Angela Merkel won a large margin victory September 22, 2013, to retain her position as Germany’s Chancellor. Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democrats, received 41.5% of the votes. The opposition, the Social Democrats, garnered 25.7% of the votes, creating the largest voter margin since Germany’s reunification in 1990. Although winning by an unusually high margin, Merkel’s party fell short of securing an absolute majority meaning Merkel and the Christian Democrats must turn toward the formation of a new political coalition.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats, with 41.5% of the votes, have few options to secure a majority in Germany. The Christian Democrats were last aligned with the Free Democrats, but could not push for a coalition with the group in the upcoming term because the Free Democrats failed to secure any seats in parliament. However, with the failure of the Free Democrats to secure seats in parliament, it would seem a new “grand coalition” is likely. Therefore, the Christian Democrats will likely engage in negotiations with the Social Democrat Party to form a “grand coalition” in the coming weeks. A similar coalition was formed between the Social Democrat Party and Merkel’s Christian Democrats during her first term from 2005-2009. Although the Christian Democrats are expected to reach agreement with the Social Democrat Party, Merkel’s group will also engage in discussions with the Greens Party. A coalition between the conservative Christian Democrats and the Green Party is unlikely because the Green Party has slowly developed more liberal policies than both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.
Chancellor Merkel’s large margin re-election victory in Germany was a rarity in the Eurozone. Merkel remains one of the last leaders in office following the European financial crisis that began five years ago; the leaders of Britain, Italy, Spain, and France have all been subsequently ousted from office. German media portrays Merkel as a motherly figure for the country, and Merkel’s latest victory in Germany is indicative of the trust placed in her by the German people. The victory further reaffirms her important role in structuring the recovery process for the Eurozone as a whole.
Merkel opposes the issuing of European joint-bonds, and she has been applauded by some for such opposition because Germany has come out of the euro crisis in a much better position than most of its counterparts. However, as one commentator argues, the success of the Eurozone is dependent on Germany’s actions surrounding economics, including issues such as bailouts and the European banking union.
It is likely that Merkel and the Christian Democrats party will continue to practice policies of austerity, at least in part, and continue to oppose efforts to strengthen the European Central Bank through debt financing. These policies put the Christian Democrats at odds with the Social Democrats; therefore, in order to form a successful coalition, the Social Democrats will need to cooperate with the Christian Democrats in forming a policy of compromise. Both the Social Democrats and the Green Party support debt mutualisation for the European Union, but Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party is unlikely to change its opposition for such a policy. Therefore, the Eurozone crisis will certainly play a large role in the formation of Germany’s new coalition.
The European Union Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, optimistically stated after Merkel’s victory, “We have now the first signs of recovery in Europe, but it’s still a fragile recovery.” The German population has already shown that they trust Merkel to improve the European economy and now the European Union is also relying on her to help improve the economic conditions within the Eurozone. As Merkel becomes more involved in the crisis, her motherly depiction from the German media is slowing spreading. For now, the struggling European countries, namely, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Cyprus, will have to wait to learn their fate in the coming months as such fate is intimately linked to the direction mother Merkel takes next as Chancellor. But with unemployment reaching over 25% in both Greece and Spain, the countries are hoping for quick resolution.
Stacy Harper is a 3L at Denver Law and Marketing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.