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Germany’s multiparty parliamentary system is a distinct contrast from the American congressional system. German citizens get two votes in the election, one for a local constituency representative, and one for a party representation in the Bundestag, the German parliament. If the dominant party does not garner a majority in the Bundestag, then it can build a coalition with other parties.
On Sunday, September 24th, German citizens re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel to her fourth, four-year term. The Christian Democratic Party (CDU) emerged once again as the dominant party, claiming 33 percent of the vote. However, this number stands far from a clear majority.
The other major chancellor candidate, Martin Schulz, from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) trailed Merkel with 22% of the vote. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was the third largest group elected into parliament, with 14%. Smaller parties such as the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Left and the Greens also won seats.
“Voters in Germany have more diverse choices across the political spectrum, and anything from far left to far right can have a viable voice within the Bundestag,” said Principia political science professor Brian Roberts.
“You have a lot more choice in what you’re directly voting for and what represents you, Senior Timon Keller, a German national at Principia, added. “A downside is that certain fields get divided a lot. For example, what would be Democrats in the United States are spread out over three parties.”
While Merkel and the CDU’s victory are not surprising, a few things make this election unique.
First, in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, Germany’s leadership will play a large role in shaping the EU’s approach to Brexit over the next few years. Merkel will continue to be instrumental in deliberations and decision-making processes.
Secondly, Germany has seen a rise of the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), a right-wing populist and Euro-skeptic party. Established in 2013, it has gained momentum in recent months, especially in response to the increase of immigration into the country. The AfD emerged as the third largest constituency in the Bundestag, garnering 14% of the vote.
Philipp Welker, a German student living in Paris, expressed his concern. “The AfD is not open-minded or future-oriented, which could be a bad thing for Germany.”
Despite this seeming worry from some German citizens, AfD’s success represents a percentage of the populace that feels unheard by the government, much like what we’ve just seen in the most recent United States election.
Merkel reacted thoughtfully, and recognizes the importance of those who voted for the AfD. “We want to regain those voters who voted for the AfD, discover their concerns and worries,” she said in her victory speech.
Keller stated, “It’s important that we, as Christian Scientists, look at the context and cause for what is going on, not just the material image, so we can look at the thought and the reason for it.”