The German Social Democrats came out narrowly on Sunday in the parliamentary elections marking the end of the Merkel era, according to initial estimates, but the chancellor’s conservatives still intend to dispute the formation of the next government.
The SPD and their leader Olaf Scholz are very slightly ahead, with between 24.9% and 25.8%, the conservative CDU-CSU union led by Armin Laschet, second with between 24.2 and 24.7%, according to these estimates disseminated by television channels.
Olaf Scholz spoke of a “great success” and introduced himself as the “next chancellor”.
But despite their “disappointing” result, the conservatives also intend to form the next executive, warned Armin Laschet, who spoke alongside Merkel.
This looming competition risks plunging the largest European economy into a long period of political paralysis and negotiations between parties.
For the Christian Democrats, the “losses are bitter”, however admitted Paul Ziemak, number two of the CDU. The party had never fallen below the 30% threshold. In 2017, he still recorded 32.8% of the vote.
Whatever happens, the results that are looming in Germany mark an unexpected rebirth of the Social Democratic Party, which was dying only a few months ago. The polls were greeted with a clam of joy at the party’s Berlin headquarters.
A large part of voters having voted by mail, this first trend could however be corrected over the evening after the first counts.
The Christian Democrats are sure to suffer an unprecedented setback, which will cause turmoil internally and promises a complicated succession of Angela Merkel.
The score below 30% is a “disaster”, according to the popular daily Bild.
This setback casts a shadow over the end of Merkel’s reign, whose popularity remains at its zenith after four terms but who has proved unable to prepare for her succession.
The Greens and their candidate Annalena Baerbock, a favorite time of the ballot, miss the boat with 14.8%, according to these estimates. Little reason for satisfaction: they beat their record in 2009, when they obtained 10.7% of the vote, and are up six points compared to 2017.
The Liberals of the FDP, fourth with around 11.5%, appear to be the essential “kingmakers” to build a future coalition.
The far right of the AfD, whose entry into the Bundestag was the highlight of the previous election in 2017, confirms its roots in the German political landscape. But with between 10 and 11%, this Islamophobic party undermined by internal conflicts, is down slightly compared to four years ago (12.6%).
If the trend is confirmed, Olaf Scholz, austere vice-chancellor and finance minister of the outgoing government, seems to have the best chances of succeeding Angela Merkel, chancellor for 16 years, and of initiating the “change” promised at the end of the campaign .
This centrist Social Democrat, however, will have to build a three-party coalition, a first in contemporary German history.
The Greens, who did not hide during the campaign their availability to enter a social democratic government, should be part of the team.
Delayed departure of Merkel?
The identity of the third auxiliary force remains totally uncertain. The liberals of the FDP, clearly marked on the right, are a possible partner in the framework of a so-called “traffic light” coalition.
Another possible partner, the radical left of Die Linke, which according to these polls brings together around 5%, but which is not guaranteed to pass the 5% mark and thus save its group in the Bundestag.
Olaf Scholz was open to discussions with these two disagreements on virtually all subjects.
As the negotiations are likely to last several months, they could delay the effective departure of Ms. Merkel, 67, more than 30 of whom have been in politics.
After a chaotic campaign marked by its errors and inadequacies, Mr. Laschet, the big loser of the evening at this stage, will however have to be very persuasive. Like a failed act, by voting he broke the rule of ballot secrecy, letting his choice appear in front of the cameras.
After Merkel ultimately risks giving rise to a new war of leaders within the German right, where the question of Mr. Laschet’s future at the head of the CDU is raised, eight months after his election.