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 rightwing 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 recrimi - nations within the CDU/CSU over identity, strategy, and personnel in a post Merkel era.
The Social Democrats at the Crossroads
Andreas M. Wüst
With a vote share of just 20.5 percent, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) 2017 Bundestag election result was a disaster. Despite initially deciding not to continue the Grand Coalition (GroKo), when negotiations on forming a Jamaica coalition failed, the Social Democrats found themselves back in coalition talks they never wanted. Although a strong minority of party members remained opposed, in the end the coalition agreement proved to be the best strategic alternative and is a Social Democratic success, especially concerning the level of social expenditures. In light of the election outcome, the success of the new GroKo is highly important for the coalition parties, as well as for Germany and its people.
The Rise of the AfD and its Implications for the CDU/CSU
In 2017, the AfD became the first party explicitly positioned to the right of the CDU/CSU to enter the Bundestag since 1957. As the AfD was founded by former CDU members and rose against the backdrop of Merkel’s European and refugee policies, the AfD may appear primarily to threaten the CDU/CSU. I argue that this view is overly simplistic. Analyzing the AfD’s platform, survey data, and factionalism, I find: (1) while the AfD started as a conservative challenger to the Christian Democrats, it moved away from this platform toward becoming a populist radical right party; (2) this transformation is reflected in its vote base, which includes characteristics associated with social conservatism but also encompasses nativist, populist, and even leftwing elements; (3) the AfD has so far been unable to integrate these different positions and stop forces pushing it away from being an option for discontented Christian Democrats.
This article deals with the political, programmatic, and organizational changes within the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) during the time of the second grand coalition (2005-present). For the CDU, the period of the grand coalition is a time of waiting concerning its organizational and programmatic reform processes. Thus, the election of 2009 will be crucial for the political development of the party—in respect to its political profile, as well as its strategic options within the political market.
Although governing coalitions in Germany often win reelection,
many observers were surprised by the victory of the red-green coalition
in 2002. Earlier that year, the polls had shown strong support
for a potential coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
and the Christian Social Union (CSU), together with the Free Democratic
Party (FDP). In the summer of 2002, however, the SPD and
the Greens began to gain ground; and finally, the red-green coalition
won the majority of seats in the election to the German parliament,
the Bundestag, on 22 September 2002.
It was the biggest political scandal in postwar German history. As revelation followed revelation in late 1999, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party finance (Parteifinanz) affair tarnished careers, most notably those of former chancellor Helmut Kohl and, separately, his longtime heir apparent Wolfgang Schäuble. When both fell, their party gained a new cadre of leaders. Most analysts expected the fallout ultimately to spread much further, fatally crippling the CDU and perhaps destroying it altogether. Voices could be heard to the effect that this scandal was on the same scale as one that rocked Italy a decade earlier, when the "Clean Hands" investigation unearthed massive evidence of bribery and corruption.
The elections for the German Bundestag on 24 September 2017 saw heavy losses for the two governing parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD)—and the rise of the rightpopulist Alternative for Germany (AfD). It took almost six months for a new grand coalition to be formed in light of the extremely fragmented parliament. Despite the good economic situation and relative calm domestically and internationally, much change is occurring under the surface. Most importantly, the country is preparing for the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s long tenure. Who and what will come next? Can the surging AfD be contained? Will Germany step up into the leadership role for which so many have called?