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The CDU/CSU’s Ambivalent 2017 Campaign

Clay Clemens

Keywords: Angela Merkel; Christian Democratic Union; Christian Social Union; Horst Seehofer; Jens Spahn; modernization

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.

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