Did you know that Germany is now in its fifth month without a government? Frau Merkel, the colossus bestriding Europe according to Davosman, has been unable to gather a coalition with enough other parties to reach a governing majority in the Bundestag, since she rules out including the new Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), which has gone from nowhere to winning 92 seats in the last election, and which, according to some recent polls, is now edging ahead of the old Social Democratic Party if another election were to be held today. I’m guessing that any thoughts Merkel might have had about holding another election have been thrown out. Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine, is calling the situation a “crisis.”
The Social Democratic Party resisted going into coalition again with Merkel (they were coalition partners in the last government), preferring to be a standalone opposition party after their drubbing in last September’s election. But they have reconsidered and are now making plans to join a coalition, which would mean that the AfD will become the principal opposition party.
I don’t happen to think the AfD is the revival of Nazism or fascism, but it does seem both the German political establishment and the Germans have forgotten the lessons of Weimar. The Spectator of London comments:
A marriage between the left and the right is seldom happy, but Merkel’s coalition promises to be one of pure misery. She proposes to run Germany with a government devoid of any organising principle, and one where neither side believes its actions will do anything to solve Germany’s problems. . . Prepare for the worst: Merkel is seeking to lead a coalition government offering continuity at a time when voters are demanding change.
That sounds like a recipe for a victory for AfD at some point down the road. The Spectator reminds us:
Merkel’s big political project has been to move her party to the left and delete most of its conservative tradition. That’s exactly how she did more than anyone to create the political space AfD is now filling. Almost a quarter of Merkel’s CDU voters went elsewhere in the last election — yet her response now is to offer more of the same. And how might voters react? A clue came in a poll last week, showing support for AfD overtaking the SPD for the first time. . .
AfD [did not] start out as extremists: it began when a group of economics professors set out to defend German economic orthodoxy, protesting against the eurozone bailout of Greece. It later branched into migration policy and gradually found its populist voice, helped in no small measure by Merkel’s welcoming of refugees in the summer of 2015.