Merkel. Another four more years in office
During the campaign Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had decided to seek an end to EU membership talks with Turkey.
The results from the German general elections are in, giving Chancellor Angela Merkel another four more years in office, and catapulting the extreme rightwing Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) into the Bundestag, but the biggest foreign winner was probably Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the loser was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On the face of it the win for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) means business as usual. She has led Europe’s efforts to contain and punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and is implacably committed to seeing the Minsk II process through, despite the fact that all the concrete deadlines in the document signed at a marathon session in Minsk have been missed. The Minsk process is going nowhere.
However, more recently the German government seems to be softening its hard-line towards Russia, and the new government could be softer still.
Ukraine’s donors are showing signs of “Ukraine fatigue” over the imbroglio that has dragged on for three years now. Former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tried to break the deadlock with a formula that awarded concessions for progress on specific steps. More recently his Social Democrat successor Sigmar Gabriel has also been more pro-actively engaging with Russia and even gave Kremlin-sponsored broadcaster RT two interviews just before the elections.
“I’m convinced we need a new detente with Russia, despite the very complicated disputes over the Crimea, and the situation in Ukraine. We cannot tackle global problems without working with Russia,” he said in most recent interview.
As an aside, one of the biggest non-stories of these elections was the complete absence of Russian interference in the campaigns. There were no reports of hacks, funding, or other machinations in the vote, which is not to say that Russia has done nothing but there has been no large-scale attempt to sway voters. Indeed, there was no sign of Russian interference in the recent UK or French elections either – the head of France’s cyber-security service (ANSSI) said the one email dump was probably done by an individual acting alone.
But while the management of German government will remain the same the support staff will be changed.
Under the German proportional representation system the CDU’s “victory” only means they have first dibs on forming a coalition government; the system is so designed that no one party ever wins a clear 51% of the vote and the biggest party has to form coalitions with the other partys and share power. That process can take weeks and there is a great deal of horse trading as the minor partners invited to join a coalition bid for various cabinet positions and concessions to their own electoral agenda.