Merkel Wins an Election, But Loses Her Government
The following article originally appeared in U.S. News and World Reports.
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Rarely have German elections received as much international attention as the general elections held there on Sunday. Especially in Europe, still mired in economic crisis, all eyes were on the continent's economic powerhouse.
To many observers, it seemed that any major decisions regarding the European economic crisis would have to wait until after Germany's votes were counted. And now that the results are in, those hoping for a notably different approach from Berlin are likely to be disappointed. While sweeping policy changes were never on the table to begin with, the election could still have long-term impacts on Europe's future.
Although there were some surprises on election night, one outcome – arguably the most important one - seemed settled before any ballots had been cast: incumbent chancellor, Angela Merkel, would remain in office. And so it was merely the size of her victory, as her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) achieved its best result in more than 20 years, that came as a surprise to some.
But Merkel's triumph, based largely on her immense personal popularity, disguised the fact that her government coalition, consisting of her party and the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP), lost its majority and on aggregate received fewer votes than four years ago. Indeed, losses for the FDP were so dramatic that the party for the first time in its history failed to reach the 5 percent threshold mandated by the constitution to enter parliament.
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Peter Sparding is a Transatlantic Fellow in GMF’s Economic Policy Program in Washington, DC, where he works on issues related to the transatlantic and global economy.