German voters on Sunday gave Chancellor Angela Merkel a second four-year mandate to govern the country. They also gave the right-wing coalition of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic alliance (CDU-CSU) and the market-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) led by Guido Westerwelle a comfortable majority to form the next government. With over 14 per cent of the vote, Mr. Westerwelle has emerged as the veritable kingmaker in this election, while the Social Democrats (SPD) have suffered a crushing defeat.
The right-wing coalition won 332 of the 622 seats which will finally make up Bundestag. In Germany’s unique system of voting, each voter has two votes — one for the candidate of his choice and another for the party of his choice. The votes given to parties are then converted into seats and attributed according to the number of votes polled.
Despite winning the election, Ms. Merkel’s CDU-CSU Christian Democratic coalition has notched up its poorest electoral score since 1949, winning just 33.8 per cent of the vote. “The result is a bitter pill for the Chancellor to swallow,” the influential daily Die Welt commented.
This is, above all, a victory for the ultra-liberal FDP party and the new government’s policies are likely to see a definite shift to the right, since the Free Democrats will wield greater power within the coalition, experts say.
The campaign was so listless and boring that voter participation dropped from 77 per cent four years ago to just about 70 per cent, in a country where voters take their electoral responsibilities very seriously.
The Social Democrats (SPD) who had governed alongside Ms. Merkel in Germany’s second post-war “Grand Coalition” fared very poorly garnering only 23 per cent of the vote. The party had won 34.2 per cent of the vote in 2005. Admitting defeat, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD’s leader who has served as Foreign Minister under Ms. Merkel, described the results as “a bitter disappointment” and called upon young people to breathe new life into the Social Democrats.
Their main left-wing rivals, the Die Linke party led by Oskar Lafontaine and made up of SPD dissidents, former communists and left radicals made an impressive showing with 13 per cent of the vote. The Greens validated pollsters’ predictions by winning 10 per cent of the vote but failed to make inroads into the SPD.
In a speech from her headquarters in Berlin, Ms. Merkel said: “We can celebrate our victory today. We have obtained a solid majority to form a new government with our partners the FDP and that is good. I would like to the Chancellor of all Germans, not just those who voted for us, so that we can take the country forward.”
Mr. Westerwelle described the results as “excellent” and promised he would work for “an equitable fiscal system, equal opportunity in education and for individual freedoms.”