Merkel's Germany in quandary
Rightist forces feast on failure of Centrists, analyses Arun Srivastava.
Germany is moving backward. The rise of the far right nationalist party is likely to trigger the old issue of the East and West Germany. Angela Merkel got elected for the fourth successive term. But her re-election as Chancellor comes with huge challenges, both domestic and international. It also gives rise to skepticism about the nature of global politics as the election result heralds the changing political contour of Germany, the country which had said goodbye to the rightist mode of politics. True enough, her victory for the fourth consecutive term as Chancellor, though with a much-reduced mandate for her Christian Democratic Union, marks a watershed moment in Germany's post-War history.
Though Merkel's bloc emerged as the clear winner, securing around 33 per cent votes, a drop from the 41 per cent votes it garnered in 2013, her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) gave their worst showing since 1940. The most significant performance was that of the xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that won around 13 per cent votes and will be sending 94 members to the 630-member Bundestag (lower house of German Parliament). The really bad news is that, with 13 percent of the vote, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Nazis, will send 79 people into the German Bundestag for the first time since Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933. It's a serious problem because one of the AfD's top leaders has demanded that the country stop apologising for Nazi war crimes. This resurrection of the xenophobic nationalism after 68 years will certainly not augur well, not only for Germany but even for the global fraternity.
We have been witness to the fact that how only a year ago the rightist and racist forces tried to raise their ugly face in France and other European countries. An insight into the development would unravel that the entire world is witnessing this phenomenon. The resurgence of far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) will pose a challenge to Berlin's predominant political creed of consensus and compromise. Even the right wing Free Democratic Party (FDP), which failed to get even five percent of votes four years ago for a seat in the Bundestag, made a comeback to 10 percent in the projections.
The fact is the right wing is afraid of counter-ideology. They took birth and grow because of the political vacuum created by the centrist and leftist parties functioning just to 'govern' without any emphasis on the ideological perspective on issues that confront the world today. In India too the abrupt rise of the rightist forces and BJP coming to power in 2014 ought to be seen in this backdrop. The centrist and leftist parties over the last 20 years have surrendered the initiative and were seen as the protector of social and economic criminals. Actually in Germany too Chancellor Markel soft-pedaled the issues relating to vital importance for the public. Her losing 8 per cent vote this time is the manifestation of the fact that these voters were feeling frustrated with the way the issues and needs of the people were treated.
The 8-plus percentage point plunge in support for the incumbent CDU and its Bavarian ally over 2013, combined with the all-time low returns for the Social Democratic Party, is a measure of the erosion of the middle ground. In the wake of globalisation the dividing line between the centrist and rightist has often got abrogated. The centrist leadership in their quest to present the populist image of their government often adopted and pursued rightist policies and programmes. In Germany the people were apparently satisfied with the performance of Merkel but a majority was not satisfied. A possible explanation of the nature of the verdict is also that the grand coalition between the arch-rivals, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, pushed the voters in search of an alternative at the extreme. A mocking reference of the blurred ideological divisions within the alliance was that there were two SDPs in Germany.
Though Merkel is seriously striving for jotting a coalition -- she may succeed also -- yet the question remains how far the new government will succeed in putting a broader economic policy and programme, which will eventually deny any further space to the rightist and fascist forces. The early stance of AfD makes it explicit that it would force Markel's party to lose its maneouvering capabilities. This would further erode the credibility of the CDU. The AfD will not allow a smooth functioning to the Merkel government.
This rise and consolidation of the rightist forces in Germany pose a real challenge to the political system and establishment in the entire European countries and Western world. Victory of Donald Trump has already made it explicit that these forces are quite strong and waiting in the wings to assert their identity. After this massive surge in Germany the rightist forces will make a serious attempt to spread everywhere. With the 'Grand Coalition' marriage of the CDU and the SPD ending, Merkel will have to reach out to other parties to form a ruling coalition and also to put a check on the spread of fascist forces. After the dust settles down, it will be crucial to look at where Germany will move ahead. The far-right in Europe, just like in Germany, derives its strength from an authoritarian, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant and blood-and-soil nationalist pedigree. This will have most dangerous and ruinous impact on the global scenario.
The left parties and their leaders appear to be afraid and scared of the AfD; "because they are Nazis and they have to be stopped. They are not just another right-wing party". In Germany, around 15 to 20 percent of the population is nationalistic and racist, like the Trump supporters in America. AfD will hope to achieve its mission; to boost its outreach for its ideas and prominent discussion of those ideas in the legislature to win greater respectability. IPA
(Views are personal.)