Christian Democrats face setback as Social Democrats and Greens gain in German federal polls

The center left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) emerged as the single largest party in the German federal parliament, surpassing German chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU/CSU alliance

September 28, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
German Elections
SPD leaders addressing the media following the declaration of the federal election results. (Photo: via SPD Party Executive)

In the German federal elections held on Sunday, September 26, the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) emerged as the single largest party with 206 seats and 25.7% votes in the 735-seated federal parliament. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) faced a major setback, losing 50 seats. The CDU/CSU coalition is now confined to 196 seats with 24.1% votes. The elections also saw the rise of the Greens as they gained 118 seats in the parliament with 14.8% of votes. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) also increased its tally to 92, while far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) and left-wing Die Linke faced setbacks and were confined to 83 and 39 seats, respectively.

As expected, the election results reflected the popular disenchantment with the austerity-driven policies of Merkel and the CDU/CSU-led government and its insensitive handling of the socio-economic crisis inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as working class sections in the country have been devastated by higher inflation rates and a soaring rent crisis, the German state has earmarked billions of funds to finance various imperialist maneuvers of NATO. There were also instances of security forces colluding with far-right, neo-Nazi fringe groups that perpetrate anti-migrant hate crimes and carry out threats and attacks against leftists and other rights activists. 

While the CDU/CSU combine lost 50 seats, the SPD and the Greens managed to add 53 and 51 seats to their previous tally, respectively. However, many analysts are of the opinion that the mandate in the federal elections is not an anti-establishment mandate as the SPD is also considered to be a moderate pro-establishment political party. A likely combination of the SPD and Greens will interest political analysts as to whether any ‘out of the box’ radical policies come out from such a coalition, which still needs support from the Free Democratic Party (FDP) to ensure a parliamentary majority. It is also likely that SPD leader Olaf Scholz will become the new chancellor of Germany with the support of the Greens and the FDP.

In the elections to the 130-seat Berlin State parliament on the same day as the federal polls, the parties of the incumbent Red Red Green coalition improved their tally as the SPD won 39 seats (+1), the Greens 34 seats (+7), and Die Linke managed to win 26 seats (-1). The incumbent coalition government in Berlin has pushed many pro-people initiatives, including the Berlin rent cap law that was later squashed by the constitutional court. The judgement was considered favorable to the rent sharks and real estate lobby and their lackeys in the CDU and FDP. Unsurprisingly, in a referendum held in Berlin on September 26, 56.4% Berliners opted for state expropriation of the large real estate companies (against 39%), like Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, to end speculative real estate and rent madness in the city.

Following the declaration of the results of the referendum, the Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co campaign stated, “if not many of the people who are particularly suffering from rent madness were excluded from the referendum because of lack of right to vote, then the result would have been even more clear. Now Berlin politicians are obliged to implement the will of the people.”

In the elections held to the State assembly of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the SPD came in first with 34 seats (8+ seats) in the 79-seated Landtag. The cards are now open for the SPD to form either a Red Red Green government in the State by associating with Die Linke (9 seats) and the Greens (5 seats), or a Red Black Yellow government by collaborating with the CDU (12 seats) and the FDP (5 seats).

An important outcome of the federal elections is the setbacks faced by the far-right AfD. AfD shot to prominence in the country by leading a polarizing hypernationalist campaign against migrants, minorities, and others. It was also a regular at the corona-sceptic mobilizations and hygiene demos in Berlin. Since the performance of the AfD in the 2017 federal elections where it gained 94 seats, the party has successfully made inroads into many of the State parliaments, much to the dismay of progressive sections. Now, the AfD juggernaut has suffered a setback with the party losing 11 seats and remaining confined to 83.

However, progressive sections also faced disappointment due to the electoral setback faced by Die Linke. A ravaged Die Linke even failed to cross the minimum threshold (5% votes) to gain parliamentary representation. The victories in three single-member constituency seats has entitled them representation in the Bundestag according to their second votes. The Left’s numbers have plunged from 69 to 39 seats, marking a loss of 30 seats and 4.3% votes. Primary evaluations indicate that there has been a massive erosion in its support base, especially in East Berlin and other parts of the country which favored the SPD and the Greens. 

The neo-liberal and conservative sections and media houses backed by big businesses ran a campaign against Die Linke, invoking a ‘red scare’ and denouncing the very foundations of the party which has roots in the former communist-led German Democratic Republic (GDR). Despite being a proactive party which has regularly taken to the streets in support of workers rights, climate justice and refugees and fighting imperialism, nepotism, corruption, rent madness and police repression, Die Linke failed to consolidate its support base.

According to many in the working class circles, Die Linke is a vibrant movement with a dedicated cadre, but whose leadership is confused whether to present themselves as ‘radical’ social democrats, ‘reformed ex-communists’, or populists. For observers of the German working class, the SPD is no reassurance. Even after a number of sectoral struggles waged by the German trade unions on a weekly basis, the working class has not yet gained the capacity to mount a powerful electoral challenge. The far-left contingents of the German Communist Party (DKP) and Marxist Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD) are not that electorally strong or influential, managing to garner only 5,439 and 22,745 votes in the federal polls, respectively.