Merkel’s Political Future on the Line as Germany Preps for 2017 Elections

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

German_Pulse_300x250_usWith Germany gearing up for their own national election in 2017, the country looks to be headed down a path that might just match the circus-like atmosphere of the 2016 U.S. election, and if held today, Angela Merkel would be saying goodbye to the hopes of a fourth term as German Chancellor.

In two separate INSA polls conducted for Cicero magazine and BILD, 64 percent of those polled said that they would not vote for Merkel’s reelection and a whopping 70 percent of respondents between the ages of 45-54 stated that they rejected the German Chancellor’s current policies.

While Merkel would not need a majority vote to capture a fourth term, as Germany’s political structure allows for coalitions, the poll numbers show the current grand coalition, composed of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democrats (SPD), would struggle to collectively take 50 percent of the vote.

So if the current member parties of the grand coalition can’t bring in enough of the vote, which party can? And will Germany see their own Donald Trump candidate shake up the political system?

In recent months, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been rising in popularity at an alarming rate. The AfD, which started out as an anti-euro movement, has jumped on the recent migrant issue and now positions itself as the anti-imigration party, feeding off of the public’s concerns around the refugees.

AfD Rise Chart Spiegel

© DER SPIEGEL

Leaders of the AfD also haven’t been shy about some of their more controversial stances, leaving other parties to label the group as dangerous and catering to strong right-wing extremists and Islamophobic rabble-rousers.

Jörg Meuthen, a leading member of the AfD, is one to watch leading up to the 2017 general election. During a speech at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Center, Meuthen spoke on the need for a modern form of conservatism in Germany and that one shouldn’t be ashamed to stand up for “consequential freedom and healthy patriotism.”

Jorg Meuthen Metropolico

Jörg Meuthen

As Der Spiegel pointed out in a recent issue of the magazine, Meuthen sounds as if he belonged to a 1980’s version of the CDU, but there is also a very different side to the man, which was present in another speech made at the AfD party convention in April.

“Away from leftist-red-green infected — one could also say slightly soiled — 1968-Germany,” is what Meuthen said to a room that broke out with enthusiastic applause.

Away from leftist-red-green infected 1968-Germany

The phrase, while not foreign to many Germans, refers to the far-left Left Party, the “red” center-left Social Democrats and the “Green” Party, but it also goes back to a phrase coined by author Akif Pirinçci, who became known for his homophobic, sexist and anti-immigrant rants.

With the obvious rise in AfD popularity, party leaders of the current coalition are looking at their options, and for some, going against Merkel is becoming a serious option.

CSU leaders recently met in Munich to express their disapproval of Merkel’s immigration policy and expressed their concern over the AfD’s rise, arguing that it is evidence that CDU views should be closer aligned with those of the CSU.

if ignored, the CSU may have to run their own campaign in the 2017 election

Bavarian Finance Minister Marcus Söder went on German public broadcaster ZDF this past Sunday to say that the division between his CSU party and the CDU is deeper today than it has been in decades. “It is obvious that, with the shift to the left undertaken by the CDU, room to the right [AfD] has been created.”

Horst Seehofer chairman of the CSU and Minister President of Bavaria, recently laid out plans that he and the party hope the CDU will adopt, but expressed that if ignored, the CSU may have to run their own campaign in the 2017 election.

It would be an unprecedented move, as the CSU has always campaigned for the CDU candidate for Chancellor, but it is an idea that has growing support from both the party and the general public.

The current poll numbers make it pretty clear that the way things are being done in Germany does not line up with the ideas of the voting public. Angela Merkel has received quite a bit of praise in her three terms as Chancellor, but running for a fourth term may prove to be her biggest challenge yet.

 

Sources: RT, Der Spiegel [1] [2]

Photos: [1] [2] Metropolico.org (Flickr) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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