Written by By Maureen Farrell, CNN
Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) said Sunday they had beat Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in the election to form the next German government.
The SPD would have been in a position to form a coalition government with Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) but only if the two conservative parties would have given up their previous policy priorities.
Germany’s Prime Minister Angel Merkel delivers a speech after the results of the German federal elections were announced in Berlin, Germany. CNN
The CDU suffered its worst-ever results at the Sunday polls, dropping its share of the vote to 29%, far below the 39% it won in 2017. Merkel is the longest-serving leader of the country.
“We are this morning heading to the chancellery with the clear objective of forming a stable government,” Martin Schulz, SPD’s former presidential candidate, said after the results were announced.
“This means that in this coalition, the interests of the German people will be uppermost.”
But the SPD lost its left-wing leaning constituency in the election, suffering a 10% drop in share of the vote and falling from third place to fourth.
“As it stands now, it would be the German voters that have had to make up their minds as to who will form the next government,” Merkel said in a statement, adding that the CDU and the FDP were still willing to work with the SPD.
Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz speaks during a press conference in Berlin. CNN
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party also made gains, taking third place with 19.3%.
The SPD played down expectations that it would be able to secure a coalition with the FDP on Sunday. Deputy SPD party leader Ralf Stegner told the Der Spiegel media group in an interview Saturday that negotiations with the FDP were unlikely to lead to a coalition government.
Instead, he predicted an unstable arrangement, with the FDP party possibly moving away from its position as an ally of Merkel’s.
Merkel said Sunday that this would allow the SPD to put forward its program, paving the way for an alliance with the ecologist Greens party.
“On March 4 we had a clear goal and that was to achieve a “grand coalition” with the CDU and the FDP,” Schulz said in a Sunday speech in Berlin. “Today’s vote has blocked that path but it also allowed us to transform that strategy.”
Swing left or to the right?
With coalition talks and inevitable coalition negotiations looming, talk quickly turned to how a new government would look and what it would represent.
Some analysts believe that the SPD could quickly become a “social-democrat party in the old social-democrat mode,” with little support from the CDU.
Others were more cautious, asking where Germany was headed.
“With a largely socially progressive, multicultural government that will reform immigration without ripping up the social order — well, not exactly,” Joseph Stiglitz told CNN in December.
Another analyst predicted that social conservatives would govern on Merkel’s behalf, and that a coalition government would be “a kind of watered-down stimulus package that will create more jobs but it won’t grow much.”
Others have argued that Germany could become a harder place to be politically independent, with half the country more conservative in its outlook.