The latest poll in the German federal elections, to be held on September 26, is worrying Europe. Conservative candidate Armin Laschet, of Angela Merkel’s CDU, rose from 30% to 21% in the space of a month, behind the SPD, which reached 24%, and close to the Greens, who reached 17 %.
The unprecedented presence of three parties on the finish line multiplies the possible coalitions. The negotiations for the formation of the government appear complex and could leave Germany adrift for months.
The sudden fall of the CDU is not attributable to the government, approved by 84% of the population after 17 years. Merkel has changed the nature of work, to the point that male candidates have referred to the post of chancellor to signal their commitment to continuity.
It is the absence of a successor or an undisputed successor that has caused the dispersion of their political capital between the different candidates. Laschet has never been able to shake off his image of a dilettante, who can hardly repeat statesman’s behavior in tragic moments, such as the recent floods.
The contrast with Laschet has benefited Olaf Scholz, Minister of the Economy in the current coalition government. Experienced, he ended up inheriting the amulet of fiscal austerity, so dear to the Germans, when he represented a center-left formation, the SPD.
There remains the Greens, who seem unable to pass the 20% ceiling in the polls despite the favorable winds. Accused of plagiarism in a recently published book, its candidate Annalena Baerbock has failed to assert itself as an alternative to one of the most advanced governments in the fight against the climate emergency in Europe: the objective of Germany to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030, it is the highest in the European bloc.
The inconsistency of the candidates is insufficient to explain the erratic electoral dynamics. The level of the campaign is below expectations for a country with the challenges of Germany. Its economic model based on the export of industrialized products is threatened by the dependence of its multinationals on the Chinese market.
Populist pressures against migratory flows, essential to balance the age pyramid, hit by the low German birth rate, are causing demographic strangulation. Berlin must also learn to manage the new geopolitical moment, between American retreat and Russian pressure on European political systems.
Like other industrialized countries, Germany must resolve its identity crisis to remain economically relevant.
It should be noted that all these anxieties come from afar. In 2005, Merkel recovered a Germany presented by Economist magazine as “the sick man of Europe”. Four terms later, after a financial crisis and a pandemic, Germany is the undisputed leader of Europe.
AfD extremists remain a safe distance from the federal government. The reception of one million migrants in 2015 changed the paradigm of refugee policy in the developed world. In Germany as in France, the intense competition in the next elections should not be a reason to repeat the sleeping platitudes about the supposed imminent collapse of European democracies.
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