outcome.

The polarization between nationalists and pro-Europeans obviously motivated people to go out and vote, with many countries reporting a higher than usual turnout. Also, significantly more people under 30 voted this year than in the previous elections — further evidence that people are interested in the subject of Europe and in the question of how we want to live together. In this age bracket, the clear winners are the Greens, who were able unequivocally to claim the key issue of the future — climate protection — for themselves.

For Germany's Social Democrats, however, this Sunday has been an absolute disaster. The oldest German democratic party fell to under 16 percent at European level. And that's not all: local elections were also held on yesterday in Bremen, a federal state that the Social Democrats have governed for 73 years. No longer, though — the election was won by a CDU candidate for the very first time.

This double setback will not be without its consequences. It's evidence that the party is on its last legs, and that total reorientation is the only way it stands any chance of having a future.

There will be arguments in Brussels over the coming days about which party gets to fill which of the leading posts. In Germany, the discussions will be more fundamental. The main question is likely to be: How much longer does this governing coalition intend to go on tormenting both itself and the country as a whole? 

Following this weekend, it's entirely possible that, after 14 years, the Merkel era will actually be brought to an end by her SPD coalition partner — and that there will be an early election later this year. It would be an election with many, many open questions, and only one certainty: Angela Merkel is not going to stand again.





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