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Introduction

Politics and Power after the 2017 Bundestag Election

Eric Lagenbacher

Although it has not been that long since the articles of the previous special issue devoted to the 2017 Bundestag election and its aftermath have been published, the political situation in Germany appears to have stabilized. After almost six months without a new government, German politics has sunk back into a kind of late-Merkel era normality. Public opinion polls continue to show that the CDU/CSU is slightly above its election outcome, the SPD is still down in the 17–18 percent range, the FDP has lost about 2 percent of its support, while the AfD, Greens and Left Party are up 1–2 percent.

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Yet Another Grand Coalition

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.

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The Race for Third

Small Parties in the 2017 Bundestag Election

David F. Patton

In 2017, the small parties achieved unprecedented success in the Bundestag election. This article examines their success, assessing both longterm and short-term factors. It analyzes each of the four main small parties in turn, and considers their recent performances, their goals, campaign strategies, and election results. Finally, it asks why the small parties’ electoral gains have not led to greater executive power and concludes that it is because the expectations surrounding party system formation in Germany have not adequately adjusted to the fragmented and increasingly polarized system that has emerged.

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Pointing Fingers at the Media?

Coverage of the 2017 Bundestag Election

Alexander Beyer and Steven Weldon

The 2017 Bundestag election and the breakthrough of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) will likely long be remembered as a pivotal moment in German politics. One of the key questions in the aftermath of this breakthrough is what role the mainstream media played in this party’s success. Drawing on online data from the four largest German news outlets, Google-trend searches, and Twitter, we examine the media coverage landscape over the course of the election campaign, focusing on the coverage of the AfD relative to other parties and its key issues of immigration and Euroskepticism. Our results indicate that the AfD did indeed face a favorable media environment, especially in the final month of the campaign. Further analysis, however, suggests that the media was in many ways simply responding to public interest and demand—immigration, especially, was a highly salient issue throughout the campaign, something that was a significant departure from recent elections.

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Introduction

Merkeldämmerung

Eric Lagenbacher

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?

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Two of the Same Kind?

The Rise of the AfD and its Implications for the CDU/CSU

Matthias Dilling

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.

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Coalition Politics in Crisis?

The German Party System Before and After the 2017 Federal Election

Frank Decker and Philipp Adorf

The 2017 federal election illustrated the transformation of Germany’s political party system with six parties managing to enter the Bundestag. With the Christian and Social Democrats finally coming to an agreement almost half a year after the election, a grand coalition is set to govern for two consecutive terms for the very first time. The Alternative for Germany’s success also signaled the definite parliamentary establishment of right-wing populism in Germany. Multiparty coalitions that bridge ideological gulfs as the political fringe has grown in size are a new reality that must be accommodated. The 2017 election and subsequent arduous negotiations point towards a period of uncertainty and further upheaval for Germany’s party system.

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David Art

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) made history by winning 12.6 percent of the vote and capturing ninety-four seats in the Bundestag in the federal elections of 2017. This article asks whether the AfD’s rise threatens to undermine the strategy of containment that contributed to the demise of previous incarnations of the radical right. It argues that the current strength of the AfD is a direct result of Angela Merkel’s decisions to rescue the Eurozone and to welcome over one million refugees since the fall of 2015. While the AfD is still likely to suffer a collapse similar to other radical right parties, its consolidation or strengthening would have major consequences for Germany and for Europe.

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Stephen Milder and Konrad H. Jarausch

The September 2013 Bundestag election, which reelected Angela Merkel

as chancellor, was a clear defeat for the Green Party. Alliance 90/The

Greens (henceforth the Greens) fared far better than the Free Democratic

Party (FDP), which failed even to score the five percent of the vote required

for representation in parliament, but still fell from 10.7 percent to 8.4 percent,

losing five of their sixty-eight seats in parliament. Since in March of

that same year, surveys had shown their support at 17 percent, this disappointing

result forced Jürgen Trittin, the leader of the parliamentary delegation

to step down.1 In many ways, this perceived electoral debacle marked

the end of an era. The former Federal Minister of the Envi ron ment, who

had originally joined the party in 1980, told reporters that “a new generation” would have to step forward and lead the party into the 2017

campaign. This statement suggested not only that the Greens’ rebellious

founding impulse was spent, but also that they had become part of the

establishment in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), now requiring a

reinvigoration of their own. Since the Greens were once expected to be little

more than a short-lived byproduct of the social conflicts of the 1970s, a

closer look at the party’s founding moment at the beginning of the 1980s

might shed new light on its current predicament.