Angela Merkel has received her fourth mandate as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. There was little doubt about the outcome, yet this result was accompanied by new factors. In fact, what emerged from the recent German parliamentary elections is anything but an outright victory: a defeat in terms of votes for the coalition that supports the premier; the defeat of the Social Democratic Party of Martin Schulz that has moved into opposition; and the rise of the extreme right of the Alternative for Germany (AFD), which threatens to be a combative opposition.
Undoubtedly, the question of refugees deeply influenced voters. Increasingly serious concerns were raised after more than 200,000 refugees were welcomed into Germany over the course of a single night in August 2015. The question of refugees divides the nation. The AFD, which has transformed the national landscape, took advantage of it. In any case, the question of refugees is only one of many hotly debated topics, though it is perhaps the most visible. A fear for the future, the dangers of terrorism and the refugee crisis are all tangled up with each other.
The President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has responded with concern to the rise of the AFD, particularly because its results also reflect a European trend, and he also called for respectful dialogue among the various parties: “We are in urgent need of verbal disarmament. I want to point out that Parliament is invested with a particular dignity and that mutual respect must take precedence in all political debates. In our shared fight to seek the good path, we cannot rely on black and white, nor on hatred and exclusion.”
Which future will Germany choose? On September 5, 2017, in his final speech as president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert said to incoming members: “We know, from a period of German history not long past, that even democracies can bleed out, that they lose their inner strength when they lose the support of the people for whom they exist. Democracies live or die by the commitment of their citizens.”
Germany needs a stable government. Angela Merkel will take care of it. But governing will not be easy.
The author is editor in chief of the German magazine Stimmen der Zeit.