“Mom, can a man even become a chancellor?” This innocent question, formulated by the 9-year-old son of a reporter from the Rheinischen Post, would describe the electoral climate 24 hours before today’s federal vote. It summarizes the effects of Angela Merkel’s “20 years” as the purely formalities of the German polls, where the outcome has already been written for months.
Fifteen points ahead of her SPD rival Martin Schulz, “Mutti” — or mommy, as Germans refer to her — faces the beginning of her fourth term unrivalled, earning her place in history.
The only unknown in today’s vote is which party will take third place: the keystone for any future coalition different from the current government. The latest polls suggest this will be the only surprise in what has otherwise been a monotonous, boring election campaign.
According to the GMS Institute in Hamburg, the CDU-CSU coalition will win 37 percent of the votes, against the Social Democrats’ 22 percent and Alternative für Deutschland — the anti-E.U. and anti-immigrant party — at 10 points, five points above the Bundestag’s threshold. Behind them, there are Linke and the FDP Liberals (both at 9 percent) and the Greens at 8 percent, while the myriad “small parties” are confirmed to be irrelevant, not exceeding 5 percent.
With these numbers, pending the polling reliability, the only possible geometries are a re-edition of the Grosse Koalition CDU-CSU-SDP and the “Jamaika” alliance between Christian-Democrats, Greens and Liberals: political formulas to secure a parliamentary majority of 343 seats.
The alternative third party, FDP in place of SDP, enjoys the support of the German lobby, but it lacks more than 4 percent of the votes. For Merkel, in theory, the most “secure” alliance would be with her opponent AfD, a party less feared by Brussels policymakers worried about Schulz’s anti-austerity agenda.
But the red-red-green coalition seems to have come to an end, barring a miracle like the union between CDU and the imitation Greens of the Baden-Württemberg government.
Beyond mathematical incompatibilities, most of the programs are also difficult to reconcile. The Christian Democrat Union is now Merkel’s personal party, the conservative mother-owner, even more than her mentor Helmut Kohl. She scraped the nuclear line, “opened the doors” to refugees and imposed a vote of conscience on gay marriage (but she voted against it). And she reiterated that there will be no limits on refugees, in agreement with CSU leader Horst Seehofer, her main ally.
On the other hand, Merkel does not seem willing to sacrifice Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble or to bring welfare down to zero, as requested by the FDP. However, both parties are pro-European. In parallel, the distance with SPD increases with Schulz’ ideological “correction”; he has abandoned the “Agenda 2010” (the reforms of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder) to return to social justice and tax redistribution.
There are problems of coexistence also between Grünen and the Liberals, with the first denouncing Lindner’s lack of interest in the environmental issue, along with FDP’s rejection of the capital tax and its soft line with Putin’s Russia.
But they came together around the issue of national security and the revision of Merkel’s “welcome policy” on refugees. These are the same obstacles that prevent Linke’s Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch from approaching the new Green leadership: the “realists” Kathrin Göring-Eckhardt and Cem Özdemir, proponents of the turn to the right of the ecologist party.
For AfD leaders Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, however, there is no hope of alliances, although the goal of the right-wing xenophobic movement may well become a “historic” reality: the conquest of the Bundestag.
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