Multiculturalism prevails in Germany, but by a shrinking margin

The 2017 German election results marked both a victory and a defeat for now four-time Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) secured 33% of the vote, meaning Merkel will maintain her position leading the largest party in the German parliament (the Bundestag). However, this number marks a significant decline in support from the 2013 election, when the CDU and CSU won 41% of the vote.

So where did those votes all go? It’s hard to say for sure, but one trend is clear: the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a right-wing nationalist party that ran on anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric, won 12.6% of the vote, securing them more than 90 seats in the Bundestag. It is the first far-right nationalist party to enter the German parliament in 60 years.

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Here’s some things to consider about these results:

  • Merkel accepted more than 1 million foreign nationals into the country in 2015. While she has received political pushback for this, she has generally maintained her views in support of humanitarianism and a multicultural Germany.
  • This rise in immigration fueled the nationalist tensions and fear that the AfD used to mobilize support. Interestingly, though, the AfD won the most votes in eastern Germany – a region with one of the smallest immigrant populations.
  • The Social Democrats (SPD) who were previously in a coalition with Merkel’s party declared they were ending their partnership, and heading into the opposition. This likely impacted some of the CDU’s support, because the SPD came in second in the polls.
  • This leaves Merkel in the position to try and form a coalition with the pro-business FDP party (10%) and the Greens (9%). This will not be easy, and may lead to a weaker CDU-led coalition than in years past.

In the wake of these results, there are eerily familiar echoes of the 2016 U.S. elections: Russia, fake news, and anti-immigrant populism. 

Similarly, too, there has been immense push back from voters who are appalled by the results and fervently detest the AfD and its values, which some say are reminiscent of the Nazi party.

A increasingly divided Germany will now move forward in an increasingly divided international community, and the feasibility of a harmonious multicultural society will continue to be tested.

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