Four inter-related factors shaped the 2017 campaign of Angela Merkel’s cdu/csu: (1) ambivalence over her successful modernization of the cdu; (2) fallout from her 2015 refugee policy; (3) a party strategy that bred complacency while mobilizing skeptics; and (4) tactical miscalculations. Merkel’s cdu/csu came in first, but suffered record losses, while the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany emerged as Germany’s third party. The campaign, its result and—with a fragmented and polarized party system—her need to build another grand coalition all seemed sure to fuel recriminations within the cdu/csu over identity, strategy, and personnel in a post Merkel era.
Clay Clemens teaches Government at the College of William and Mary. His research specialization is contemporary German party politics and institutions. His recent articles on those topics have appeared in the journals German Politics and German Politics and Society. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org