Germany has voted, now the negotiations begin. The Greens (die Grüne) and Free Democrats (FDP) are now ‘kingmakers’. Without them there can be no majority. Die Grüne’s candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, will especially play that role in the negotiations, having led her party to its best result in a national election ever. Although the Social Democrats (SPD) have the highest vote, the possibility remains that they would be persuasive enough for the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) to form a coalition government. With die Grüne at 16.2% and FDP 12.6%, the door is open to see SPD with 25.7% or CDU/CSU with 24.1% in a governing coalition of either 54.5% or 52.9%. The Left (die Linke) lost 4.3% from their last vote to achieve 4.9%, thus ruling them out of a so called red-green-red alliance. That is not to say that they absolutely will not be part of a coalition, but it is unlikely they would wish to be part of a CDU/CSU led one. If neither die Grüne nor FDP agree with the terms offered by either of the larger parties, more so should they not find common ground with each other, then a minority government could result that could make Germany ungovernable until 2025, see the ruling dominant large party hand over to its rival or force new elections, something unthinkable in Germany. Now the negotiations will take time, possibly until after Christmas. In 2017 they took three months; thus Angela Merkel remains caretaker Chancellor in the meantime.
This election has been a disaster for the CDU/CSU. The Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I constituency, district 15, has directly elected Merkel in eight successive elections since 1990 was lost to an SPD candidate, Anna Kassautzki, born in 1993, three years after Merkel first won the constituency. Having served 5,143 days in office, ‘Mutti’ Merkel is Germany’s second longest serving Chancellor. Should her caretaker role extend beyond 17 December, she will overtake Helmut Kohl to become the longest serving ever. That is possible, but unlikely. For those of you who read German, the first analyses and commentaries are very interesting because the point has been made that since 1949 then 1990 reunification the strongest party in the Bundestag also has weaknesses. This is not only a new political phenomenon, but a change in voter choice Germany has never known before. Of note also, is that the hard right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made no headway, but lost 2.3% to give it only 10.3%. This shows a slight trend away from the right the failure of the most successful party since 1949, the CDU/CSU alliance, also bears witness to.
Germany’s is one of a number of recent elections. On 20 September, in a snap election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals lost the popular vote but won the most seats, 157 or 33.12% with a swing of 0.49 points. His gamble paid off, allowing the Liberals to be in office for four years, despite the Constitution allowing five years, possibly ending the run of governments not ruling for the maximum possible term. The last federal election was in 2019, Trudeau, seeing a downturn in support for his party chose to go to an early election.
Following Norway’s parliamentary election on 13 September, the incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg conceded defeat, the Labour Party held its position as the largest party, despite a small drop in its share of votes. Now they too are going through negotiations, although Jonas Gahr Støre will become prime minister if he succeeds in forming a coalition with the Centre and Socialist Left Parties. International media reported that all five Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, are likely to be ruled by leftwingled governments for the first time since 1959.
Meanwhile, in Iceland, following their election on 25 September, eight parties are negotiating to form a government, which could take some time. The immediate positive was that 33 women and 30 men were elected; therewith Iceland became the first European nation to have a female majority parliament, although what the government will be is as yet uncertain. Although the Independence party led by Bjarni Benediktsson gained the largest share of the vote at 24.4%, giving them 16 of the 63 seats and having the largest popular vote, it is by no means certain that Benediktsson will become Prime Minster. The negotiations may be long and arduous, not unlikely to defy the media prediction that all five Nordic countries will be governed by the left.
Large and small, each of the four elections shows a change in electoral behaviour, either left or right, yet to be scrutinised by psephologists and political analysts.
A final and more positive vote, albeit not a national election, was a referendum in Switzerland, also on 26 September, in which voters decided by a clear margin of 64.1%, a majority in all 26 cantons, to allow same sex couples to marry, bringing their country into line with most other countries in Western Europe. That clear victory will be celebrated immediately, although administrative and legislative procedures mean that it will not take effect for months. Referendums do not come alone: another significant one was a measure proposed by left leaning groups to raise taxes on returns from investments and capital such as dividends or income from rental properties as a means of ensuring better redistribution and fairer taxation. A majority of 64.9% voted against with no majority support in any canton.
It has been a politically interesting few days that tell as a lot and perhaps simultaneously little about political attitudes in a variety of very different electorates that are whatever else all part of the ‘democratic’ northern hemisphere. At a time when climate change is foremost in many minds, in fact it says very little about attitudes to that situation, given the number of right wing, pro-business and climate change resisting parties.
Featured image by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.