Sunday 27 September 2009

The German election results and their implication for EU politics - updated

The German parliamentary elections are over, and although the results are not yet final, the political game will move on quickly.

The results (see the provisional results), however, are clear:

The Grand Coalition of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) is over, due to an expected but still painful historic loss of the SPD (23%) with its candidate, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Nevertheless, Angela Merkel will remain the chancellor of Germany, thanks to only small losses of the CDU/CSU (33.8%) and the strongest results of the Liberals (FDP) - lead by Guido Westerwelle - in their history (14.6%), with whom Merkel will form a coalition for the next four years. The Christian Democrats will be even stronger than their overall election result suggests, because the will receive many overhang seats because of their strong results in the constituency votes, a particularity of the German election system.

The other two parties in the Bundestag (the German parliament) will be DIE LINKE (the Left Party; 11.9%) and the Greens (10.7%). The Pirate Party received 2% in their first participation in national elections, the extreme-right NPD got 1.5%, both missing the 5% threshold to enter into the parliament but still qualified for the party financing for the next 5 years (85 Euro Cents per vote for the first 4 million votes, 70 Cents for every further vote).

How will this effect EU level politics?

In my last post I have already talked about implications of these results for EU politics, and I'd like to become even more clear about what the future coalition CDU/CSU-FDP coalition might imply for European politics:

1. The German EU Commissioner:

After these results, it is pretty sure that the next German Commissioner will be Christian Democrat (EPP). Due to the strength of the Liberals in the new coalition, I don't think that it will be Wolfgang Schäuble but rather a more moderate candidate like Peter Hinze. In any case, the victory of Merkel will thus also strengthen Barroso.

2. The German positions in the EU Council and the European Council

Due to the rather market-liberal shared profiles of Christian Democrats and Liberals, I also expect that Germany's positions in the Council will be more market liberal than before. In the European Council I do not expect major changes since Merkel will continue to be a dominant figure profiting from her already existing networks to other European and international leaders.

3. The German behaviour on the EU level

Despite the previous argumentation, there is also a possibility that the German behaviour on the EU level will be characterised by internal veto points. Different to the last four years where due to the Grand Coalition the opposition was divided and weak, the joint left-wing opposition of SPD, the Left Party, and the Greens will use all the powers it has - including creating veto points in the second legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, where the federal states are represented - to slow down German decision making on the EU level. This is particularly relevant after the recent changes of the participatory rights of the legislature in EU decision making.

And although this sounds rather negative, it could also mean that EU politic could become more visible due to more active debates on the position(s) of the German government on the EU level. But this will have to be seen.

4. A side-note

The new government will most likely see a combination of two leading personalities that are unprecedented in the EU and probably also beyond: A woman (Angela Merkel) will be leading the government and the foreign minister will be a homosexual man (Guido Westerwelle). But more interesting will be that neither the one nor the other have played any role in the campaigns - and it won't play any role in the future government because both is not considered very special in Germany at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. But I think that this will still be a sign for an EU where equal rights - both for women and for sexual minorities - are still not respected all over the place.

Altogether, German politics will see continuity in its main leadership, but it will face major changes in the political dynamics with more pro-economic policies, a stronger polarisation between the political camps and probably also an intensive politicisation of the multilevel politics between the national institutions, the federal states, and the EU level.

Other Euroblogs on the same topic: Grahnlaw (excellent summary), Europe & You, Stephen Spillane, Jonathan Fryer, Alpha.Sources, Gavin Hewitt, Carl Bildt, Eurozone Watch, Andre Feldhof, Géopolitique, eToile.